Andy

Israel

#1 Apr 16, 2008
Strange Sex Stories from the Muslim World

The deepest differences between Muslims and Westerners concern not politics but sexuality. Each side has a long history of looking at the other's sexual mores with a mixture of astonishment and disgust. Here are some examples from the Muslim side of the divide (in reverse chronological order) that have me, for one, shaking my head:

Nojoud Muhammed Nasser, 8, went to court by herself in Yemen.

Yemeni Court Grants 8-Year-Old Girl Divorce: Nojoud Muhammed Nasser, 8, was told by her father two months ago that it was time for her to marry Faez Ali Thamer, 30. She recounts what happened to reporter Hamed Thabet of the Yemen Times,

My father beat me and told me that I must marry this man, and if I did not, I would be raped and no law and no sheikh in this country would help me. I refused but I couldn't stop the marriage. I asked and begged my mother, father, and aunt to help me to get divorced. They answered, "We can do nothing. If you want you can go to court by yourself." So this is what I have done.

Nasser complained about her husband's behavior.

He used to do bad things to me, and I had no idea as to what a marriage is. I would run from one room to another in order to escape, but in the end he would catch me and beat me and then continued to do what he wanted. I cried so much but no one listened to me. One day I ran away from him and came to the court and talked to them. Whenever I wanted to play in the yard he beat me and asked me to go to the bedroom with him. This lasted for two months. He was too tough with me, and whenever I asked him for mercy, he beat me and slapped me and then used me. I just want to have a respectful life and divorce him.

Indeed, she went by herself to Sana'a West Court on April 2 to find a judge who would permit her to prosecute her father, Muhammed Nasser, and to win a divorce from Thamer on grounds of sexual and domestic abuse. Yemeni law does not permit Nojoud to prosecute, being underage, but Judge Muhammed al-Qathi heard her complaint and subsequently ordered the arrests of both her father and husband.

No charges have brought against either her father, who was later released due to health problems, or the husband, who remains in jail pending further investigation.

Thamer is unrepentant but willing to be flexible: "Yes, I was intimate with her, but I have done nothing wrong, as she is my wife and I have the right and no one can stop me. But if the judge or other people insist that I divorce her, I will do it, it's ok."

Shatha Ali Nasser, a lawyer in the Supreme Court notes that Yemeni civil law states that "no girl or boy can get married before the age of 15" but that a 1998 amendment permits parents to arrange a marriage contract between their children below the age of 15. The husband may not have sexual relations with a young wife until she is physically mature, but the situation invites abuses. Nasser notes that Nojoud's predicament is not unique but she is the first young girl to venture into court by herself.

Meanwhile, Noujoud's uncle has become her guardian and she will be placed in Dar Al-Rahama, an NGO for children.(April 9, 2008)
Andy

Israel

#2 Apr 16, 2008
Saudi Tribal Custom Forbid Husband Ever Seeing His Wife's Face: A tribe in Saudi Arabia's Al-Kharj region forbids anyone from seeing a woman's uncovered face, including her husband and children. Raid Qusti summarizes in the Arab News a report of interviews in Sayidaty, a Saudi woman's magazine. I have looked for the full Sayidaty version, but without success, so here follows the Arab News summary:

It often happens that

the first time even a daughter sees her mother's face is after the mother's death. "I always dreamt of seeing my mother's face because I am a woman like her," resident Hissa Al-Massareir told the magazine. "But because of customs and traditions in the family, this was impossible. It was only when my mother died that my dream came true," she added.

Al-Kharj native Muhammad Abdullah has never seen his wife's face. "We've been married for ten years and I've never seen it, not once," he said. The burqa the garment that covers all of head except the eyes "is stuck to her face 24 hours a day," he said. This is not for want of trying. "One day I tried to remove the burqa while she was asleep. She was furious. She left and went to her parents' house and returned only after I had signed an undertaking that I would never attempt to do such a thing again."

Saud Al-Otaibi also found his wife fiercely loyal to the custom. "I tried to blackmail my wife by saying I'd marry another woman if she didn't show me her face," he said. But he was in for a surprise. "Instead of giving in she said, all right, marry someone else. And she set me up with a friend of hers who wasn't so strict in her adherence to the custom, and I married her."

Others report that they have become so used to not seeing the faces of even close relatives that they would be shocked if they did. "I have never seen my mother's face," Ahmed Bikhait told the magazine. "I tried many times but was always rebuffed. By now I'd think it weird if she suddenly unveiled her face," he added.

A woman in her sixties explained that this tradition, like many others, is disappearing fast. "We have inherited these customs from time immemorial, and they are normal to us," she said. "But of course our children don't believe in these traditions any more."

The imam of a mosque in the region, Ayid Al-Dosari, said there was no sin in a woman unveiling her face to her husband or children and the phenomenon had to be attributed to tribal customs rather than religion. "This has nothing to do with Islam," he said. "It's simply one of the traditions that some tribes follow. In Islam, a husband can, of course, see the whole of his wife's body. The face is the least he's entitled to," he said. "But these are inherited customs and these people follow them. There is nothing I can do about that," he added.

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