Strange Sex Stories from the Muslim World
by Daniel Pipes
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. (The term termagant sums up the surprising way Westerners saw Muslim women before the seventeenth century.)
Here are some examples of customs and social attitudes from the Muslim side of the divide (in reverse chronological order) that have me, for one, shaking my head. I have made sure only to include instances that represent a general outlook, and not just a single person's idiosyncrasy.
Marry me, marry my friends too: Here's an off-beat story from the kingdom about a demanding bride:
(April 21, 2013)
Eloping Somalis: During al-Shabaab's domination of Somalia, eloping was punishable by whipping or even death by stoning. But as their bizarre form of Islam has retreated, in the words of Abdi Guled of the Associated Press, "elopement once again is popular among young Somali couples, many of whom have dramatic stories of defying their families to follow their hearts and marry." Abdi tells the story of one couple:
Getting married does not change their living arrangements, however:
Elopements are a good business in Walaweyn, a cow town.
(April 17, 2013)
Cover baby girls in burqas: Abdullah Daoud, a Saudi religious figure, wants parents to cover female babies in burqas to protect them from sexual exploitation. To argue his case, Daoud claims that sexual molestation of babies takes place in Saudi Arabia, without providing specifics. (February 3, 2013)
Fayhan al-Ghamdi on a television show about Islam.
Fayhan al-Ghamdi on a television show about Islam.
Fayhan confessed to having used cables and a cane to inflict the injuries. Lama died ten months later, on Oct. 22, 2012.
Marrying Syrian refugee women: L. Barkan of MEMRI uncovers the "lust jihad" whereby female Syrian refugees get wed via something called "protection marriage" (sutra in Arabic). This
(November 12, 2012) Mar. 31, 2013 update: For more on this phenomenon, see "Jihadis' Exploitation of Muslim Girls" by Khaled Abu Toameh.
Two British imams agree to marry girl, 12: The Sunday Times ran a sting and got two mosque leaders (Mohamed Kassamali of the Husaini Islamic Centre in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, and Abdul Haque of the Shoreditch Mosque, East London) to officiate at a wedding with a girl not yet through puberty. (September 10, 2012)
Child brides in the West: Girls as young as 11 and 9 are fairly often married off to older men in London in Shari'a courts, reports the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, as reported by the Islington Tribune. Dianna Nammi, director of IKWRO, explains more: although the girls are not legally married according to British law,
(January 27, 2012)
Afghan father says kill both young lovers: Halima Mohammedi and, Rafi Mohammed of Heart, both 17, met inside an ice cream factory and were caught riding in a car, presumably alone, were pulled out, interrogated, and nearly executed vigilante-style as adulterers. When the police rescued the couple, angering a mob of several hundred, it proceeded to riot for hours, setting fire to police cars and storming a police station, leaving one man dead and the lovers confined to separate wings of a juvenile prison. Jack Healy takes it from here in the New York Times:
(July 30, 2011)
Israeli women cavorting on the beach.
Israeli women cavorting on the beach.
Comment: Israeli beaches offer a miniature example of the sexual tensions Muslim men experience. Calling Muslim females "dull dates," ignoring families and culture, they chase non-Muslim women. (July 17, 2011)
Campaign for polygamy in Jordan: David E. Miller reports in the Jerusalem Post on a new Jordanian organization, the Association to Advocate Polygamy, founded by Muhammad Hajaya, an agricultural engineer with three wives. It tackles the spinsterhood problem by agitating against dowries and raising money to pay for weddings. Government statistics show that 87,000 Jordanian women 30 years old and over are unmarried. (July 9, 2011)
Iranian authorities endorse gang rapes: In Khomeinishahr, near Isfahan, as a private party of 14 adults took place outside on May 24, the BBC reports, late in the evening
Town leaders proceeded to blame the victims:
(June 15, 2011)
$15,000 Reward for Men Who Marry Second Wife over 40: A Kuwaiti member of parliament, Faysal al-Duwaysan, intends to propose a law, reports Khabarni on June 11, 2011 (and made available by TranslatingJihad.com today) "which would grant a reward of up to $15,000 to the Kuwaiti man who marries a second wife. This would carry with it the stipulation that the women be over 40, widowed, or divorced." He explained that
(June 14, 2011)
Muslim mothers in India honor kill daughters: The usual honor killing pattern has males killing females, but not always. I maintain a weblog on "'Honor Killings' of Muslim Males in the West" and now here are three women who colluded to murder two brides:
(May 15, 2011)
Camp for "effeminate" schoolboys in Malaysia: The department of state education in the Malaysian state of Terengganu sent 57 schoolboys ages 13 to 17 with "effeminate tendencies" to a four-day camp that included religious lectures, visiting local mosques, and aerobics workouts. The goal? To make their behavior more masculine, reports Reuters. (April 21, 2011)
Females thrown into the sea: Boats making the perilous passage from North Africa to Europe are by definition dangerous for all on board, but especially so for the women. Le Figaro today quotes a Tunisian, Tarek, 20, about one voyage that began in mid-March in Kairouan: "Nous étions entassés à 150 dans un bateau prévu pour 60. Au cours du trajet pour Lampedusa, douze filles ont été jetées à la mer." In English: "We were packed in, 150 in a boat meant for 60. During the trip to Lampedusa [an Italian island], twelve girls were thrown into the sea." Comment: This incident gives gruesome meaning to "women and children first." (April 4, 2011)
Illegitimate babies murdered in Pakistan: The Edhi Foundation conservatively estimates that more than 1,000 infants—most of them girls—were killed or abandoned to die in Pakistani cities in 2010. Hasan Mansoor of Agence France-Presse explains why: "In the conservative Muslim nation, where the birth of children outside of marriage is condemned and adultery is a crime punishable by death under strict interpretations of Islamic law, infanticide is a crime on the rise." He also notes that crimes of infanticide are rarely prosecuted and quotes a lawyer: "The majority of police stations do not register cases of infanticide, let alone launch investigations into them." (January 17, 2011)
Saudi women sue their male guardians: As a 2008 Human Rights Watch report put it, women in Saudi Arabia are treated as "perpetual minors," kept under the thumb throughout their lives by one or other male guardian – grandfather, father, brother, cousin, husband, son, or even grandson. This means that women of all ages must usually obtain permission from the guardian (known as wali al-amr) to study, work, travel, marry, or undergo certain medical procedures.
But lately, Maggie Michael of the Associated Press writes, women are suing for their rights:
Comment: With enough will, even a custom so deeply entrenched as the Saudi wali al-amr can be changed. (November 27, 2010)
Afghan girls dressed as boys to attend school: In a large-scale version of Yentl, families disguise their girl children as boys so that they can get educated, reports Jenny Nordberg for the New York Times.
(September 20, 2010)
Saudi women cash in on ban on bachelors: In Saudi Arabia, entrance to shopping malls, gated amusement parks, and other family destinations is restricted to married couples or families; single men cannot enter. To enforce this, the religious police (mutaween) keep a lookout for single males or unmarried couples, punishing infractors.
Diana Al-Jassem reports in the Arab News that enterprising women charging young men to pretend to be their wives so they can get access. The going rate is between SR10 and SR50 (US$3 to $13), depending on time and place. The recent summer and Eid holidays saw a particular surge in women generating money in this way. (September 19, 2010)
"Gang tried to sell girls' virginity to wealthy Arabs for £150,000": Charlotte Gill and David Wilkes of the Daily Mail report how three women and a man offered girls as young as thirteen for sexual services in London.
(September 14, 2010)
Muslim patrons of Dutch brothel triple during Ramadan: The owner of a Dutch escort agency, Society Service, reports that her Muslim clientele shoots up from about 13 percent of the total to 40 percent during Ramadan, based on her analysis of names (such as a businessman from Egypt named Mohammed). Most of the Muslim clients, she adds, come from abroad. "I think that they plan their business trips to be in the Netherlands during Ramadan. Otherwise I can't explain the increase." (September 13, 2010)
Afghan couple stoned to death: This is the story of Khayyam, 25, and his lover Siddiqa, 19, as reported by Rod Nordland for the New York Times. Siddiqa was enaged to marry a relative of Khayyam's but refused him. Khayyam tried to persuade her family to let her marry him, but they refused, perhaps because Khayyam already had a wife and two young children. The couple then
The lovers declared, "We love each other no matter what happens" as a Taliban mullah prepared to read out the court's judgment. They were found guilty of fornication and sentenced to death. Siddiqa was dressed in a burqa and the two of them were encircled by about two hundred males (no women) in the bazaar of Mullah Quli village, in Archi district, a remote corner of Kunduz Province close to Tajikistan.
Taliban members began the stoning, then villagers joined in, including Khayyam's father and brother, Siddiqa's brother, and other relatives. Siddiqa was killed first, then Khayyam. A crowd of onlookers who did not take part cheered them on in a festive atmosphere. "People were very happy seeing this," said Nadir Khan, 40, a local farmer and Taliban sympathizer, because the couple "did a bad thing."
The stoning found widespread support among Afghan religious authorities. For example, the head of the Ulema Council in Kunduz Province, Mawlawi Abdul Yaqub, deemed stoning to death an appropriate punishment for illegal sexual relations. (August 16, 2010)
Facebook campaign urges Muslim men to marry four wives: Some young Saudis started a Facebook group, "We Want Them Four," that advocates polygamy to end the problem of spinsterhood in their country. "Every Saudi and Arab man who is financially and physically able to marry more than one wife should not hesitate to do so in order to end spinsterhood among our women and help cap the high marriage costs that have deterred many young men from getting married." (July 6, 2010)
Afghan child brides beaten for fleeing husbands: Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin tell how Khadija Rasoul, 13, and Basgol Sakhi, 14, from the village of Gardan-i-Top, in the Dulina district of Ghor Province, central Afghanistan,
The article provides ample detail on the beatings, including a video of what took place, and ends with the denouement:
(May 30, 2010)
Palestinian husband chokes wife because pregnant with girl: An unnamed man in Nasiriyah, a village north of Nablus on the West Bank, was arrested on charges of having strangled his pregnant wife to death after an ultrasound test revealed a female fetus. Never mind that the couple already has three boys and a girl – the father insisted on another son. Relatives indicated the husband was envious of his brother, who has nine sons. (May 13, 2010)
Sun-tanned women risk arrest in Tehran: Tehran's police chief, Brig. Hossien Sajedinia, has boldly proclaimed how he will hold the line against feminine immodesty:
(April 24, 2010)
Yemeni theologian leads fight against law banning child brides: Sheik Abdul-Majid al-Zindani, Yemen's most influential 'alim, has vowed to gather a million signatures on a petition to protest a law raising the marriage age for girls to 17, saying that this step "threatens our culture and society and spreads immorality." According to a 2009 report by Yemen's Ministry of Social Affairs, a quarter of all females marry before age 15. According to the Associated Press, "It is widely expected that the government will raise the marriage age to deflect international pressure, but will not enforce legislation. Impoverished Yemenis are widely expected to ignore the law." (April 24, 2010)
Woman held for beating husband: That headline could take anyplace in the world, but the story comes from Mecca and the pattern of Muslim matrimony, with its giant age differences (see below, "Wife, 10, returned to husband, 80") give it a special Muslim salience:
Comment: A large year age difference is might appeal to a man looking for an attractive and fertile woman, but it also implies that, at a certain point, the woman is physically more powerful than him. Her beating him up, as in this case, becomes a more likely option. (March 26, 2010)
Man pays dowry for his "wife" – a female goat: This took place in 2006, so it's a bit late, but still worth noting:
(March 13, 2010)
Homosexuality rampant in Afghanistan but denied: An unclassified study by AnnaMaria Cardinalli, working for a "Human Terrain Team" research unit attached to the Marines in southern Afghanistan finds, Fox News reports, that "an entire region in the country is coping with a sexual identity crisis." The study, Pashtun Sexuality, "details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns—though they seem to be in complete denial about it." According to the Fox News paraphrase:
(January 28, 2010) Apr. 20, 2010 update: For a report on one aspect of this phenomenon, the bacha bazi or boys sold for sex, see the PBS report today, "The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan." Aug. 29, 2010 update: More details are found in "Afghanistan's dirty little secret" by Joel Brinkley. Excerpts:
Sep. 7, 2010 update: Two anthropologists, M. Jamil Hanifi & Maximilian C. Forte, take up the gauntlet laid down by Brinkley, accusing him of "a fair amount of pedophilia, homophobia, and Islamophobia, all in a short space." Oct. 16, 2010 update: More on the problem by Poul Hill in the Danish newspaper, Berlingske Tidende.
Raped woman miscarries, may get 100 lashes: Philippine television reports that a 35-year-old Filipina worker in Saudi Arabia, raped by a co-worker, languishing in Hafr Al-Baten prison due to her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, has suffered a miscarriage and now fears a hundred lashes for having an "illicit affair" before she will be freed. (January 20, 2010)
Wife, 10, returned to husband, 80: A Saudi father returned his 10-year-old daughter to her 80-year-old husband after finding her hiding at her aunt's home for about ten days. The husband accused the aunt of meddling in his affairs: "My marriage is not against the Shari'a. It included the [proper] elements of acceptance and response by the father of the bride." The husband added that he had first been engaged to the girl's elder sister, but she wanted to continue with her education; "In light of this, her father offered his younger daughter. I was allowed to have a look at her according to Shari'a and found her acceptable." (August 26, 2009)
Ali Mazen Abdul Jawad may pay heavily for his bragging about his sex exploits.
Ali Mazen Abdul Jawad may pay heavily for his bragging about his sex exploits.
The segment ends with Abdul Jawad in his car, off for an evening's cruising.
For this indiscretion, Abdul Jawad and two friends were arrested in Jidda on July 31 for the crime of hiraba, the Shar'i offense of waging unlawful warfare (in speech or action) against the state and society. It can lead to execution. If he is charged only with the crime of publicizing vice, however, he will not face the death penalty. (August 6, 2009) Aug. 8, 2009 update: Without specifically referring to Abdul Jawad, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Salih bin Muhammad at-Talib, used his Friday sermon to denounce "people whose eyes are dazzled and their hearts captured by their enemy's culture, speaking against and behaving contrary to our cultural values" and accusing them of treason against their own country. "They accept unquestioningly all the good and evil values of Western culture, which prompt them to discredit and deride their own values, traditions, literature and arts." He went on to decry unnamed international organizations that collect evidence to be used against Saudi Arabia and suggested that some Saudis aid these foreign provocateurs. "Their witnesses are some writers amidst us and their evidence are the writings of some of us." Oct. 7, 2009 update: Abdul Jawad got off with the relatively light punishment of 1,000 lashes, 5 years in jail, followed by 5 years without travel or talking to the media. His lawyer, Sulaiman al-Jumeii, plans to appeal the court's ruling and is confident the sentence against his client will be revoked. According to al-Jumeii, the other three men who appeared on the show got 300 lashes each and 2 years in prison. Oct. 25, 2009 update: Rozanna al-Yami, 22 and a Saudi subject, was charged with involvement in the offending television show (helping prepare it, advertise it) and sentenced to 60 lashes. The judge said he handed down the sentence "as a deterrent." To which Yami replied, "I am too frustrated and upset to appeal the sentence." Oct. 26, 2009 update: King Abdullah pardoned Yami and she will not undergo the sentence of 60 lashes, in part due to widespread media attention internationally.
Palestinian terrorist prisoners smuggle out sperm: Palestinian websites claim that six terrorist prisoners in Israeli jails have managed, through the agency of relatives, to get their sperm to their wives, who have impregnated themselves with it, according to Yedi'ot Aharonot. "The Hasam organization, which cares for Palestinians prisoners, says the prisoners in question come from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. According to Mufak Hamid, head of the organization's PR division, the sperm was smuggled in the presence of witnesses who are relatives of the couples."
The paper goes on:
(August 4, 2009)
Sanctioned rape of Iranian virgins before their execution: An unnamed member of Iran's paramilitary Basij, currently married with children, explained to a Jerusalem Post reporter that he joined the Basij at 16 years when his mother took him "to a Basiji station and begged them to take me under their wing because I had no one and nothing foreseeable in my future. My father was martyred during the war in Iraq and she did not want me to get hooked on drugs and become a street thug. I had no choice." Then came a description of his role raping young girls:
(July 19, 2009)
Sexually aggressive Saudi females: Ibtisam Sheqdar provides interesting documentation in an Arab News story, datelined Mecca no less, "Workplace harassment: Women turn the tables," but the evidence hardly fulfills the title's premise of women as perpetrators and men as victims. Rather, they describe sexually aggressive females, something difficult enough for most people to imagine when the women in question are burqa'ed.
Start with Muhammad Naif, a young Saudi who works at a store, who tells how a woman entered the shore and, before leaving, asked for his telephone number.
Second, Saad Hamza, who works at a call center:
Third, Khaled Hussain, who works in human resources:
The head of the psychological department at King Adul Aziz Hospital in Mecca, Tarik Albar, sees these as "isolated incidents involving women suffering from mental problems. There are some hysterical women who love being ostentatious. They sometimes use a lot of makeup to draw attention to themselves." The chairman of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Mecca, Ahmed bin Jasim Al-Ghamdi, acknowledged receipt of men complaining of being harassed by women.
Comment: To the extent these stories are not just examples of male bravado, Muslim assumptions about females as sexual predators explains them; for more on this surprising topic, see my article, "Female Desire and Islamic Trauma." An excerpt:
(July 5, 2009)
Rejected Iraqi Suitors Bomb Women's Families: Rod Nordland in the New York Times summarizes a new Iraqi pattern of failed ardor:
Nordland gives the case history of Omar Abdul Hussein, 18, known by the nickname of Cisco, a former supporter of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia living in Dora: "Cisco was rejected by his girlfriend's father three times, and then one day she called to tell him that her father was bringing another suitor over to meet her. Cisco planted a bomb by their garden wall and set it off. Since he lived just next door, it was a short manhunt. Cisco was tried and convicted of terrorism." (May 30, 2009)
Mother in UK locks up three sons' wives "like slaves or dogs for 13 years": Preston Crown Court in England heard that Naseebah Bibi, 62, locked up her three daughters-in-law, Tazeem Akhtar, Nagina Akhtar and Nisbah Akhtar, and treated them as slaves for up to thirteen years, beating and slapping them if they disobeyed, threatening to break their legs and denying them food. Rather than live with their husbands, Bibi's sons Nahim, Fahim and Nadeem, the three women worked for Bibi at cooking, cleaning, and sewing.
Speaking of Nagina Akhtar. Boyd said: "As soon as she came to this country, she was ordered by Mrs Bibi to spend the day sewing on an industrial sewing machine. She sewed all day, every day. She sewed for money, but she didn't see any of the money."
As for Tazeem Akhtar, Boyd said: 'She came expecting to live and have children with her husband, something she had dreamed of for some years. Her dream was doomed. She did not know that Nahim already had a partner, a white lady, and had two children. He had effectively no intention of living as her husband. He effectively had his own life and she only discovered that on the first day she arrived." Instead, "She was simply treated like a slave. She would get up 6am and was ordered to do all the house work, to clean the floors and windows and she even had to do the washing in cold water by hand, even though there was an electric washing machine. She did try to use the washing once but she was beaten by Mrs Bibi. She would be beaten by being slapped in the face, hit with a slipper on the arms and legs and had her hair pulled."
And Nisbah Akhtar: "When she arrived she had the expectation of being husband and wife and she would have a rosy future,' said Boyd. 'But on her arrival she was shunned by her husband and the same pattern of abuse began."
Comment: This takes to an extreme the Muslim pattern whereby a wife becomes something of a servant to her mother-in-law. (For more on this, see Fatima Mernissi's brilliant analysis, Beyond the Veil.) (April 1. 2009)
Father gets 6 months, 40 lashes for marrying off daughter twice: In another only-in-Saudi story, Al-Watan newspaper reports about a father in Qasim province with a 20-year-old daughter. He decided last year to marry her to a civil servant as the man's second wife. The marriage was not consummated and the father says he heard that the husband had divorced his daughter. So, after three months, he married her off to a second man, this one as a first marriage. (Following?) Her second marriage was consummated and she is now three months pregnant. But the first husband still considers himself married to her, so he filed a lawsuit against the father and daughter. The judge annulled the marriage to the first husband, ordered the wife to return his dowry, and legalized the second marriage contract. Most dramatically, he sentenced the father to 6 months in jail and 40 lashes. (April 5, 2009)
Women told: "You have dishonored your family, please kill yourself": As the Turkish authorities crack down on honor killings with long jail terms, men are requesting their women-folk to commit suicide and thus spare them years of incarceration. What might be called "honor suicides" are linked to reforms to the penal code in 2005 which mandated life sentences for honor killers. (Previously, killers often received a reduced sentences.) The law prompted a spate of female suicides, reports Ramita Navai in the Independent. (March 27, 2009)
Afghan president favors law that "legalises rape within marriage": As elections in Afghanistan loom in August, President Hamid Karzai appears to be looking for Islamist votes by supporting a law, article 132 of which states that women must obey their husband's sexual demands and that a man can expect to have sex with his wife at least "once every four nights" when traveling, unless she is ill. The final document is not yet published but it also appears to forbid wives from leaving home without their husbands' permission, to grant custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only, and to approve child marriages. According to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), "Article 132 legalises the rape of a wife by her husband." (March 22, 2009) Aug. 16, 2009 update: The BBC reports that the bill, only slightly modified from its initial terms, has passed and become law. It also indicates that husbands may withhold food from wives who refuse their sexual favors.
Wet-nursing breaks up marriages: Readers may remember getting a good laugh two years ago when Izzat Atiya of Egypt's Al-Azhar University came up with a hair-brained way for men and women to work together by having the women feed their male colleagues "directly from her breast" at least five times. This act, his fatwa announced, would accord with a hadith and create maternal-child relations between the two, thus precluding any sexual activity between them and permitting them to be alone together at work. "Breast feeding an adult puts an end to the problem of the private meeting, and does not ban marriage. A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breastfed."
Not only was Atiya hilarious, but he was also wrong, at least according to the Hanbali school of jurisprudence practiced in Saudi Arabia, which rules that two persons breast fed by the same woman are prohbitied from marrying each other. This prohibition has obvious dangers, which an article in the Arab News today explores in a provocatively titled article by Nadeen Ibrahim, "Make sure your wife is not your sister!"
Ibrahim then offers two examples of this problem, one of a couple married for seven years before discovering they were brother and sister. Fortunately, they had no children, so they divorced and remarried. According to Ibrahim, the woman of the couple "does not regret separating, as she did not really love her ex-husband in the way one loves their spouse."
The other example involves a couple married for 30 years with nine children before discovering they were foster siblings. Explains the wife, Umm Abdul Aziz: "It happened out of the blue. An elderly man came to my husband one day and told him that we had been suckled by the same woman. He even knew people who knew of this and could testify as witnesses. We were greatly shocked and deeply saddened." To avoid wrenching changes, she and her husband kept the matter a secret, continued living together, but now as brother and sister.
To solve this problem in the future, the article quotes a social worker, Fatima Muhammad Al-Suwaisi, urging that careful records be kept of who breast-fed whom. She also adds a sociological note: "Earlier, we used to live in small communities where people knew each other well. With the rapid growth in population and people often traveling from where they were born, it has become difficult for one to know one's foster brothers and sisters." (March 22, 2009)
Parents threaten to kill teenage daughter unless she has sex with her husband: I introduced this weblog entry by noting that "The deepest differences between Muslims and Westerners concern not politics but sexuality" and here is a perfect case making that point, reported by Deutsche Presse Agentur:
Mohammed Ould Abdallahi and his wife Hawa Mint Cheikh emigrated from Mauritania to Puerto Real in southern Spain in the late 1980s, where they bore three children. Ould Abdallahi speaks hardly any Spanish and is almost illiterate. When his daughter Selamha Bint Mohammed turned 14 in 2006, he accepted for her the marriage proposal of her cousin Mokhtar Salem, then already more than 40 years old, and the couple proceeded to get married that year in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital.
Selamha informed a Spanish court last week that she was coerced into this marriage, that her father threatened to stone her unless she married Salem and had sexual relations with him. "He said he would throw the first stone," Selamha recounted.
The family then returned to Puerto Real, minus Salem, who only turned up on a visit in 2007. When he appeared, Selamha refused to resume sexual relations with him. In response, she told the court, "my parents told me they would kill me, burn me or slit my throat." At this point, Selamha turned for safety to a Spanish female friend.
The friend took Selamha for a medical check-up and the friend's family encouraged Selamha to report her parents and husband to the authorities, which she did. The police immediately detained the parents and husband, deprived the parents of custodianship over Selamha, and ordered the parents to keep a distance of 500 meters from Selamha.
The parents they face up to 17 years in prison for coercion, domestic violence and humiliating treatment. The husband faces up to 10 years for repeated sexual aggression. The trial is currently underway and prompting very different responses among Spaniards and Mauritanians.
(March 12, 2009) Mar. 30, 2009 update: The sentences have come down: 17 years for the mother, 13.5 yeas for the husband, and 1.5 years for the father, plus a €15,000 fine on the parents, a restraining order on the mother during her entire prison sentence, and on the father for four years.
40 lashes, 4 months in prison, deportation for 75-year-old widow for "mingling" with nephew: Khamisa Sawadi, 75 and the Syrian widow of a Saudi man, asked two 24-year-old men in April 2008 to bring her five loaves of bread, reports the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan. One of them, Fahd al-Anzi, as was the nephew of her late husband, the other his friend and business partner, Hadiyan bin Zein. They delivered the bread ent to Sawadi's home in the city of al-Chamil, north of Riyadh.
The religious police (the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) then arrested the three on the basis of "citizen information" from al-Anzi's father, who accused Sawadi of corruption, on the grounds that they are not immediate relatives. Sawadi testified that she had breast-fed Anzi when he was a baby (which, in Islamic law, establishes a family bond) and considered al-Anzi as her son, but to no avail; the court denied her claim, citing a lack of evidence.
On March 3, a court found all three guilty and sentenced them to prison terms and lashes. Sawadi, in addition, will be deported after serving her term. The verdict noted that because Sawadi "doesn't have a husband and because she is not a Saudi, conviction of the defendants of illegal mingling has been confirmed." (March 9, 2009) May 21, 2009 update: An appeals court reversed the judgement against Sawadi.
"Boys will be boys" defense of rape by female lawyer: Fatima Al Hawaj, a female defense lawyer in Bahrain, is representing three young men, ages 19, 20 and 21, accused of the abduction and gang rape of a 24-year-old Filpina last September. Driving a rental car, the men allegedly followed her as she walked home from work at a hotel in Manama, grabbed her by the hands, dragged her into their car, drove her to an isolated area in Askar, gang raped her, stole her mobile phone and purse (which contained cash), and dumped her in the middle of the desert. The Filipina subsequently identified her abductors' car' rape test results turned up positive for the defendants' DNA.
Hawaj defended the actions of her three clients yesterday before the High Criminal Court by arguing they should be acquitted because "minors' often commit crimes without criminal intent. "It is general knowledge that youngsters commit crimes for the fun of it and not with the intention to harm others and I request the court to take that into consideration and clear my clients of the charges." (March 4, 2009)
Pleasure-marriage contract with a 9-year-old girl: Rami 'Aleiq, the former head of the Hizbullah Students Union at the American University in Beirut, gave an interview about himself to Rotana Music TV on August 25, 2008, and which MEMRI has today made available. In it, the interviewer quotes 'Aleiq's book:
Rami 'Aleiq, former Hizbullah student leader and patron of 9-year-old prostitutes.
Rami 'Aleiq, former Hizbullah student leader and patron of 9-year-old prostitutes.
The interviewer asks if 'Aleiq was "an observant Shiite Muslim from Hizbullah?" and 'Aleiq nods in agreement.
The interviewer asks: "How did you ever dare to sign a pleasure-marriage contract with a nine-year-old girl?" and 'Aleiq replies: "In our culture, in order to be able to touch a girl or a woman, there must be a contract of pleasure-marriage."
The interviewer notes: "We are talking about a nine-year-old girl ...," prompting 'Aleiq to justify his actions:
Comments: (1) The idea that a female is sexually mature at the age of nine goes back to Muhammad and 'A'isha. (2) It's bad enough to marry off a girl of nine but to prostitute her is unspeakable. (3) 'Aleiq's misbehavior fits a well-worn pattern, one I briefly explored at "Islamists - not who they say they are" and to which I hope to return. (March 3, 2009)
Mansour and Noha (then 2 years old) al-Timani.
Mansour and Noha (then 2 years old) al-Timani.
Even today, kafa'a rears its ugly head, especially in Arabia itself. Perhaps the best-known case concerns Mansour and Fatima al-Timani, a couple with two children who found themselves forcibly divorced because Fatima's two half brothers decided Mansour was socially unworthy of her. The half-brothers then sued to nullify the marriage, claiming her husband had hidden his inferior tribal lineage. They won a judgment on July 20, 2005.
By that time, the couple had been married for over three years and Fatima was pregnant with the couple's second child. Nevertheless, their marriage had been voided and so the couple could not longer live together. The police evacuated Fatima from their joint home and gave her three choices: live with her half-brothers, move to a women's shelter, or go to prison. She initially chose prison, seeing that as the only way to go beyond her brothers' reach, moving there with her two children.
When the Riyadh Appeals Court confirmed the coerced divorce, Fatima left the prison for a women's shelter. Soon after, her mother come out publicly on the half-brothers' side and Fatima began a hunger strike.
Today marks her younger child, Suleiman's, third birthday. An article on the case notes the costs of the divorce, beyond the obvious ones: "Fatima said she cannot take Suleiman to hospital when he is sick. His name is not included in the family ID card she has. Her husband's ID has also expired and he is unable to renew it because of their pending case." (March 2, 2009)
Gang-rape victim sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery: A sketchy report by Adnan Shabrawi in the Saudi Gazette tells of an unmarried 23-year-old Saudi woman, apparently a resident of Jeddah, who accepted a ride from a man (remember, females may not drive in the kingdom). He proceeded to abduct her to a house to the eastern part of the city where he was joined by four of his buddies; together, the five of them sexually assaulted her through the night.
The rape led to her conceiving a child. At eight weeks' pregnancy, the woman went to the King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital for an abortion. She there "confessed" to what happened – the news report does not explain the circumstances – was arrested and brought before a judge at the District Court in Jeddah. The judge found her guilty of (1) adultery and (2) seeking an abortion. He sentenced her to a year in jail and 100 lashes – with the latter punishment only to take place after she delivers the baby. (February 8, 2009)
Samira Ahmed Jassim al-Azzawi, sponsor of systematic rapes of Iraqi women on behalf of Islamist organizations.
Samira Ahmed Jassim al-Azzawi, sponsor of systematic rapes of Iraqi women on behalf of Islamist organizations.
Her method of recruitment? Organizing their rape in order to exploit the deep shame associated with rape in Muslim society in order to push the victims to forfeit their lives as suicide bombers, thereby somewhat redeeming their lost honor.
The Daily Mail quotes Jassim: "I was able to persuade them to become martyrs. Many of the women were broken, depressed, especially those who were raped." The paper goes on to explain that "Jassim's role was to manipulate these rape victims - persuading them they would be better off dead. And once the women had volunteered to become suicide bombers, she delivered them back to insurgents ready for death."
Al-Jazeera quotes Jassim telling about one specific victim, Amal, a teacher who had problems with her husband and his family:
The New York Times focuses on an August 2007 suicide bombing that killed 12:
The Times of London provides more details about the modus operandi of Umm al-Mu'minin, "the Mother of the Believers,":
Jassim's arrest is no small matter, for female suicide bombers have been a major tactic for al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Sunnah, and other terrorist groups in Iraq to get through the security forces. Checkpoints are typically run by male guards and social imperatives prevent them from frisking women, permitting the latter to carry out operations, especially as their long black robes offer plenty of space to conceal explosives.
Jassim faces the death penalty if found guilty. (February 6, 2009)
Male blackmail of female in Saudi Arabia: When the ancient Saudi practice of veiling women meets the contemporary use of camera-equipped mobile phones, a curious by-product has emerged, that of young men threatening to go public with pictures of young women. As Fatima Sidiya documents, a rash of such cases have occurred in the last six months.
This situation arises, as Sidiya cautiously explains, because, pre-marital relations of any sort with the opposite gender "are something frowned upon," so the exchange of photographs or love letters with a male "might cause immense problems to a woman if her family, fiancé or husband were to find out. As a result, some men take advantage and blackmail women into giving them cash or forcing them to have sex."
The problem has reached such proportions – including forty cases recorded in Makkah alone in 2008 – that King Abdullah set up a committee to solve the problem. (December 25, 2008)
Saudi 8-year-old girl must await puberty to divorce: In contrast to Nojoud Muhammed Nasser, the Yemeni girl who marched into court and won a divorce (see below on her), an unnamed Saudi the same age living in Unayzah was not granted the right to divorce. Here's how it happened, according to her lawyer, Abdullah Jtili, and reported by Agence France-Presse:
The girl's father, apparently facing financial difficulties, agreed in August 2008 to marry his daughter to a 58-year-old man for an advance dowry of SAR30,000 (US$8,000). Soon after the father and the groom signed of the marriage contract, which stipulated that the marriage would be consummated when the girl turned 18, her divorced mother began proceedings to have it annulled. In response, says laywer Jtili, "The judge [today] dismissed the [mother's] plea because she does not have the right to file such a case, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty." Jtili noted that "She doesn't know yet that she has been married," though four months have passed since the contract was signed. Jtili plans to appeal the verdict. (December 21, 2008)
Jordanian women agree to being beaten: A survey conducted for unnamed United Nations agencies and including nearly 15,000 Jordanian families and 11,000 married women, aged mostly between 15 to 49 years old, found that around 20 percent of the women approve being beaten by their husbands to be disciplined. (November 26 2008)
Indonesian Muslim imam charged for sex with a 12-year-old wife: Pujiono Cahyo Widianto, 43, imam, owner and head of an Islamic boarding school in Semarang, Java, conducted a contest in which his 26-year-old first wife, Pujis, and some of his followers served as judges to pick his second wife. According to The Jakarta Post, Pujiano married the winner, 12-year-old Lutfiana Ulfa Puji, in August and proceeded to have sexual relations with her. Pujiono reportedly has declared an intention to marry two yet younger girls, 7 and 9.
Lutfiana's parents admit they married their off because of financial difficulties, being unable to send her to school. They hoped the marriage to the rich Pujiono would improve their economic situation. The parents maintain the marriage is valid according to Islam; but it is not registered with the state.
Indeed, modernity has starkly intervened in the case. Hadi Supeno, secretary of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) is planning to report Lutfiana's parents. Pujiono, and Pujis to the police for a criminal investigation. All of them could be charged under the 2002 Law on Child Protection for forcing, swindling and/or trading a minor to have sexual relations. If found guilty, they would face a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail and a fine of $30,000. Additionally, those involved may have violated the 1974 Marriage Law, which requires that a person be 16 years old to marry. Finally, Pujiono will have to undergo psychological testing to see if he should be dealt with as a pedophile. (October 28, 2008)
Male salesmen at Saudi lingerie shops: Sawt al-Mar'a, a Saudi women's organization, has started a boycott campaign against lingerie stores, hoping to pressure the owners to replace their salesmen with sales women. Says the campaign's leader, Reem As'ad, an economics professor at Dar Al-Hekma College in Jeddah:
The group has labor law on its side, for it calls for women to replace men in women's lingerie."We only want to activate a law that was passed two years ago," notes As'ad. An unnamed source in the Labor Ministry explained that religious elements who oppose the employment of women have delayed implementation: "The ban comes from a strict interpretation of the Islamic principle that women should not mix with men outside their immediate family." (October 15, 2008) Jan. 18, 2009 update: "Women's campaign for right to sell lingerie fails," reports Najah Alosaimi in the Arab News, despite support from the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as colleges and training institutes. The "Ban Men from Selling Lingerie" group "sent letters to leading lingerie shop owners stating the importance of complying with the Labor Ministry's guidelines to employ saleswomen, along with the signatures we collected online over the last four months," recounts its organizer, Reem As'ad. "But we haven't received any response." Letters to lingerie stores threatening a boycott did not work: "Even that wasn't enough for them to understand our feelings when we buy lingerie from men."
The reasoning behind men selling bras and panties is complex, Alosaimi explains:
Mar. 25, 2009 update: A group of about fifty Saudi women launched a campaign yesterday in Jiddah to boycott lingerie stores with male clerks and shop only at the country's few women-only lingerie stores, reports the Associated Press. Jan. 13, 2012 update: Nearly three years later, the shift to lingerie saleswomen has been made, opening up economic opportunities for Saudi females – and perhaps increase the sales of lingerie. Feb. 13, 2013 update: So fast have things moved that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia's morality police, will in a few days enforce a ban on men working in lingerie shops. The reasoning has partly to do with women's privacy and partly with giving them opportunities for employment.
The Islamic authorities in his country, however, are not pleased. The Jamatu Nasril Islam (JNI) has told him to choose four of them, divorce the other 82, and repent for his sins within three days. Failing this, it will sentence him to death. In response, Abubakar defiantly challenged the JNI on the grounds that the Koran prescribes no punishment for a man taking more than four wives. "To my understanding the Koran does not place a limit and it is up to what your own power, your own endowment and ability allows. God did not say what the punishment should be for a man who has more than four wives, but he was specific about the punishment for fornication and adultery." (August 21, 2008) Sep. 16, 2008 update: Police arrested Abubakar on orders Niger State's Islamic court, charged with "infringing on Islamic laws."
(June 26, 2008)
Saudi imam details heavenly sexual delights: Omar Al-Sweilem, a Saudi imam, extols in near-pornographic detail on Saudi television the delights that await the faithful (men) when they find the "black-eyed virgin with her black hair and white face" in heaven. He paraphrases the Sufi sheikh, Harith Al-Muhasibi (c. 781-857):
(April 16, 2008)
Nojoud complained about her husband's behavior.
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, Nojoud's maternal uncle, Shu'ee Salem Attabi'ee, has become her guardian and she will be placed in Dar Al-Rahama, an NGO for children. (April 9, 2008) Apr. 17, 2008 update: The AFP, BBC, and AP offer additional details on the case. June 11, 2008 update: Nojoud won her divorce. June 29, 2008 update: Another Yemeni girl, Arwa Abdu Muhammad Ali, 9, left her husband's house and took refuge in a hospital, where she complained of being beaten and sexually abused, making her the second child bride to come forward in less than a month and turning her into a something of a celebrity. Aug. 14, 2008 update: Putting Nojoud's and Arwa's circumstances into perspective, the Yemen Times reports that, in some parts of the country, the average marriage age for girls is ten. Oct. 1, 2010 update: CNN tells the story of "Reem al Numeri … 14-years-old and recently divorced. She was 11 when she says her father forced her to marry a cousin more than twice her age."
Sign on woman's clothing store window: "Just in: Abaya with openings for breastfeeding."
Sign on woman's clothing store window: "Just in: Abaya with openings for breastfeeding."
Sleep talking forces couple to divorce: Muslim authorities in India ordered a couple married for eleven years with three children to separate after the man uttered three times in his sleep the formulaic word in the Shari'a for divorce, talaq. When word of the sleep talk reached the ulema, they issued a fatwa telling the couple to live apart and for the woman to marry another man before she can go back to her original husband. (March 28, 2006)
Force-feeding Muslim girls: I review the phenomenon on gavage (force-feeding) among Muslim families in a weblog entry, "The Middle East Explodes with Obesity." One extract from a Wall Street Journal Europe article about 8-year-old girl in the western Sahara, Jidat Mint Ethmane, who
(December 29, 2004)
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
(September 4, 2003) May 19, 2008 update: London's Daily Mail offers some examples of husbands not seeing their wives faces over periods of decades. The first anecdote concerns a husband who, after 30 years of marriage, tried to peer under his 50-year-old wife's veil as she slept.
The paper gives two other examples of permanently covered wives: When, after ten years of marriage, Ali al-Qahtani tried to remove his wife's face covering, "she threatened to leave and only decided to stay after he swore never to try again." The same goes for Om Rabea al-Gahdaray, 70, whose husband and children have never seen her face.
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