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Irrational Rationalizations: When It Comes to Child Brides, Dare We Rationalize?

The Wall Street Journal recently published a report about a fatwa (legal ruling) issued by one of the most important members of the clergy in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Saleh al-Fawzan. On his blog site ( al-Fawzan stated that it was permissible for fathers to marry off their daughters even if the child was still in the cradle. Most of us are horrified by such things. Yet there's a rationalization out there which is disconcerting for those of us who believe children should not be at the mercy of such things. This rationalization begins with trying to cull from history and culminates with a comparison of modern mistreatment of young girls. History and Child Bridery When people in the west express their disdain for the practice of young girls being forced into marriage against their will, one of the first excuses one hears is that it was a common practice back in the days of Muhammad. Unfortunately, we do not find anything in history, specifically archeology, which supports the notion of inter-generational marriage, particularly between very young girls and grown men (at least twenty years their senior). We do find prearranged marriages between young children for tribal purposes. Generally, two families, hoping to reconcile or solidify a bond, would wed their children in a ceremony of some sort (it varied) and later, when the children got older, the grown up children would have a secondary wedding and the bride would enter into, and live in, the grooms home with his family. The Straw Man Visits Those of us who speak against Islamic practices which place a stamp of approval on child bridery are often confronted with the moral equivalency discussion: Before Americans jump all over Saudi cleric Sheik Saleh al-Fawzan, the prominent imam who has backed a religious ruling allowing for fathers to arrange their daughters marriages even if they are in the cradle, let us remember that America has its own issues in the state of Texas and elsewhere. To read a religious cleric disapprove of sexual intercourse with girls unless they are capable of being placed beneath and bearing the weight of men may sound barbaric, but how different is Sheik Saleh al-Fawzans fatwah from underage marriage in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints? [cite: ] The blogger didn't know the whole of the case. While the girls were underage, none were tiny girls as young as newborn nor even pre-puberty. Secondly, the Mormon Church's official stand is that its members obey the law of their land, or State, according to the age ascribed to in law. Lastly, Jeffs is sitting where he belongs- in prison. In Saudi Arabia, as in Yemen (and other Islamic states where this is unofficially permitted) the men go free. Take the case of Nujood Ali (2008), age 10, who approached a Yemen judge to request divorce. Yemen law supposedly outlawed the practice but it continued anyway. She was granted her divorce, but she had to repay the man who bought her from her parents to become his wife, for the monies he paid her

parents. That's a far cry from sitting in a Texas prison where some good-ole boy prisoner, if he gets a chance, will make you his butt-bubba. The moral equivalency approach to this issue doesn't solve the problem. And maybe it's time we stated clearly that we can respect all cultures, but not all of the practices of all cultures.