Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ramadan Zakat, Sadaqa, Charity: When Mixed Marriages Go Awry, and Mixed Families Suffer

By Chiara

The theme of Ramadan and the Mixed Couple/Family has become an urgent one in the form of an urgent message from an American woman whose mixed marriage with a Bahraini went terribly awry.

Indeed, her controlling, and wife-beating husband also sexually abused both of their daughters for years, until finally the oldest, then 18, spoke up, 3 years ago, to reveal the truth. To her great credit, this woman immediately removed her children from danger; and succeeded in obtaining a divorce and custody of all 5 children from the Bahraini courts. She kept all of them in school, and got them much needed therapy. Unfortunately, their father, who kept her in the abusive marriage for 20 years by threatening to take them from her, has not seen fit to pay support. Nor has his family, who has turned their backs on mother and all of the children.

As often happens in international marriages, due to necessity and different emotional needs, the family has been geographically split for a year—with mother, the 2 daughters, and the youngest son returning to her family in the USA, while the 2 oldest sons stayed in the Gulf for a year to complete their education. When one of them experienced serious emotional difficulties in January 2009, she returned to Bahrain expecting both to help him, and to take up a job offer. Although he has improved, her finances have not. The promised job (from a reliable source) did not materialize, and despite all her major job seeking efforts neither has any other.

Then, on the 4th day of Ramadan, Tuesday August 25, 2009, “a miracle happened”! Her son, whom she would not leave behind, finally agreed to move to the USA so that all of them could be together again, supporting each other emotionally and materially. There, they can benefit from 5 of them (mother and 4 of the children) being of legal age to work, and from sufficient job opportunities to give them a combined living wage as a nuclear family. There, they would have increased educational opportunities, and greater health care options.

By now, some of you will have recognized that I am telling the story of an American redhead. No, not this one,  with this daughter,

and this family reunification problem,

but rather the much more real and contemporary Coolred, Lee Ann Fleetwood, who is a blogger herself, and a commentator on many Saudi and American-Saudi blogs, where she is known for her intelligence, wit, and “coolness”.

So, why write about this sadly displaced family now, and how does her story relate to Ramadan?

Well, Coolred/Lee Ann, is hoping to get the whole family together and settled back in the USA as soon as possible—to be in time for the fall semester of school, and to capitalize on low Ramadan airfares for 4: herself, 2 sons, and 1 daughter who returned to Bahrain in May at the end of a successful school year.

Coolred/ Lee Ann




Read about it in her own words It’s Over People…the Fat Lady Has Sung. About Freakin’ Time; and, if you can, please contribute now what you are able, whether from Ramadan zakat, sadaqa, Christian caritas, a Jewish mitzvah, or secular humanitarianism.

Regarding the theme of mixed marriages and families, and international separation—whether because of delayed marriage approvals, delayed immigration and work papers, differing academic or career commitments, family illness, or emotional-physical separation and divorce—what experiences have you had or known about? What were the circumstances, and how did those involved cope? How were decisions about geography made? Who lived where and why?

Regarding Ramadan zakat, sadaqa, charity, and Ramadan “miracles”: have you ever had the experience of a particularly remarkable occurrence during Ramadan? A miraculous change of heart or charitable act? A new found clarity of purpose or vision for the future? A new direction, spiritual, physical, or geographical? Do you know of the same for others?


Chiara said...

caraboska said...
I don't know that this qualifies as a miracle, but for years I had been thinking of wearing hijab, the major problem being that I'm Christian and didn't want to appear to be someone I'm not. Then right at the beginning of Ramadan, a Muslim fashion blog I read ( featured a reader contribution from a Romanian hijabi who openly admitted at the very beginning of the post to being a Christian.

That night, I made my decision. Maybe it isn't required for Christians to cover full-time, but there is precedent for covering during prayer, and there is a verse about praying without ceasing. And an old college roommate of mine had taken that to heart and covered full-time...

Now, it is true, Christian women who cover their heads almost invariably do it as an act of submission to male authority. Quite frankly, what I am doing has absolutely nothing to do with that kind of thinking. In fact, I believe that control-based relationships of any kind are by nature idolatrous.

But since there's also a verse about not flaunting one's spiritual practices in public, but rather concealing them from public view, that means I can wear pretty coverings with nice hats on top so no one has to know even whether the covering has any religious meaning, much less exactly what that meaning might be.

Now of course, sometimes they have to know. For example, I just discovered yesterday that my passport has expired, which means having pictures taken, and... having to write a special statement explaining why my head is covered (this is all happening so quickly, I feel almost breathless thinking about it). Or sometimes it can be edifying to share one's experiences in certain situations. But barring something like that, I can go about my business with my head covered, and my motivations can remain between me and God.
August 28, 2009 2:02 AM

Chiara said...

Caraboska--thank you for sharing that profound experience for you, one that took you in a new direction. It certainly was an epiphanic moment! It is interesting that this happened during the month of Ramadan, as if giving you renewed spirituality and religious freedom to be more observant.
You obviously put a lot of religious thought, style and social awareness into your choice to cover.
August 28, 2009 5:35 AM

Chiara said...

coolred38 said...
Thank you Chiara for highlighting our dilemma. I hope this brings some much needed traffic our way. The more people that see my blog request the better for us.Thank you

August 29, 2009 2:57 PM

Chiara said...

caraboska said...
Coolred, I've seen similar appeals on several blogs that I read. Evidently word is getting around. I still have you in mind when I get paid for the job I'm finishing now...
August 29, 2009 6:07 PM

Chiara said...

Chiara said...
Coolred--thank you for commenting here (and for the pics of yourself and your lovely children). I was happy to do this post, and sincerely hope many read yours and contribute what they can, and spread the word.
August 29, 2009 6:43 PM

Chiara said...

Caraboska--thank you for keeping Coolred in mind. Thanks to every contribution of whatever amount she now has enough for about 2.5 tickets, with 1.5 to go. She is updating her post with major totals.

August 30, 2009 4:08 PM

Chiara said...

caraboska said...
If we take 1 Corinthians 11 literally, it would appear that Christian women are required to wear veils for prayer. The reasoning, however, does raise questions of whether it is meant to apply at all times and places in history, or just at the time and place being addressed directly in the letter.

The immediate implication is that it applies to a situation where failure to cover could make the woman look like a loose woman. Other historical data at our disposal suggest that failure to cover could also have had connotations of pagan worship.

So I'm going to say that the jury is out on this issue and merely point out that A) Christian women at very least have the right to cover their heads, and B) the only female headcovering spoken of in the New Testament is one coming down from the head, i.e. a veil.
September 24, 2009 12:20 AM

Chiara said...

Caraboska--an interesting comment. In the past (pre-Vatican II) it was customary (?required) for women to cover their heads in a Catholic Church especially for mass or prayer. Often women wore a small lace veil (round, generously covering the top of the head) or a slightly larger more oblong one, or else their Sunday hat.
It seems that would be part of the same tradition.
September 24, 2009 2:36 AM


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