By Youssef Sourgo
Morocco World News
Casablanca, July 25, 2013
Moroccan singer Dounia Batma has recently drawn public attention to her relationship with her Bahraini manager after officially announcing the date of their wedding during a recent interview with Chada FM. Yet, Batma’s decision to marry a man who is already married has discernibly received more harsh criticism than congratulations and blessings from Moroccans.
While her decision to marry whomever she pleases remains within the confines of her private life, her consent to marry a foreign man with a family has been rendered a national case. A segment of the Moroccan population which finds interest in Dounia’s marriage argue that her disregard to his current marital status is detrimental to Morocco’s image in the Arab world and even internationally.
The main argument of this segment of the Moroccan population is that Dounia’s approval of being a second wife to an ostensibly rich Gulf man only reinforces the notorious, destructive stereotypes about Moroccan women being “men robbers.” This is also said to solidify the annihilative stereotype that Moroccan women are only after foreign people’s wealth and influence.
Another argument running against Dounia’s controversial decision radiates fervent feminism. Her consent to be the second wife of a man is, according to some Moroccans, an official reinforcement of patriarchal principles related to marital life, in which men phallocentrically enjoy the right to marry as many women as they please, something that is seen as solidifying their patriarchal hegemony and superiority over the other gender.
In light of this argument, Dounia’s decision to marry a man who is already bound to another woman pulls feminist struggles against patriarchy back to the medieval ages, since her consent appears voluntary and stems out of her own conviction. Whether Alttork had the consent of his first wife and his little daughter, and whether Dounia has ever shown any concern for the first wife’s rights and opinion are all details the couple maintain undisclosed. With these details left concealed, Dounia’s relationship with Alttork is conceived of as a “fishy” affair.
While the group of Moroccans, be it fans of Dounia Batma or mere observers, proceed in probing her unexpected and controversial decision putting forth arguments like the ones above, another segment of the population seems unmindful of her “private life”. In this camp, any criticism targeting the private life and personal decisions of an individual also pulls human rights struggles back to the middle ages.
The most recurrent argument put forth by this group is that clear-cut lines have to be drawn between the artistic life of an individual and their private one. Blurring the lines between both spheres is nothing less but an attempt to project one’s own beliefs and convictions on the other, which is practically another sort of imperialism, characteristic of social relations.
The demarcations between consumption and morality have always ignited heated debates and even intense disputes among people. Whether both spheres are to be separated or kept chained together has almost become a rhetorical question. According to some Moroccans, that people would boycott Dounia’s artistic talent because of her personal decision is something that appears more of a given than speculation now. When this happens, according to representatives of this camp, people become as fatalist and hard-line as any other extremist, uncompromising movement..
Another argument put forth by this apparently more liberal sphere of the debate is that rendering any individual matter a public concern is a fallacy, or perhaps one more indirect manifestation of the persuasive power of mass media. Dounia here is perceived of as a mere individual whose concerns are almost invisible when compared to other concerns reflecting a vaguer public concern. Some Moroccans argue that debating such “banality” diverges one’s attention from other concerns, mostly social, that are increasingly plaguing the kingdom.
Such diversion is recognized by research that has been done in the interdisciplinary fields of cultural and media studies as “the manipulative power of mass media.” Rendering what is partial and particular, a general and inclusive matter is one of the indirect repercussions of the media ‘s tendency to blow out of proportion its coverage of certain matters.
A case in point is when a political party deploys mediameans (public discourse) in order to make people believe that its concerns and interests are common with theirs. Of course, such perspective remains grossly over-simplifying when one disregards the responsibility of the audience. The latter is responsible for either making a fuss about an issue of little or no significance, or critically probing whether a debate on the matter is worthy of debating in the first place.
Other Moroccans went further to invoke religion in this context. “Doesn’t Islam allow polygamy for men as long as they can fairly treat their wives,” read one of the comments on an article discussing Dounia’s controversial decision. “Why is it a problem then that she marries a Muslim man who apparently has the potential to treat her and his first wife equally?” asked the anonymous commenter. According to this argument, the fact that her future Muslim husband is already married is completely legitimate, religiously speaking.
“You can’t accept some of our religion (referring to Islam) and reject the rest. You either take it all, or leave it all,” read another comment advancing the same argument. Polygamy in Islam, which is limited to four wives, is clearly permissible as long as the man who embarks on it is able to treat his wives equally, a task too idealistic to be true. According to those who raise this question in the discourse of Dounia’s marriage, opposing that her Muslim man has another wife is automatically a questioning of Islam and universal statements in the holy Qu’ran.
Apparently, Dounia’s unexpected decision to marry Mohammed Alttork, who already has a wife and a little child, has gone beyond any expectations to stir a controversy as forked as usual debates about universal issues. Contestable arguments from various fountains have been put forth and supported in this context, stemming from notions and rubrics as potent as modernity, liberalism, secularism, feminism, human rights, religion, and so forth. One thing is sure is that her marriage is no longer part of her private life. It is now a topic debated over at Moroccan round tables. Finally, some would argue that Dounia is responsible for the fuss her marriage has caused since she voluntarily made a feature of her private life a public matter via the media.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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