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Mixed Marriages

Muslim men are allowed to marry zimmis (non-muslims in an islamic country) but muslim women are not. The reason given is that feminine nature being less dominant and more flexible, she is more likely to adopt their way of life and less likely to affect their thinking. She may even be influenced to apostacise. At the best it would only be a carnal relationship and not an Allah-fearing one.

Nevertheless, islam frowns on muslim men marrying zimmis. There were cases where the Prophet, Umar and Ali did not allow such matches: "You will not find a people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who oppose Allah and His Messenger." (58:22) If such a mixed marriage occurs then any children must be brought up as muslims.

Child Marriages

A girl who is given in marriage as a minor by someone other than her father or grandfather is able to accept or reject the bond on reaching adulthood. However, jurists hold that if she is given away by her father or grandfather the marriage is binding on her.

A girl is often virtually forced to marry an old man because he owns some land or can provide a large dowry.

The Prophet consummated his marriage with A'isha when she was nine and this was considered the age of consent for a long time. Even today many fundamentalists believe that a girl is adult at the first signs of puberty. Non-Qur'anic laws have been introduced in a number of countries, influenced by the West, limiting the age of marriage to 15 or 16.

Living Expenses

The Qur'an grants the wife living expenses and in return the husband gets his conjugal rights. But, "he whose provisions are limited, let him spend of that which Allah has given him." (65:7). On the other hand, the wife is not expected to starve with him and she can get a separation if he is completely without means.

Inheritance

Islamic laws of inheritance are too complicated to discuss here in detail but the general rule is that a female receives half the inheritance of a male. For example, in the absence of any other heirs a son would receive two-thirds and a daughter one-third.

If a wife dies leaving a son and a daughter then her property is divided between her husband and the children; if both children are daughters then her parents (or in their absence her brothers and sisters) also receive a share.

A widow receives a quarter of her deceased husband's estate if he leaves no children; the rest goes to his parents or siblings. If he leaves children, the widow gets only one-eighth. (The Old Testament is even more unkind to a widow. She is not an heir at all to her husband's property. To live she has to rely on her children or her own family.)

Birth Control

Family planning should be the right of every woman and islam is not as negative in this respect as Roman Catholicism. Both religions want their numbers to grow by natural means, that is a woman should have a brood of children-just as Hitler tried to foster the breeding of warriors. But large families may not be all they are supposed to be. As far as the mother is concerned, excessive child-bearing can lead to premature ageing and poor health. Children tend to be undernourished, do not receive as good an education, and overcrowding can lead to sexual abuse by older siblings.

Islam realizes that the millions of sperm and egg-cells cannot all be utilized and the story of Onan, who was killed by Jehovah for ejaculating on the ground, does not appear in the Qur'an. Nor is the prevention of the fertilization of an egg regarded as a sin by islam. This includes azl (coitus interruptus or withdrawal) which the Prophet sanctioned on several occasions, although Caliph Umar forbade the practice without the permission of the wife. Rubber devices such as condoms and diaphragms, and spermicides or the contraceptive pill are not forbidden, at least not in Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Pakistan and Egypt.

One saying of the Prophet used by supporters of Family Planning is: "The greatest of catastrophes is many children and meagre sustenance." However, many of the ulama (muslim hierarchy) see contraception as encouraging pre- and extra-marital sex and so do not favor it.

Sterilization is regarded as unnatural and abortion is forbidden as a family planning method. Illegal abortion in Egypt is the prime cause of death in pregnant women. Abortion is regarded as murder although whether from the moment of conception or from the quickening of the embryo at 3 months, differs among jurists. However abortion even later in the gestation is permitted if the life of the mother is threatened. Two liberal countries are Tunisia and Somalia, where abortion has been legalized to combat the high population growth.

Newsletter No.1 of "Women Against Fundamentalism" points out that, "after the downfall of the Shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic, women became the first victims of islamic ideology. One of the rights taken from women was the right of access to contraception and abortion. Abortion was illegalized with vicious persecution for both the doctor and the woman who took part. Ironically, this same regime executed many pregnant political prisoners! In the eleven years since the revolution, the population of Iran rose from 36 million to about 50 million. The Iranian regime was unable to cater for this population growth. Now it has suddenly decided that contraception and abortion are not such great sins after all! Although it has not legalised abortion, it does not prosecute those who take part."

Often women themselves refuse to use contraceptives as they feel the need to be constantly pregnant to provide their husbands with sons. For this reason clinics, if legal, emphasize the repair of gynaecological conditions, the prevention of miscarriages and the spacing of babies rather than actual population control. The Muslim countries have the highest birth-rate in the world-higher than the poorer countries of Latin America.

Sex in Islam

When one considers the Qur'anic punishments against fornication and adultery, one would think that promiscuity and sex crime in islam would be minimal. However rape and child abuse are not, in most cases, reported. The reason is that the "victim is blamed": a stigma is attached to having been defiled. For example a study into sexual aggression by grown up men on female children or young girls showed that nearly half of them had been sexually abused in muslim Egypt-a figure of 45% compared to the United States figure of 24%.

For scientific reasons the ratio of boy to girl babies in any sizeable population is 50:50 so monogamy, group marriage or equal mixtures of polyandry and polygyny are statistically possible. Undoubtedly monogamy is the least complicated socially. However, in Muhammad's day many men were killed plundering and fighting and so it was possible for some males to have more than one wife. Most of Muhammad's eleven wives were widows. Some of them he had made widows himself! (Could you love, honour and obey your husband's murderer?)

Today, however, if richer men have up to four wives, then there must be a number of unmarried or late-marrying males. With prostitution and fornication banned, homosexuality haram, and masturbation disdained that leaves sex within the household. Sisters, cousins and maid-servants often take the place of the girl down the street in western society. A segregated society with strict separation of the sexes creates widespread sexual frustration and suppression. Muhammad's only advice to impecunious men was to weaken the sex drive by fasting.

Islam does not condemn sexuality as such, unlike Paul who managed to become the chief spokesman for Christianity. His ideal state was celibacy. "It is good for a man not to touch a woman. I say to the unmarried... abide even as I (celibate). But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." (I Corinthians, Chapter 7)

However Qur'anic sex does seem to have the male mainly in mind. The Companions of the Garden (houris) "untouched before by man or djinn" are undoubtedly to delight the male. The handsome youths in Paradise, however, are not promised to the women. (52:24)

Islam has an obsession about virginity for girls. God has provided them with a hymen to prove their chastity. Yet only 40% of girls have a "normal" hymen that will rupture and bleed on the wedding night: for 20% it is so fine that it breaks during childhood, and 40% may have an elastic hymen that may not rupture. So much for teleology, the concept that everything has a god-given purpose! What divine justice is there that more than 30% of girls have no bleeding at all during their first sexual act.'3 The father of the bride cannot hold up the white towel stained with blood the next morning. The bride is disgraced and may even be divorced or murdered. In a case where such a murder occurs it is often thrown out of court as a question of Izzat, "honour". There is a double standard, for the male is proud of his sexual exploits and does not stop to think that his fair share of hymens is one per lifetime. To my knowledge, The Prophet Muhammad had only one virgin in his life, the child bride A'isha. He did not regard it as shameful to go where other men had been: he did not, however, cherish the idea of other men succeeding him after his death. (33:53)

There may be several reasons for insisting on virginity in the bride. One, of course, is that there is no danger of having someone else's child attributed to you. Another is that the groom can educate the young bride to his own idiosyncrasies and can not be compared with other lovers. Probably the economic factor is the greater.

Saying "I divorce you" three times is equivalent to the decree nisi in western society except that only the husband can say it. The divorce does not become absolute until the iddah is observed. The iddah of three monthly periods satisfies the ex-husband that he has not left an heir in the womb and satisfies any prospective new husband that the womb is ready for his breeding alone.

Rape In Pakistan

Unfortunately, since Pakistan has reverted to an islamic state, rape against women has increased dramatically. Of course, official figures would say the opposite as, under Shariah, it is almost impossible to prove that rape has taken place. Rape is often used as revenge against a woman's husband, father, brother or son. When it is used against a political opponent it is called "power rape". The rapists often cut off the noses of their victims to show that they are "fallen women

Rape can only be proven if there are four adult male witnesses. (A female's testimony is not even taken as half-value in the case of capital crimes.) If the case is unproven, the woman can be charged with fornication which carries the death penalty. There are thousands of women in jail in Pakistan charged with zina. Even if the crime is not pursued, relatives may expect the woman to commit suicide, preferably by burning herself. Alternatively the husband may divorce her or, if he has to pay back too much dowry, have her committed to a lunatic asylum. "Human Rights Watch estimates that Pakistani police abuse 70 per cent of the women in their custody, though no officer has ever been penalized. "18

 

Female Circumcision

FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is carried out among muslims in Egypt, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, South Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, the Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia. Some apologists point out that it is not performed in Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Libya, Morocco or Tunisia. They will also note that female mutilation was carried out in pre-Islamic times and is practised in some non-Islamic African states. This does not absolve muslims for continuing the barbaric tradition and throws doubt on the "civilizing role" of islam. Indeed some of the clergy still advocate female mutilation. Rather they should speak out vigorously to condemn the old practices.

There are three main degrees of female "circumcision" Firstly the "sunna proper" where the clitoral hood or prepuce is removed. This is analogous to male circumcision and does not physically damage female sexuality. It may well do psychological damage especially the way it is performed on older girls: a number of female relatives hold the girl down and the piece of skin is removed with a razor blade.

The practice has no Qur'anic justification and the Prophet did not have his daughter Fatima circumcised. '4 There is one hadith where he is reputed to have told Umm Attiya who performed excisions: "Reduce, but do not destroy." (He would not have liked his sexuality reduced by one micro-watt.) The inference from this hadith is to remove only the glans (tip) of the clitoris. This is analogous to removing the glans (head) of the male penis. To confuse things this circumcision is also known as "sunna" although a better name sometimes used is Khifad ("reduction").

The second level of female mutilation is clitoridectomy where the whole of the clitoris is removed. This is particularly traumatic for the girl: the pain and bleeding may continue for days-the clitoris is well-supplied with blood vessels so that it can swell on stimulation. This is analogous to the removal of the penis of a male as the clitoris is the centre of female sexuality and most women cannot achieve orgasm without it. What a terrible thing to do to your daughter! If sexuality is given to us by Allah then the implication is that it is there to be used, enjoyed. But sexual desire is not reduced by mutilation, only the means of satisfying it. It is not surprising that instead of being chastely frigid, some of these women go on a "promiscuous" search for satisfaction.

Thirdly there is pharaonic circumcision (often called infibulation, the Roman practice of putting rings across the vaginas of slave women.) All exterior genitalia are removed: the clitoris, the labia minora (the inner lips) and the labia majora (the outer lips). What is left of the vulva is sewn up leaving a small hole for urine and menses to escape, but penetration by a penis is impossible. On marriage, the macho male tries to penetrate often causing "hufta"-invaginated skin near the vaginal opening. On divorce, social pressures dictate that the opening be sewn up again. On childbirth, the skin must be cut but even then there can be complications: prolonged labor, foetal death and brain damage.

Many males favor the pharaonic method as the vaginal orifice can be made tight to enhance their sexual pleasure even if it is painful to the woman. Indeed, many women find anal sex preferable. If the woman is Makhtoma, too tight, she can take an hour to void her bladder and it is common for the abdomen of a girl to swell with undischarged menstrual blood-girls have even been murdered by fathers thinking that they were pregnant.

Pharaonic circumcision often leads to permanent trauma, frigidity, urinary and gynaecological infections, abortions or sterility, painful menstrual periods, fistulas, scar tissue, abscesses and even cancers. And yet the girl's relatives and the bridegroom expect it. The little girl aged 4 to 8 must have her tahara (purification) as she would be unacceptable in a Ghalaja (uncircumcised) state.

The name "sunna" (Muhammad's traditions) should not be given to any method of circumcision as surveys have shown that the name was the primary reason (religion) given by men for approving circumcision. However the fact should be faced that many of the husbands like to be in full control of the sexual act. He should be able to prolong it or bring it to an end when it suits him and not the woman. They can be compared with necrophiliacs but few normal western men would agree that passivity on the part of the female contributes to sexual enjoyment.

The reason for female mutilation is sometimes given that it prevents promiscuity. A random survey of 200 prostitutes in Cairo showed that 170 of them had suffered a clitoridectomy, exactly the same percentage (85%) as the general population. Of fifty women who had had sexual experience before "circumcision", none had been able to reach the level of satisfaction they knew before-hand.'5

But the girl does not only face physical circumcision, there is also the denial of mental and psychological development. Ignorance of the human body and sex is considered a virtue. Experience and knowledge about life is regarded as shameful. Passivity of the personality is considered a prerequisite of a wife.

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