MARRYING A MIDDLE EASTERNER

I am a marriage counselor living in a Middle Eastern Muslim country. Telling you who I am, which country I live in, and the real names of the people I will mention is not safe. I asked several women to tell me what they would say to someone wanting to marry a Muslim.

Seema is 27, and half Arab. Her mother, from Europe, married a man from this country, a high Muslim official. This man, her father, molested Seema when she was five. Later, he made her marry another Muslim official. They have been 'married' for six years, and her husband has 'divorced her about seven times in those years. (I know, the Koran says divorce only three times. Muslims are notorious for 'getting around' their own religious laws.)

Seema's husband beats her regularly, verbally abuses her, won't allow her to take courses to improve her English, or learn anything new, won't allow her to make any independent decisions, and tries to isolate her from all her friends. If she talks to a man, even a relative, he becomes angry. He demands sex from her several times a day. Seema was this man's 'second wife' until he divorced the first one, who has born him five children and is no longer pretty. Seema has one son with her husband.

What would Seema say to a woman wanting to marry a Mid-Eastern Muslim? Here are her words.

"At first, the man will be charming and considerate. He knows, about a woman he is pursuing, that 'once she is in the cave, I can eat her.' The man will change and become his true self after marrying.

"If you want to marry a Muslim, first read "Not Without My Daughter". The book is true. Islam has good rules if only men lived on this planet. The rights of women are only talk. Islam has a cruel, controlling spirit and is suffocating for a woman. A Muslim man doesn't care about a woman's feelings. He says, 'If you don't like'. . . (whatever he says) 'Go knock your head on wood.'

If the man is unhappy, it is all your fault, and if he divorces you, the children are his. Arab men have very hot blood, so easily hit women, and the Koran says that is OK. Islam despises European people, and says they are inferior dogs. Men control themselves in America, but change completely when they return to their own country.

Don't think, "This man is my last chance for happiness". My mother and my aunts (all expatriate women married to Muslims) tried to tell me that I was making a mistake, but I wouldn't listen. I couldn't see beyond now, that something better might come. My marriage seemed like the only way out to happiness, but I was wrong."

Seema and I plan to talk regularly, and she wants to tell me more, to tell women contemplating marriage to Muslims.

Natalie came to see me last week. She is Spanish-American, has been married ten years, and has three children. Her husband told her, "You do not make me happy any longer. So I married a second wife three months ago. I want to bring her to our bedroom this week-end."

Natalie is devastated, and feels utterly worthless. Probably, this man has slowly eroded her self esteem over the years, and no longer respects the door mat he created. He won't let her to take the children out of this country.

Most of these men know their wives will not leave their children. I don't understand why these men need someone to blame and mistreat, but it seems they don't really want to lose their wives. Although, Sally's husband (also, a Spanish-American), put a knife to her stomach and told her, "Get out of my life. I don't want you,." he knows she will not abandon her three daughters, something these children fear greatly.

As I listen, at coffee gatherings, to these women talk, all of them fear more for their daughters than for their sons. Kristen, (British) married 18 years, kept her marriage somewhat stable, though difficult, until her daughter reached puberty. Then, the husband insisted that the child always stay home, not wear the clothes she's always worn (like blue jeans), and cover completely when in public. )This husband doesn't make Kristen cover. She told me, "Cross-cultural marriages should be outlawed." Kristen's mother urged her to stick out the marriage for the children. Kristen also has four sons, aged two to fifteen.

Most of the women I know are married to wealthy, wealthy men, so are not starving. But the men control all the spending, and often limit what the woman can have and do. They are allowed to buy jewelry, however, since that is the traditional Arab woman's source of wealth.

Patty's husband 'borrowed' all her money, and would not repay anything. (She was a successful European businesswoman.) Her husband refused to have their daughter's birth registered, so the child , having no passport, could not be taken out of the country. Patty became a strong Christian, and says, "Jesus helped me take this man to court for beating me, and the judge made him stop." (Patty also has a black belt in some form of Judo, and the husband knows she can defend herself. So he stopped beating her.) But he refused her money for food, and the child's schooling, and wouldn't show up at home for days at a time. The family put such pressure on Patty that she withdrew her demand for a divorce. Divorce is easy for men to get, under Islam, but very hard for a woman. Patty's husband refused to give her money to start a business here, although the rulers of this country say they want women to have businesses.

All 'my women', (who must sneak out to see me for counseling) are awed at how God helped Patty. Last summer the government declared an amnesty, to deport all illegal immigrants. One day, Patty simply walked into the airport, overcrowded with men (over 200,000 were deported), with her daughter and one small suitcase, and they escaped to her home country. Now others are taking courage, but so far no one else has gotten away. The fear is that these wealthy husbands can follow them and kidnap the children and return to this country. I suspect the woman are correct.

Danna's husband didn't tell her for several months that he had divorced her. Ellie's husband left her after twenty-five years, and now has a young pretty second wife, an Iranian woman. He gives Ellie only 1500 dollars a month for her and the five children. Marylee's husband has not worked for many years, and drinks, but she is so beaten down by his abuse that she supports him and their two children at a low paying job. She is a highly intelligent and educated woman, but he destroyed all her diplomas and certificates that would prove she is qualified for a decent job.

Most of these husbands drink, even though alcohol is supposedly 'haram' (forbidden) in Islam. The longer I live in this country, and see the utter hypocrisy of Islam, the more I lose all respect for the religion. Islam gives no human the inner power to live righteous lives, but wholly trusts human effort and choice, and denies that the heart of mankind chooses evil.

Last week, friends visiting from Pakistan told us stories about refugees arriving from Afghanistan, where the Taliban is enforcing Sharia law. One old man, with a beard to his waist (a symbol of devotion to Islam), piled out of a truck full of refugees and shouted, "I hate Islam". Intellectuals and educated people are fleeing Afghanistan by the thousands, knowing they will be persecuted or imprisoned by the Taliban. When Islam gains power, it invariably creates bondages.

Angie claims she has a good marriage to her Muslim husband. But if she isn't wearing the abaya (black cloak that covers from head to toe), and her husband runs into her, with friends, in a shopping mall, he will not acknowledge that he knows her, and is angry with her when she gets home.. Sometimes, he forces her to dress in a tight, low-necked mini-dress and accompany him to a disco. One morning, before dawn, as they drove home, a policeman stopped them and scolded her husband for 'being with a Filipina prostitute'. (Angie is Spanish-American and dark) Angie's husband would not protect her and say that she was his wife, not a prostitute. Her self esteem is slowly being eroded, I can see.

Nanci's husband has not prevented her from being a Christian. She says, "He married me this way, he must take me as I am." (She has a stronger sense of self-esteem than most of these women.) Her husband says, "You may go to Bible studies, but don't tell your friends, because they will tell their husbands and want to do the same thing." So Nanci doesn't feel comfortable attending many Bible studies. He husband's family, however, are not so tolerant, and she has faced seven years of intense pressure from them. One sister-in-law tried to stab her with a long scissors, but missed Nanci and hit the maid. The maid needed 118 stitches in her arm to repair the wound.

As a professional counselor, I find that women vulnerable to charming Arab men, (and they can be SO charming), are, almost 100 percent, woman from dysfunctional families, with low self-esteem. And they have limited ability to see options for their futures. Even Nanci told me, "I was young and in love, and wouldn't listen to anyone," because she was so desperate to feel loved, and couldn't see any other way but from a husband. I would URGE women to seek help for recovery from past family dysfunction before marriage. Many have been sexually abused as children or teenagers. I believe that their psychological/emotional needs, deep seated, make them vulnerable to Islamic men, and unsure of a relationship with Jesus Christ as the living God of love and power and forgiveness. I see many American women with what I label, "The mid-forties and unmarried panic."

I've lived nearly five years now in a Muslim country. I once respected Islam, but now know the religion is a legalistic deception of Satan. I cannot warn people too strongly against Islam. We call this country the land of inconsistency and hypocrisy. And this country is one of the BETTER Muslim lands, because people have few financial problems.

I could quote many more ladies, including some of the rulers wives. They struggle deeply when their husband takes another wife, even though they have known all their lives that Islam allows multiple marriages and expects total obedience to her husband from a woman. Muslim men apparently cannot see a difference between respect and obedience, and feel disrespected if their wives make any decisions without consulting them. Young women feel that they are treated like brainless children. Many learn emotionally unhealthy patterns of manipulation in order to get legitimate needs met. Their children learn from them those patterns. Manipulation, instead of direct communication, appears deeply imbedded in the culture, even among men.

I'd better stop. I get quite angry at the injustices and evil I see all around me, all a 'normal' part of Islam, and I might express that anger in all it's depth, if I don't stop now!

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