Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Third One in the Bed

Much has been written about the institution of marriage (including the comment attributed to actress Mae West that she wasn't ready for an institution). Most religions have rituals that make a marriage official, as do most civil societies, and it's always amazed me that civil authorities require you to take classes and pass tests to earn a driver's license, but impose no such requirements to get a marriage license. Such requirements might, perhaps, help to bring down the rate of divorce. When I was married for the first time, the Catholic Church required my fiancee and I to attend a series of "Pre-Cana" classes that were part practical lessons on the full impact of marriage (i.e., it's more than reserving an exclusive sexual partner) and part religious exhortation (reminding us that the Church considers marriage a formal sacrament witnessed by God). Because my ex-wife was Lutheran to my Catholic, the Church raised an eyebrow at my choice of mate, but didn't tell me I couldn't marry her. We did, however, have to sign a letter stating our intent to raise the children in the Catholic faith. When, nine years later, we decided a divorce was necessary, our respective religious beliefs didn't have anything to do with the decision - our ability to live together in an atmosphere good for the children did.

I got to thinking about God as the third person in the marriage bed one day last week when I read this article at the MEMRI website. If you don't have time to read the whole article, here's the Readers' Digest version: an Islamic jurist has issued a fatwa (religious ruling) decreeing that a Muslim woman who marries a non-Muslim man "...has committed an open (act of) abomination that may hurl her into the abyss of heresy and apostasy," and "...(has taken) the first step towards religious suicide, whether (it is the woman's) suicide or that of the children she will bear."

There's something fundamentally wrong with this. I have recognized for a long time (and we can see every day) that Islam can be a terribly intolerant, sometimes violent, religion. The Danish Cartoon hysteria, the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, the death threats against Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie, and the intense and violent reaction to Pope Benedict's comments linking Islam and violence in an address at the University of Regensburg all display an admittedly extreme, but nevertheless internally unchallenged religious bigotry that is all the more frightening because it comes from a religion which describes its vision of God as "merciful and compassionate." The world seems to have forgotten (and the Islamic world continues to deny) that it was Islamic extremists that murdered nearly 3,000 people in cold blood on September 11, 2001. While it is clear that not all Muslims are wild-eyed murderers, it's equally clear that the tenets of the religion provide fertile ground for the planting and growth of self-righteous intolerance.

But the real thing I find wrong with the fatwa cited above is that it was published by Dr Sheikh Salah Al-Sawy, the secretary-general of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America. Read the last two words of the preceding sentence again: In America. Our country was founded on several bedrock principles, one of which is freedom of religious expression. Dr Al-Sawy, who has chosen for whatever reason to live in America, makes a mockery of this freedom through a religious ruling that is clearly both religiously intolerant and fundamentally misogynistic: consider that the fatwa describes woman as "...weak by nature," and goes on to baldly state that "...the guardianship of a (non-Muslim) man affects her powers of reasoning."

Dr Al-Sawy's fatwa describes marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man as "invalid and despicable," and says that "The excuse that (the man and the woman) share an emotional bond, which comes to justify that which is forbidden, is one of the most despicable excuses." What this means, in even more plain English, is that the emotion of love has nothing to do with the success of a marriage and the relationship between two human beings.

You cannot openly worship God in Saudi Arabia and in many parts of other majority Muslim countries if you are a Catholic, Jew, Buddhist, or anything other than a Muslim. In fact, if you choose to try to share your faith with a Muslim, you are taking your life in your hands. Perhaps Dr Al-Sawy should consider that America gives him a freedom to spout rulings which insult and demean other faiths - a freedom his religion denies to everyone else. But such a thought would never enter his tightly-closed, seventh-century mind.

If you're a Muslim, you're okay. If you're anything else, and dare to criticize Islam, you are contemptible and your murder is sanctioned by Islamic authorities.

Remember this as you watch the aggressive proselytizing of Muslims in this country. Be prepared to turn your mental clock back 1400 years.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

I've often thought that a learners permit should be issued to people who want to be married.

John said...

Careful, Bilbo. Your Clustr map shows several readers from the Middle East. They may issue a fatwa concerning your blog.

La Chanson de Phoenix said...

I agree with John. You're walking a fine line there. Sometimes it's okay to know these things on the inside. :-)

Bilbo said...

John and Sue, I appreciate your comments and concerns, but I really think someone has to speak out. The fact that I have readers in the Middle East isn't lost on me, nor is the fact that much of what I've said in numerous posts would likely get me put on someone's hit list in much of the world. While it's all right to think things on the inside (as Sue suggests), I believe such a response is what gives radical Islamists a free pass from more moderate Muslims - they may not agree with the extremists views, but are afraid to say so and, by their silence, lend quiet (and, perhaps, unintentional) support to the most radical and dangerous of their coreligionists. I believe in the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments without necessarily believing all the other trappings of formal religious belief that surround them. I think I'm basically a good person. Muslims would think I'm an infidel, unworthy of compassion or understanding. You can form your own conclusions. Thanks for the concern, but I think I'll continue to call the game as I see it played.

La Chanson de Phoenix said...

*wince* Okay, if you're sure, but I've grown to like you and while I admire your bravery here, I shudder to think there would be dire consequences for speaking out. My concern is genuine, not just for you, but for Agnes and the children and grands as well. I didn't mean to suggest you were quietly supporting the extremists, because there really is no such thing. Those who support them do so quite loudly. Sigh. I will still be concerned.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Muslims seem so easily offended, yet will constantly berate anything that is against their culture.