By Francis Abraham King
By Francis Abraham King
New York – What are we to do as a people when we have deeply held values that seem to conflict or even deny the human rights owed to another person? Or better yet, what do we do when our conscience tells us one thing and our family, society and religion say something else? If God is good, would He ask us to ignore our consciences? And if our values derive from a sincere reverence to God, then how are we to reconcile them with something that seems to be so obviously good when they inform us it is wrong or sinful?
If there is one value that reaches across the different cultures and religions of this world, it is love. Marriage has been perhaps the most beautifully preserved institution throughout human history and across the many peoples of the world. There is no denying that when a man and a woman fall in love, there seems to be a mysterious merging of spirits. It is a gift from God and a natural phenomenon that no man or government should interfere in.
However, in today’s world and especially many pre-dominantly Islamic countries with non-Muslim populations, this all too natural phenomenon is regulated in a way that violates the human rights of women and non-Muslim men. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly affirms in Article 16 that:
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
Article 18 adds that:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
For centuries up and until the present time, the predominant Islamic teaching on inter-religious marriage has been that a Muslim man has the right to marry chaste women from among the People of the Book and that this same right is not afforded to women.
In Morocco, for example, this is reflected in Article 19, section 4 of Morocco’s Family Code, which states that a “[t]temporary [i]impediment” to marriage includes “The marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man, and the marriage of a Muslim man to a non-Muslim woman unless she is of the Christian or Jewish faith.”
Strictly speaking, from a human rights perspective, there is a violation of human rights with encoding this religious practice into national law.
It also clear that the lack of a re-visitation on this subject by Muslim theologians places Muslim women who fall in love with men of different religious traditions in a position of great uncertainty, as they feel forced to choose between following their faith and following their heart. This latter issue can only be resolved through theologizing as to why the two must be dichotomized and whether or not a via media exists.
In duty to the rights owed to its female citizens and to the emotional confusion the ones caught in this position must feel, there needs to be at the very least a changing of the family law, and hopefully a focused attention placed on the religious counseling given to such women from society and their families.
The minimum change to the family code can be the introduction of secular civil marriages, as has been introduced in Lebanon, which would not necessitate any religious attention to be placed on the subject.
A more ambitious approach, with particular attention given to UDHC Article 18 (quoted above), can be the revisiting of interreligious marriage from a Quranic perspective.
As the issue is being re-visited heavily by Muslims in Western countries with large numbers of immigrants, Morocco has the opportunity to be a pioneer amongst Muslim nations in wrestling with difficult questions such as these. As is being theologized upon by Muslims faced with these situations in countries where such marriages are legal, but religiously questionable, Imams such as Dr. Khaleel Mohammed are beginning to conclude that in the case of a Muslim woman wanting to marry a Christian man:
Even though [the man you want to marry] is a Christian, the Qur’an does not hold that against him. For while mentioning that there are Christians who take Jesus as God, Islam’s main document calls this ‘kufr’ (disbelief/ingratitude) rather than ‘shirk’ (polytheism). It’s a significant distinction because, in another verse, the Qur’an also states that Christians who do good deeds have the right to enter heaven.
Furthermore, it is important that women from Morocco and across the Islamic world (and the men they love) are not put in the position of this Egyptian man who was forced to end his relationship with a Christian woman because of the impossibility of their marriage in that country and is cursed with saying “I’m now married to a wonderful, decorous veiled woman and have lovely children, may god save them and her…But for me, I can’t say that I ‘love’ my wife…I still love the Christian woman I used to meet. I will never forget her.”
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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