Egypt marriage costs spark crisis
Soaring costs prevent many young people from getting married, prompting a national debate over the issue.
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2010 08:05 GMT
Many Egyptian adults have been prevented from tying the knot by soaring marriage costs.
The problem has sparked a crisis and widespread debate in a society that gives marriage a top priority.
Hoda Abdel-Hamid reports from Cairo, where Egyptians have frowned upon for not fulfilling the cultural duty.
Getting Married: How Hard Can It Be?
10/2/2010 - Social Religious Family
My husband and I recently tried to match-make a couple of our friends. Omar began telling his friend about a really nice woman we knew at 33, successful, beautiful. His first response was, "So, what's wrong with her? Why is she 33 and not married?" Looking at the 30-year-old man before me, my first thought was, "I could ask you the same thing." However, the reality set in that there's a double standard when it comes to the issue of age and marriage.
Many Muslim women are successful lawyers, doctors, professors and journalists. They are outspoken and active in their Muslim and non-Muslim communities. They are intelligent and beautiful, and they are unmarried. The same women who are ambitious and focused on their academic and professional success are finding it difficult to find a suitable spouse.
Twenty years ago, as young Muslim boys and girls were being raised in the U.S., they were encouraged to excel academically and professionally. Parents placed a huge emphasis on education and hard work for both boys and girls. And apparently, they were taken seriously. Girls excelled and never felt they could not attain an education or a profession. They worked hard and succeeded as their parents had encouraged all those years. Now, these same women are in their twenties and thirties and the same parents are now pressuring them to get married.
Are women to blame for being ambitious and educated? Apparently so. Women seem to be penalized for their ambition. Once a young woman passes the age of 25 and remains single, she is considered "old" and often finds it difficult to find a suitable spouse.
Suddenly, others tell her that she has become too picky and her expectations of a husband are unrealistic and that she should hurry up and get married already. "There are some of us who went to college and are successful in our careers and we are not on a search and destroy mission to get married," says Suhad Obeidi, a 39-year-old former banking manager with an M.B.A. The reality is that Muslim women have worked hard for their education and careers and they will not give it all up in order to get married.
In recent decades, men have also become highly educated and progressive, and have even fought for women's rights and the elevation of women in Islam. However, while these men are impressed with a successful and active woman, they do not consider her "marriage material." Despite the elevation of women, many men have maintained traditional ideas as to the type of wife they seek. After all, they do not see anything wrong with the way their mother was.
Consciously or subconsciously, many men seek a wife who will fulfill the traditional role of a wife and mother and one who will maintain a traditional home life. She should be educated, but she should also be willing to put her education and career on a shelf while raising a family. These women in their late twenties and early thirties appear too established in their career and lifestyle and therefore, more difficult to marry because they will not fall into this traditional role.
Many American Muslim women want to be wives and mothers while at the same time be respected for their profession. "One big problem is that, rather than embrace her ambition and success, men simply tolerate it and expect something in return," says Nagwa Ibrahim, a 25-year-old activist seeking a career as a human and civil rights lawyer.
Current expectations of marriage have changed for women and become more aligned with the examples of women during Prophet Muhammad's lifetime. The Prophet's first wife, Khadija, was an established career woman who was 15 years older than her husband. Khadija was a very confident and successful woman who actually proposed to the 24-year-old Muhammad. Yet, the Prophet was not intimidated by her nor found her "unmarriageable."
They maintained a strong marriage as she continued to be a businesswoman, as well as wife and mother. Prophet Muhammad and Khadija were married for 28 years, the longest of all his marriages. The year that Khadija died was also referred to as the Year of Mourning by Prophet Muhammad.
Many Muslim women seek not to compete with men, but rather to establish a partnership with their spouse. Ultimately, these women want to be cherished and loved in the same way that the Prophet loved Khadija. This type of partnership in marriage can only exist when both people are accepting and respectful of one another's ambitions and priorities in life.
Nagwa Ibrahim feels that men have succumbed to negative cultural stereotypes that are contrary to Islam when selecting a spouse. "We (Muslim women) are the way we are because we are trying to be good Muslims," she says.
Thus, a partnership in marriage can only be developed when men and women really follow the principles of Islam and learn to communicate their expectations of marriage as well as be understanding of one another.
Communication is vital to any successful marriage, but now more than ever, women must feel comfortable in expressing their expectations of marriage to a potential spouse and in return feel that they are being understood, respected and encouraged.
This evolution will happen once we see more modern examples of successful Muslim men and women getting married and further benefiting society by their union. Educated Muslim men and woman will only improve our Muslim communities by expecting the best from everyone, be they men or woman.
Beginning in the homes, parents need to nurture their children by encouraging them that they can have both worlds and that they can be successful in their career and marriage. Muslim women can have a huge impact on the future by modeling the multi-faceted woman of Islam to their children.
Therefore, when their daughters grow up, they will aspire to be women of excellence and ambition. Additionally, when their sons become men, their expectations and views of a suitable wife will include a partnership with an intelligent and successful Muslim woman. With further education and communication, men and women can understand and respect one another's roles in society and in the home, which will ultimately benefit future generations of Muslims.
Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine is the author of Before the Wedding: 150 Questions for Muslims to Ask Before Getting Married.
Chechen Head Says Bridenapping Must Stop
Bride kidnapping: an old tradition in Chechnya.
Men often decide to steal a girl if she refuses to marry him, or if her family objects to the union.
The bride napping was often followed by negotiations between the bride's and groom's families, facilitated by a local imam, or religious leader.
But from now on, imams will face punishment if they get involved.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov vowed Sunday to eradicate the centuries-old practice.
[Ramzan Kadyrov, Leader of Chechen Republic]:
"This is the territory of the Russian Federation in which laws make kidnapping a crime. We follow Islam, the religion which condemns such practices and does not recognize marriage without a woman's consent. I want to tell you with full responsibility that we will once and for all eradicate bride kidnapping from our society."
Bride-stealing can also lead to blood feuds.
Last year four people were killed during a kidnapping, including a bride, after members of her family chased the kidnapper's car.
'Child marriages prevalent among Kerala's Muslims'
Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 28 (IANS) Child marriages are prevalent among Muslims in Kerala, and the custom can be combated only by creating awareness, the state's women's commission chairperson said Thursday.
'We are doing a lot of awareness programme to change the mindset of the people and that's all what we can do. We do get help from the NCW (National Commission for Women) to this effect and we will continue our efforts,' Kerala Women's Commission chairperson D. Sreedevi said.
She said that precise figures were not available, though the state administration has identified the regions where the practice was prevalent.
'This is happening in districts of Kasargode, Malappuram and Kannur. Even though we have not done any survey to this effect and do not have the actual numbers, it is for certain that this is happening,' she said.
Girija Vyas, chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW), said the commission has been going around the country to find out people's views on the issue, and will submit a report to the Supreme Court on the ideal age for marriage.
'We are of the view that the present age of 18 for women and 21 for men should stay, but then we will insist in our report that registration of marriages be made mandatory,' said Vyas, who was attending a conference here.
'We chose Kerala to have a dialogue because in this state the rate of child marriages is the least. We will submit our report in three months,' she added.
'According to Muslim law, the marriage of a minor is valid,' said Vyas.
Community leaders, however, said instances of child marriages might have been common in the past, especially in north Kerala, but such marriages were merely a ritual since the bride and the groom do not live together till they attain maturity.
Saifudeen Haji, state secretary of the Muslim Jamath Coordination, explained: 'Look, what happens now, is that if a minor's parents want to marry off their daughter, they conduct the 'nikaah'. This ceremony is attended by the boy's and girl's relatives, two witnesses and a person well versed in Muslim rituals.'
'After this ceremony, the girl and the boy are technically husband and wife, but they don't live together. The marriage is solemnised only after the girl turns 18. Maybe this is being interpreted as a child marriage.'
Muslims constitute 24 percent of Kerala's population of 3.2 crore, according to government figures.