Friday, April 18, 2008

Saudi Reaction to Texas Polygamist Compound?

I am eagerly waiting for a Saudi reaction to the story of Texas Polygamist Compound broadcasted for the last couple of weeks on CNN and other news networks. Beside the story touching briefly on a sensitive issue that exist in Saudi itself, I believe it is healthy for Saudis to import world news as well as export them!

In the story, 400+ children are removed from the polygamist compound and their mothers, and taken into custody by the authority for further investigation. This takes place after the authorities claim to have received a call from a 16 y.o who had undergone child abuse within the vicinity; a call many believe to be a hoax.

Listening to one of the mothers saying “we don’t understand them (the authority), they don’t understand us,” made me think and rethink the many times the US gov’t attempted to bust in and fix (problems) for other countries, and I thought to myself “this case is much more complicated!”

When dealing with foreign countries, it is easy to blame the misunderstanding on heritage, culture, religion, geographical difference, language, bad gov'ts, bad living conditions. However, when dealing with people who exist within your same land, carry your same skin color, speak your very language, share your nationality, heritage, rights and understand the legal system-dealing with those people can put one to a real challenge!

Why come into the compound now? Why after allowing for such religious practices and beliefs to grow and regenerate would the police bust into the compound? Why after all the children have grown and adapted to such practices do the authorities begin to shake them up at their core values? What right does any gov’t have to mass manage children, and have them removed in such indiscriminative and impersonal manner?

Why are the women appearing on TV and interviews to excuse the men? Polygamy in the first place relates to men being allowed to marry several women, so why aren’t the men making their appearances as religious leaders, family heads and husbands? Why aren’t they coming forward to emotionally influence the crowd by saying “we miss our children too”? Why do some of the women interviewed go to the extreme of saying “we have not witnessed any child marriages taking place,” copying each other’s answers?

I was shaken by learning that practices so similar to what might’ve taken place in Saudi 30+ years ago are alive and well in a modern US. Taken by the inside peek at the compound: the long dinner tables, large sewing rooms, big family cars, restricted women dress and a life spent strictly inside. Everything is done in groups, prepared for large numbers and looks duplicated.

It is a human nature to find peace in assuming a familiarity with fellowmen and women. Yet that same assumption takes us to a state where we stop attempting to dialogue and converse with people who we think we know and understand well. As the time of silence and assumptions extends, the familiar grows into a mystery.

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Abdul said...

Hi Aysha "regarding P.3"
I'm not surprised at all !
1- "America is so big," and sometimes I feel the population isn't really 300 Million. And I think this fact of being big has something to do with finding people who don't understand their government.
2-I always hear in Saudi (and you probably do) about people live in the desert and still asking if king Faisal has died or not! (literally my brother has met one of those somewhere in the desert), despite the fact that in Saudi we have monarchy system in which people stare all the time with fear towards our government.
3- Religions and life methods play major role!, and create different culture among the main stream!.

abdul said...

my previous comment "regarding P.3&4"

Aysha said...

You make excellent points Abdul! Sometimes we tend to define a country as if it were a certain city, or a certain group of people, or a certain faith, but rarely do we succeed at grasping the complexity of countries-and the larger they are the more absurd it is to sum 'em up.
Thanx Abdul.

american bedu said...

I happened to speak with an educated Saudi male on the subject and was surprised by his reaction which was "What's the big deal?" He had only perused the headlines without taking time to read the story. He was not aware that polygamy is illegal in the USA nor that some of the brides were way too young to have become brides let alone mothers.

His response changed somewhat but not to a large degree as he was of the view that polygamy is halal and not a big deal.

Cairogal said...

I think the government has been looking for an "in" for over 100 years.

The women in these compounds are raised to think a different way. The way that their community manages to contain is by creating a fear of the "outside" world (i.e. the rest of America). That's why when the women talk on TV they seem a bit deceptive...careful not to answer any question w/ too much detail and pretty much never commenting on anything that would be considered against the law (underage marriage). By keeping the women undereducated (many never graduate from high school) and away from the outside world you ensure that they don't question this way of life. It wouldn't be such a big deal, I suppose, if underage girls weren't being married off to aging men. Ultimately, our country has laws in place. People in these compounds are not ignorant of the laws. They just feel that they will reap great rewards in the afterlife (at least the men do for marrying so many women).

Aysha said...

american bedu,
That is quite sad :( 1) To be educated and not to know the basics of the law of a country of which we (as Saudis) are in a constant interaction. 2) Not to find the curiousity to learn that what is halal in "Islam" is also practiced in a "Non-Muslim" country.
I noticed that the responses on Riyadh electronic newspaper were very few.

Aysha said...

I think so too! That's why I believe the entrance should've been carried out in a more tactful and sensitive manner. The hearings as well...
Your description and analysis of the whole scenario are very accurate. Hehe, wouldn't it wonderful to be a man who reaps in this life and the next :D

Marahm said...

Let's not be quick to liken the situation in Texas to polygamy in Islam. They are not the same. Even in Saudi Arabia, where polygamy is practiced legally, there are restrictions, conditions and religious prohibitions upon the institution. Muslims who practice it are still part of the mainstream culture, whether they respect the limitations or not.

The Texas group is in no way part of mainstream America. They've constructed an island unto themselves. They might as well be located in the middle of Siberia as in a Texas compound.

This isolation, this deliberate withdrawal from American culture and values is what gives the government the right to take these girls away. The group has crafted itself outside the moral sphere of American's founding values.

Can you imagine that these girls could be taken away if they and their moms were well integrated into society? That means going to public schools, working, partaking in community activities, interacting with people who did not belong to the group,etc, and then returning in the evening voluntarily to their families within the compound?

I am no defender of polygamy, but even if they were to choose it voluntarily, they still have rights, as American citizens, to know the other side of the coin, and choose voluntarily, safely, and securely, the side upon which they want to build their lives.

AngloGermanicAmerican said...

I found your comment to be thought provoking on a number of different issues. Rather than try to explain (which I did and found that I was unable) where I agree and where I disagree, I am going to take on the defense of this (in my opinion) abusive, unhealthy cult and to advocate for their way of life and their right to pursue it.

We are a God fearing people who follow what we believe to be the true Word and Revelation of God. While there are other revelations, those are in our view corrupted or incomplete or a combination of the two. Ours is the true revelation and we, by definition, are the only people truly faithful to His Will. Ours is a living God, and our prophets are presently alive and in direct conversation with the one, true God whose Will is revealed now, today.

Our children are pure, our wives are pure, and our men are pure. Our compound is a model of organization, efficiency and cleanliness, all of which has been demonstrated on your tv. We teach our children to be clean. Our women are modest and submissive, and our men are patient and honor them. We, all of us, like it that way because God wants it that way.

You are correct that we are “in no way part of mainstream America.” Mainstream America, as you put it, is corrupt, sinful, preoccupied if not consumed with the pursuit of the almighty dollar and sex. We have chosen a simpler life and modest dress, and we “withdraw” precisely so that we can preserve our purity from the corrupting forces operating in mainstream America. We, to put it bluntly, are modern day Puritans, faithful to “American’s founding values,” and it is you, mainstream America, who is “outside the moral sphere” of those founding values.

Surely you are mistaken in your statement that the government has the right to take our children away simply because the moms and children are not “well integrated into society “– i.e. going to public schools, working, partaking in community activities, and interacting with persons outside the group. Can the government confiscate and reeducate Amish children against the wishes of their Amish parents simply because Amish society is closed and has withdrawn from mainstream America?

Marriage, whether monogamous or polygamous, is sacred. In fact, God himself ordains our marriages, and it is He who chooses who is married to whom and who is chosen to reside in our compound. We navigate a fine line, our polygamous marriages are spiritual marriages, so technically, we are monogamous under the laws of the State of Texas. But, what’s wrong with polygamy, anyway? Tell me again the percentages of men and women who engage in adulterous affairs in mainstream America? We have none. As stated in the CNN interview with a group of polygamous wives, the arrangement works well, the children are well cared for, and the wives know where their husband is at night.

Lastly, the question of marital age or age of consent to marriage. Yes, we’ve got some 14, 15, 16 year old pregnant young ladies, but what high school in America doesn’t? Ours are married spiritually to committed, faithful men who will take care of them, their sister wives, and their children.

The crux of the problem is your “mainstream America’s” hypocritical mandate (which varies among the states) that a certain age is too young to get married regardless of parental consent. We set the age at 14, when we feel a girl becomes a woman, physically and emotionally in the context of life at the sacred compound. What, you’re outraged? Tell me when a Jewish girl or a Jewish boy “comes of age.” Its 12 for a girl and 13 for a boy (assuming I am remembering correctly from my Jewish friends at that age). Don’t the holy books of both Christianity and Islam demonstrate marriages occurring between respected prophets and women under the age of 17? We believe and we practice what has been the accepted practice until only very recently relatively speaking. Get over it, get out of our lives, you’re only making matters worse for everyone.

In my opinion, the only legal problem this cult has is the fact that adult men were engaging in sexual activity with minors legally incapable of giving their consent. This is the abuse which justifies intervention by CPS. If there was only one or two victims of this abuse, I doubt that all of the children would have been removed. Instead, it appears that there is a systemic view that underage girls are to “marry” and consummate that marriage with adult men and that everyone is “with” this program. That is the only problem justifying interference by the State.

This “story” really brings into focus the problem of balancing the individual’s rights versus the society’s rights represented by the government agencies. The practice of turning your women into robots, dictating that they not cut their hair, dictating their dress, dictating their comments (a conclusion I draw from the unnatural and repeated statements given by these woman) is not against the law and is achievable provided you are skilled enough to do it without leaving evidence of physical coercion. The lesson I suppose is that in a free society (at least this one) the individual is required to take responsibility for their own well being and that includes women whom I would describe as brainwashed. People are free to choose wrongly, and absent some legal incapacity, even the brainwashed are deemed to have chosen.

Aysha said...

Marahm & AngloGermanicAmerican,

I am indebted to both of you (not legally of course *glancing at Anglo :P) for such enriching and thought provoking arguments.
I had been uncertain about where the TPC broke the law exactly. And since their teachings seem to be ongoing and unchanging, why only now does the law step forward?

Thanx Anglo for helping me with that question..