Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Muslim Women and Interfaith Marriage: The Doha Debates Chez Chiara


As indicated in the poster, this Doha Debate on Muslim women and their freedom to choose their marriage partners was held on May 25, 2009.  For more information on The Doha Debates generally, which follow Oxford Union debating rules, see the website of  The Doha Debates, for more information on The Doha Debates and the Doha Debates Chez Chiara see the introductory post, and the blog Category Doha Debates (DohaDebates) on the sidebar. The following includes excerpts from the panelists' biographies, the debate transcript, and the final result. A summary statement precedes each of  the dialogues with a particular audience member whose photo is included.  Full information for this debate is here. The full transcript may be read here. The full debate may be viewed here.


The Motion
This House believes that Muslim women should be free to marry anyone they choose.

TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and gentlemen, a very good evening and welcome to the last in our fifth series of Doha Debates coming to you from the Gulf state of Qatar and sponsored by the Qatar Foundation.  At some time or other, everyone wants a say about marriage.  In the Islamic world it is governed by a range of institutions and traditions - religion, law, family, culture, even politics - and somewhere on the list love gets a look-in as well. But should a woman be free to marry who she chooses, or is it right that she should submit to other considerations?  Do any or all of them outweigh personal choice about this most intimate of human relationships?  Our motion tonight is that Muslim women should be free to marry anyone they choose, and we have four Muslims on our panel who'll argue from very different points of view.

Speaking for the motion


Asra Nomani is a writer and activist and the author of Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam.

Born in Bombay, India, she moved to the United States when she was four. After finishing university, she worked as a journalist, spending 15 years with the Wall Street Journal. In 2000, she wrote Tantrika: Traveling the Road of Divine Love, in which she examined her identity as a Muslim, an Indian and an American.

After September 11, 2001, she became a correspondent for Salon magazine, reporting from Pakistan. While there, her friend Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was kidnapped and murdered.

Since 2007, she has been an adjunct professor of journalism at Georgetown, leading a student-faculty investigation into his death. A documentary is due to be released shortly chronicling Ms. Nomani's decision in 2003 to challenge the rules at her mosque that required women to enter through the back door and pray in a separate area.

ASRA NOMANI
Thank you. Thank you so much for the honour of having me come to talk to you. This is a topic that I have meditated on for all of my adulthood. When I was a girl, at the age of 18, reaching adulthood, I confronted the barriers that just about every Muslim woman internalises: that she doesn't have the right to choice when it comes to marriage. And I am here as a 43-year-old woman now to tell you that I do not wish for any of the women that are here now, or any other women in our Muslim world to know the suffering, the loneliness, the loveless marriages, and the forced marriages that oftentimes come out of situations where a woman cannot make her own choice. To me this is equivalent to the days of jahiliya when it was an age of ignorance and we buried our daughters alive. When we don't allow our daughters to choose who they are going to spend the rest of their lives with, we essentially kill their spirits. We essentially bury them alive and to me this is not Islamic. In Islam we are clearly told there is no compulsion in religion. We do not have to agree with each other's choices, but everybody has free will, everybody has the choice to make their decisions about their lives. Islam is a religion that believes in critical thinking. We're going to hear a lot of the theological arguments tonight, that lay the barriers for women, that become the barriers around our heart. But what I would argue is that there are dissenting opinions. There are dissenting opinions, and we can use our minds, this concept of ishtihad or critical thinking to challenge consensus opinions that have denied women their rights in the most intimate place in our lives: our hearts and our bodies. And finally we have to remember that religion is not meant to bring about suffering. Religion is meant to lift our spirits. Marriage - what is it? It's about love, it's about passion, it's about kinship. All of our daughters of Islam deserve this, all of them deserve to make their own choices about their destiny. It took me 25 years. I went into a marriage that I thought would make my family happy, and I could not fool myself when I lay my head to bed at night, because in that most intimate place, it is you alone who lies there. It is not your family, it is not your tribe, it is not your country. Every night I cried myself to sleep, and I could not stay in this marriage because I knew that I, as a Muslim woman, had a right to happiness, and my salvation came because my family gave me the greatest message that there is, which is that we respect you, we have mercy on you, and we honour your own choice. This is what we should do for our daughters in Islam, we should allow them the right to choose whom they can marry and that right should extend to anyone.



Dr. Muhammad Habash is a Muslim cleric and a member of the Syrian Parliament. He leads Friday prayers at the Al-Zahraa Mosque in Damascus and is the Director of the Islamic Studies Centre in the Syrian capital.

He has been Professor of the Sciences of the Holy Quran at the Islamic College since 1998 and Professor of "Tafsir" at the College of Usul Ed-din since 1992. He has also been Director of the Institutes of the Holy Quran in Syria since 1989.

Dr. Habash has written numerous books on Islam including The Humane Rights in Islam, Muslims and the Science of Civilisation, a biography on the Prophet Muhammad and The Islamic Culture. Hundreds of his articles and research papers have been published in the Arab and international press.

He holds an M.A. in Islamic Studies from the University of Higher Studies in Karachi and a PhD in the Sciences of the Quran from the University of the Holy Quran in Khartoum.

MUHAMMAD HABASH
Yes, yes. I believe Islam has given women full human rights, and respect her choice about her marriage. It's very clear in Islam there is no compulsion in religion. That means there is no compulsion in prayer, there is no compulsion in fasting, there is no compulsion in pilgrimage, there is no compulsion in marriage. Because of that, we believe the woman in Islam has a right to choose her spouse. In the same time, that doesn't mean we as a family or as a society has no responsibility, no moral responsibility, to advise her or to guide her or to lead her to the best situation. We have to remember that the Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) when he received a lady, Asma bint Yaszid ibn Al Sakan, she came to the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) and she told him: "My father forced me to marry someone, and I don't like him." Prophet Mohamed said directly: "He has no right to force you, but this is your right." She said: "I agree with my father but I would like to show all women around the world that fathers have no right to force their daughters. This is our choice." This is what the companions of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) around him tell us. At the same time we have moral responsibility to protect our daughters, to protect our sisters. If my daughter chose someone, some person on drugs, I have the right to reject this kind of marriage. I have a right to reject, I have a right to correct this kind of marriage, but even if I have a right to advise, I have a right to reject and even to boycott her, but I have no right at all to force her more than this. The situation of people of the scripture - non-believers or other religions - according to our faith in Islam, we believe that Islam came to confirm what came before, to continue what came before, not to cancel. In the holy Koran we can find 14 times, 14 times this phrase which means Islam came to continue what prophets came before, Islam came to continue, to confirm, not to destroy, not to abolish. With this situation I can tell you now, the non-believers or other religions, especially the people of the scriptures, we have to read in the holy Koran, people of the scriptures, they are not all alike.

Speaking against the motion


Yasir Qadhi is a Muslim American cleric who lectures throughout the English speaking world. He has written several books on Islam and is a teaching fellow at Yale University, where he is completing his PhD in Islamic studies.

Yasir Qadhi was born in Houston, Texas, to Pakistani parents and went to high school in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

After graduating from university with a degree in chemical engineering, he decided to pursue an education in Islamic studies and left for the Islamic University of Madinah. There, he completed his second Bachelor's Degree, specializing in Hadith studies, followed by an M.A. in Theology.

In 2007 he started blogging at MuslimMatters.org. He is currently Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib Institute and appears regularly on a number of Islamic satellite channels.

YASIR QADHI
Thanks, Tim. I begin by praising God and sending salutations upon the messengers of God. The motion up for debate asks us to allow Muslim women the freedom to marry whomever they please. I'm against this motion because it is inherently illogical and self-contradictory. A Muslim literally translates as one who submits - meaning to the laws of God - therefore a Muslim, regardless of the gender, is completely free to marry within the allowances of those laws. If they contravene those laws, then by definition they are not submitting, in other words they are not exemplifying faithful Muslims. Now, this is not to deny the very real problems of our society, some of which Asra referred to: forced marriages, tribal and cultural prejudices, unjustly prevent women from getting married. It is an undeniable fact that women are oppressed in many parts of our world, sometimes in the name of our religion. We all agree sitting here that there's a serious problem, that sometimes in the name of the religion, Muslim women are being subjugated. However, I'm arguing that those subjugations are cultural norms that many times oppose Islamic law, and I admit that sometimes Islamic clerics themselves, as part of their culture, propagate those norms and exacerbate the problem rather than solving them, but I remind you that the motion is not arguing for greater freedom for women's rights. If it were, I would be a supporter of the motion. Rather it is arguing for unconditional freedom and that is why I oppose it. A Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man, neither can a woman marry another woman, and of course let us not forget that Islamic law also puts restrictions on men as well. The point is that if a man or woman wishes to identify with Islam, if they want to call themselves Muslims, there are some boundaries for that definition. Anyone who argues for ultimate freedom is arguing to destroy those boundaries. In conclusion, this motion makes just about as much sense as someone who says Muslim men should be given the freedom to drink anything they want, including alcohol. We all agree there's a problem, there is a serious problem. The solution to this problem lies not in rejecting the prophetic message, especially if we call ourselves Muslims. The solution lies in rediscovering the true prophetic message, in educating the people about it, and in properly following it. Thanks a lot.


Dr. Thuraya Al Arrayed is a Saudi writer, columnist, poet and a member of the advisory board of the Arab Thought Foundation.

She writes several regular columns in Arab newspapers and has three published volumes of poetry. Her articles tackle current and controversial issues and she is a frequent broadcaster on both Arab and international channels.

Dr. Al Arrayed is a researcher in the literary, educational and development fields and has participated in numerous conferences, including the World Economic Forum at Davos.

She received her PhD in Educational Administration and Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

THURAYA AL ARRAYED
I'd like you all to read with me what is written there on the screen: ‘This House believes that Muslim women should be free to marry anyone they choose'. Each one of these words deserves a full consideration by itself for being included here. I am not going to speak on religious grounds, because I'm not an expert on that and my friend here took that point. I'm going to speak as a person, as a mother, as a woman, as an Arab who happens to be a Muslim, educated, studied education and is very much concerned with the consequences of the choices the individual makes on the rest of society, including the family. I have some points that I jotted down here that I would like to read for you, so I don't make any mistakes. Marriage is a crucial human relationship in which we hope to fulfil our dreams of happiness and life aspirations. Point number two: whether it is Muslim or non-Muslim, women or men, this statement holds true. Third: freedom is a beautiful concept, with hazy, sometimes conflicting definitions. I see it as a two-edged tool, that can, if used without skill or wisdom, hurt somebody. Freedom must have embedded controls against abuse or misuse or hurting others. Youths, generally under the age of say 25, 27, are not the most wise or experienced, just by fact of their age and their feelings. They go by attraction, which is usually evoked physically at that stage, and needs to be satisfied with the shortest possible wait. But marriage should not be limited to the role of a quick fix solution. It is important, it impacts more than the two individuals that are there involved in any individual choice. Its results are children, you get married and you have children, whether you thought about that or you didn't. Now, the children have the right to a nurturing life and society that accepts them. Sometimes the choices we make don't think of this long-range results on the children we bring into the world. Sometimes there are impacts on whose religion are they going to follow, the mother's or the father's? Sometimes there is a split on views of how to bring up the children. I think if you avoid these problems to start with, you are more likely to have a happier next generation in your own family. A marriage threatened by failure because it is crossing any boundaries or any differences between the husband and the wife is not ... it doesn't have much of a chance for success, and a marriage that starts with a problem of displeasing somebody has to be defending itself forever.

Audience Input


Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men
AUDIENCE (F)
Hello. I'm a Palestinian from Seattle, Washington. Dr. Habash, you mentioned how, I quote: "It is not a compulsion to pray, not a compulsion to fast," et cetera and you also add that we should re-evaluate and take another look at the Koran and include people of the scriptures, i.e. Jews and Christians, under the group of people Muslim women should be allowed to marry. However, as Yasir Qadhi said, not only is there a unanimous consensus that it is essentially haram to do that, as Muslim women are only allowed to marry men of the Islamic faith. So how can you say that we should re-evaluate the word of God in a Hadith which specifically states we are not allowed to? Should we not rather choose to marry someone within the bounds set by our religion?
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, let's get him to answer the question.
MUHAMMAD HABASH
Thank you. Let me explain something about this point. According to our tradition in Islam, we believe that there is a verse in the holy Koran (quotes a passage from the Koran in Arabic). That means it's forbidden to allow any mushrik (idol worshippers) to marry a Muslim lady. What does mushrik mean? That means those who attack us, those who are the enemy of us. So I told you according to the holy Koran, if you find some people of scripture, who believe in God, believe in Prophet Mohamed as good, as a prophet, this is enough. We don't need more. Those people which we read in the holy Koran ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you're saying the Koran is open to interpretation on this issue?
MUHAMMAD HABASH
Yes, yes.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yasir Qadhi, do you agree with that?
YASIR QADHI
Well, I'd like to state here that this is a rather interesting position. So you're saying that there's this state between being a Christian and a Muslim, where there's a sympathetic Christian we're allowed to marry and an unsympathetic Christian we're not allowed to marry, is that your basic premise?
MUHAMMAD HABASH
No, no, let me explain more, please, one minute, to explain more about how we have to deal with others, with non-Muslims. The holy Koran said they are not all alike, they are not all alike. There are some of them you have to consider as a brother, as a friend, and there are some of them you have to consider as the enemy. So this is the question you have to ask: what exactly is your faith in Prophet Mohamed, what exactly is your faith in the Koran?
YASIR QADHI
With all due respect, Dr. Habash, if somebody believes in the Prophet Mohamed, that is a definition of a Muslim, so if a Christian says: "I believe in the Prophet Mohamed," he is a Muslim.
MUHAMMAD HABASH
No, there are alot who believe in the Prophet Mohamed who are of different religions.


Muslim women not allowed to choose within the Muslim community: tribe, ethnicity, race
AUDIENCE (F)
I'm from Syria. We're concentrating on the Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man, and I think the motion should extend to the fact, in most of our Arabic, sub-continent societies, she's not allowed to choose within the Muslim community. She is told who and where and what family and what level, et cetera.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So the restrictions are even greater than the motion implies?
AUDIENCE (F)
Much greater, much greater. And I think we need to expand the focus a little bit away from just Muslim versus non-Muslim.
YASIR QADHI
Can I comment on this?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yasir Qadhi, let's have ...
YASIR QADHI
That's exactly my point. I agree with you 110 per cent. I'm the first person to agree with you, that there is too... there are not enough opportunities for Muslim women to express their own desires to get married. I'm the first person to agree with you about racial prejudice, tribal prejudice, ethnic prejudice, but the motion is as it is, and it's simply too broad. 'Anyone' and that includes non-Muslims and that includes people of the same gender. I'm living in Connecticut. Connecticut has just passed a same sex gender bill. I don't want Muslims marrying within the same gender, it's that simple.
AUDIENCE (F)
That's really too far away from the issue at hand.
YASIR QADHI
I'm sorry, the wording is quite clear, 'anyone'.
ASRA NOMANI
Right, but the point that I'd like to make is that as soon as you start deciding that you have the right to create barriers, you impinge on a woman's right to free will and my point is that it is not just about interfaith marriages. A Qatari can hardly choose to marry an Emirati man. I was told that, God forbid if I marry an African man or a black man, I mean, the prejudice in our community about who a woman marries extends beyond these interfaith issues..
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. I want to hear from Thuraya Al Arrayed.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
I think we are mixing here between what came with the religion and comes under the umbrella of being Muslims, and and what came with culture and social practices. For example a woman, a female, has the right of veto. Family cannot force her to marry according to their will, no matter what ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
We're now discussing being forced, we're discussing being prevented.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
Yes. She can, under religion, she can say no, and nobody can make her marry her cousin or her neighbour, or the son of the ruler or anybody.
YASIR QADHI
Absolutely.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
If she says no, it's no, but this is not practised.
ASRA NOMANI
Exactly the point. It's not practised.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
We have to be clear on what is under the umbrella of religion or made to appear like it is under the umbrella of religion. The woman can choose.
TIM SEBASTIAN
(to the audience member) So which side of the umbrella are you?
AUDIENCE (F)
Myself?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yes.
AUDIENCE (F)
Definitely with the motion.


Arab women and higher education:  opportunity vs religiously justified glass ceilings
AUDIENCE (M)
Hi, I'm Palestinian. Higher education continues to become more and more common across the region and women constitute a majority of consumers of higher education. If higher education opens and expands horizons, then how can we reconcile these expanded horizons with these glass ceilings that are placed in the name of religion?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yasir Qadhi.
YASIR QADHI
Well, higher education of itself has nothing to do with definitions of religion. We will not change definitions of religion based upon higher education. If somebody doesn't want to believe in the Prophet Mohamed, he can have ten PhDs, he's not a Muslim. It doesn't matter..you're comparing apples and oranges. Islam has already been defined, and what I'm talking about are universals, not defined grey areas that us or others are bringing up, and under these definitions, a Muslim lady cannot marry a non-Muslim man, nor can she marry a lady. That's all I'm arguing for, and the motion is too broad.
ASRA NOMANI
The point here is not about the marriage of her choice. The point is whether she has the right to make her own choice, that is the motion. Is she free to make any choice that she wishes? Tell me, if your daughter one day comes to you and says: "I am going to marry a Christian man," what are you going to do? Are you going to jail her? Are you going to punish her, are you going to throw her out of the faith, or is she entitled as a human being to make that choice?
YASIR QADHI
I hope that the education I will give my daughter will obviously prevent her from doing that...
ASRA NOMANI
Let say it doesn't. What would you do?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let him answer.
YASIR QADHI
In the American context, there's nothing that I can do, but she will be educated enough to know that this is not a part of the religion no matter what she does.
ASRA NOMANI
That's a cop-out, that's a cop-out..
YASIR QADHI
Don't mix religion into her personal choice..
ASRA NOMANI
That's a cop-out because ultimately he isn't accounting for individual choice. You know, I want to say just very quickly to the young women in the audience, I don't go along with any of this belittling of your minds that's happening here. I find it offensive and I find it actually contrary to the teachings of the Prophet, because when young women came to him, he did not mock them, he did not ask them why they choose not to be in the marriages that they are wanting to leave. He respected and honoured their decision without any condition, and that conditionality is not ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right. Yasir Qadhi, do you want to come back on that?
YASIR QADHI
No conditions, there's no boundaries - no boundaries, there's no religion. It's that simple.
ASRA NOMANI
Free-will means that you have all the options, and that is what it means to be a human being.
YASIR QADHI
But not a Muslim. A Muslim needs to submit.
ASRA NOMANI
And what do you submit to?
YASIR QADHI
To the laws of God.
ASRA NOMANI
To your version of the laws of God. Thank you.


Interfaith marriage, and socio-cultural supports for it
AUDIENCE (M)
All right. Well, I'm Lebanese and I'm a Christian and I will address the cultural debate that's been going on. Where I come from, society in Lebanon is much more lax than let's say in the Gulf, and so many individuals, men and women from different faiths have, you know, been getting married to each other, and it hasn't been much of an issue, and I think the reason for that is because of culture, and for Dr. Thuraya, as a psychologist, you should know that problems of individuals, you know, spread out the society, and society is made up of individuals, so don't you believe that if you have a problem with society and culture, it is your job as a psychologist in a society to correct these cultural problems in order for the individual to live, you know, in a better way and to have more freedom than to just say: "No, we'll have the easy way out."
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, thanks.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
No, I didn't say ... He said you'll have the easy way out (pointing to Tim Sebastian) ... I didn't say that. I said there are ways to make your life happier, if you don't look for a problematic situation to start with. And then spend your time, you know, working on being happy with each other, rather than facing the problems of convincing everybody your choice was right, you were correct. You want to make sure they see it your way and it's very difficult. To go back, I'm not a psychologist. Actually I'm a long-range planner, so I know what ‘future' means. You do not make a decision on the basis of now, because in the future you will face the consequences. You want to get married and she's in front of you. She has the basic qualifications. That is not enough because in the end you have to live with other things. You have to live with her parents, it's a package deal, you have to live with everything. In fact what you said about changing the society is true, but you don't do it one by one, it has to be enough change in the whole thinking.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Thank you, Thuraya Al Arrayed.
MUHAMMAD HABASH
I have a comment. I believe we have to separate between two kinds of societies. There are some societies [where] there is enough tolerance to find positive results with this kind of inter-marriage. For example during the life of Prophet Mohamad [pbuh], we find Prophet Mohamed [pbuh] had two wives from the Christians but it was very, very important step and [there was] a very positive result [from] this intermarriage. The situation in Arab countries and the situation of Muslims outside of Arab countries, I believe this is the... the marriage has to find enough harmony, has to find enough similarity in the culture, similarity in the understanding...
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you would support the kind of situation that our guest was describing in Lebanon?
MUHAMMAD HABASH
Sometimes we find in Lebanon for example that marriage between Sunni and Shia is very, very important, the marriage between Sunni and Shia in Lebanon is very, very important. Now there are 200,000 marriage situations in Lebanon between Sunni and Shia. It can help us to find unity in our country, to find unity in Lebanon and to make people more understanding [of] each other. But the situation of religion... I believe we cannot call for this without good faith, without good respect to other faith, to say: "I'm ready to respect your Prophet, respect your God, to respect your holy books," and in this point I believe we can call for this kind of intermarriage.


Muslim women raised by their families to take responsibility for their decisions
AUDIENCE (F)
I'm from Mauritius. I've been educated by my parents. I've been brought up within the Muslim culture, and I find it extremely frustrating that you are underestimating our intelligence to such an extent that you believe that we, as young Muslims, cannot be responsible for our choices. We have been educated by our parents in the Muslim religion and therefore we should be able to make our choice in a responsible manner according to what we have been taught and what we believe is true.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yasir Qadhi.
YASIR QADHI
I didn't say that. I'm talking about the perspective of religion.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
I heard you and you speak very well. If you make the right choice, you get the green light. The family does not say no. If you made the right choice, they will not fight you.
AUDIENCE (F)
You are assuming that the family is intelligent enough to respect our choice.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
Here it's the family differences, even in the same country, even under the same religion. One family does, one family doesn't. It has nothing to do with the religion.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can you address her point, which was, what if the family doesn't make the right decision?
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
What is the right decision, to agree with her? And why not? What is the right decision? That they agree with your fight.
AUDIENCE (F)
When I was growing up, my father said to me: "You make your bed and lie on it."
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
Exactly.
AUDIENCE (F)
So I believe that I make decisions for which I am responsible, and my father trusted me to make the right decision. However, had he not been that enlightened, then I am sure, being the person I am, I would have gone against his decision, because I know that I am responsible and educated enough to bear the consequences of my decision, and I believe that as a Muslim, we are free and I'm tired of hearing people saying that Muslim women have no rights, etc. etc. etc. We do. We're intelligent enough, we are educated enough, why shouldn't we have the right to make our own decisions?
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
I agree. I am a Muslim woman. May I respond to that. Thank you. I'm also a Muslim woman and I don't think I'm dumb. I'm not saying Muslim women are dumb and cannot make their choices. I'm saying, if you have a conflict with the family, one side is right, one side is wrong. You are better off if you listen, so that your life is easier, as he said, and happier and has less conflicts for you and for the poor guy that you want to get married to.
MUHAMMAD HABASH
I have some comment to make about this point exactly. The marriage in Islam is not just like a relationship between two persons, this is the relationship between two families, two societies, so it's not... we cannot speak about comprehensive freedom to choose. We have a right, as a father, as a mother, as a society, as parliamentarians, we have a right to understand exactly how it's gone.
YASIR QADHI
I'd just like to add here, this motion is very emotional and it's very complex and it's pretty obvious to all of us here that each one of us has a unique position. However the verdict goes, I'm happy we started the conversation.
ASRA NOMANI
I just want to say that the point is that none of you as women I hope will ever believe that you're alone. You have at least in me an aunty who will come to your wedding, if you decide to do something ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
That's a lot of weddings.
ASRA NOMANI
I know. Because it's going to take courage, it's going to take courage on individual levels to challenge so many of these traditions that decide they are going to control women and patronise them and diminish their intellect in the minds of society.


The role of consensus in Islamic debate and Sharia law
AUDIENCE (M)
My question is for Mr. Yasir. You must have said this like ten times through the debate: everything that you said, you said because of unanimous consensus, and at the beginning of the debate you mentioned that unanimous consensus was the strongest tool of making Sharia law or Islamic rules. Correct me if I'm mistaken, I'm a Muslim myself and I've studied just a tiny little bit of Islamic law, and according to what I've studied, the priority is Koran, Haddith, precedent and then unanimous consensus. So when you say unanimous consensus, can you define what is unanimous consensus? How many people have to agree to something, and is there any way you can count or ...?
YASIR QADHI
This is a very good technical question about the intricacies of Islamic law and I have no problems expounding on it.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well, he wants to know what's behind your decisions.
YASIR QADHI
OK. Unanimous consensus is stronger than an interpretation of the verse of the Koran, because it shows that everybody has understood that verse the same way. That's why unanimous consensus is considered to be stronger than any interpretation. As for unanimous consensus - how it's defined - it's defined where each and every of the major scholars of any time period have agreed about the same ruling, and to be honest, there's not that many decisions that are unanimously agreed upon. Of them, according to five authorities that I have here, which are going to be too troublesome to mention, of them is the fact that a Muslim lady cannot engage in a marriage contract with a non-Muslim man at that time.
AUDIENCE (M)
You're saying that at the end of tonight, if 70 per cent of people in this room vote yes for the motion, that's a unanimous consensus?
YASIR QADHI
No, unanimous means there is unanimity, that means everybody agrees with it, and once unanimous consensus has been reached, it cannot be abrogated after that.
TIM SEBASTIAN
(Pointing to Muhammad Habash) Well, the man who reads Friday prayers at the Al-Zahraa mosque in Damascus doesn't agree with you.
YASIR QADHI
Well, actually he has a position which is kind of, sort of in between and I don't quite understand it myself.


The Result
The vote is 62 per cent for the motion, 38 per cent against. 
 The motion has been carried.



What is your opinion of the motion?
Do you have anything to add on the themes raised here?
Are there other themes you would have introduced?
What is your impression of the diversity of  the audience members?
How do you view the positions of the panelists?
How would you vote: for or against the motion?
What do you foresee in practical terms for the future of such an idea?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Introducing the Doha Debates Chez Chiara



The Doha Debates are a series of debates, following the Oxford Union Format, from the Gulf country of Qatar, sponsored by The Qatar Foundation, and produced and broadcast on BBC World, with former HARDTalk host Tim Sebastian as chair/moderator (now a less pugnacious, but still feisty presence).



Since their creation in 2004 by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (founded 1995, chaired by her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al Missned), they have been highly successful, and are widely viewed and followed. The debate results make headlines on themes of importance to the Middle East, or to Westerners about the Middle East; and the series is now in its 6th season.



I particularly admire the high quality of the productions, the panelists, the moderator, and the audience members, who are for the most part students of leading world universities at their campuses in Qatar’s Education City, and come from all over MENA and the world. I was initially struck by the opportunity these debates provide for Westerners with no other contact to hear and observe the brains behind the niqab, beneath the hijab, below the ghutra, and under the shemaugh. Yet there is much more to these inspiring interactions. The Doha Debates motto--“The power to change minds”--is proving true.



The Overseas Debates are held in other countries, and settings including Cambridge, Oxford, Georgetown University, and the upcoming debate at St Stephen’s College in New Delhi, India. They provide an opportunity for selected Qatar based students to travel and experience another culture, and for other students to participate in the Doha Debates directly. “Special Debates”  feature only one guest, like Bill Clinton, Shimon Perez, Desmond Tutu, Amre Moussa, Ayad Allawi, Mahmoud Al Zahar, or Mohamed ElBaradei, and their interaction with the audience members.

  
Emblems of the genesis of the Doha Debates


Education City, Doha Qatar

Below: setting up for the Doha Debates in the Qatar Foundation Headquarters














Below: Let the debating begin!










The Doha Debates Chez Chiara are an attempt to honour and give more exposure to these debates, and to allow the community of readers and commentators here to share their ideas on the topic. As the motions are deliberately set to be dichotomous, “I agree” or “I disagree”, proposals, they are somewhat artificial but genuinely stimulating. Commentators here of course are not held to one side, or required to vote, but are free to share their impressions, views, experiences; and, if you wish, how you would have voted (you can in fact vote on the recent motion online on The Doha Debates site if you wish).

I expect to do a series of posts based on The Doha Debates which are most relevant to the Saudi themes of this blog, including the broader contexts of the GCC and MENA cultures and religions, and their interactions with the West and the rest of the East, as well as global socio-political concerns. Where the themes are relevant, “Overseas Debates” and “Special Debates” will also be featured. Each of the posts includes a summary of the debate and links to the full transcript, video, and particular debate site. I have created a separate blog Category called “Doha Debates” (DohaDebates). The posts are also all cross-categorized as ChezChiara, Students, and then to the blog categories of relevance to the specific debate.

The first of the Doha Debates Chez Chiara follows on directly from this introduction. I hope you will find it, and the others, stimulating, and contribute your reactions in the comments. If you have a favourite debate, or an upcoming one you would like to see on the blog, let me know in the comments.


The Doha Debate at the Oxford Union

Any comments, thoughts, experiences, suggestions?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Saudi/non-Saudi Marriage Permission: Stellar News!


Regular commentator Add*, who is on a roll with blog suggestions on Comments, and on the lowered ages for Saudi/non-Saudi marriages,  forwarded this great article from Arab News, and provided my  subtitle of "Stellar News!".  Although Arab News is the only English language news source to report on this so far, it quotes the Al-Riyadh Arabic daily. The Saudi government, as detailed in a proposed revision to the laws governing marriage between Saudis and non-Saudis--laws not revised in the past 38 years--is relaxing requirements for Saudi/non-Saudi marriage permissions in a number of ways relevant to all concerned, and to some personal stories told in posts and comments on Chez Chiara, in particular.


First the Arab News articleKingdom drafts revised marriage law, which bears posting in full:

Kingdom drafts revised marriage law
P.K. Abdul Ghafour | Arab News

JEDDAH: The government is set to relax regulations governing the marriages between Saudis and non-Saudis. A revised draft law prepared by the Interior Ministry and the Cabinet’s Committee of Experts allows government ministers, judges, Shoura members and students on foreign scholarships to marry non-Saudi women.
The new law, which replaces the old one issued 38 years ago, should be passed by the Council of Ministers. According to Article One, Saudis who are allowed to marry non-Saudis include ministers, members of the judiciary and diplomats at the Foreign Ministry.
Other beneficiaries of the law are: Employees of the Royal Court, the crown prince’s court, the Council of Ministers, the National Security Council, and members of the councils and organizations chaired by the king and the crown prince, Al-Riyadh Arabic daily said.
Staff at the Ministry of Defense and Aviation, the Interior Ministry, the National Guard, the Royal Guard and the General Organization for Military Industries including military and civilian officers as well as members of the Commission for Investigation and Public Prosecution, Customs staff and all students studying abroad under the government’s scholarship program are also allowed to marry non-Saudi women.
“The above-mentioned Saudis are allowed to marry non-Saudis including GCC women after receiving permission from higher authorities,” says Article One of the revised draft law.
Article Two allows Saudi men and women to marry GCC citizens. Saudi men can marry the daughters of Saudi women and non-Saudi men. But those who propose marriage should not be from categories mentioned in Article One.
Paragraph Two of Article Three says a Saudi can marry a non-Saudi woman born in the Kingdom to non-Saudi parents. However, the law insists that the woman should have a valid resident permit and birth certificate issued by Saudi authorities. Here also the man proposing should not be from the categories mentioned in Article One.
A Saudi woman is allowed to marry a non-Saudi man born in the Kingdom if his mother is Saudi or even both parents are non-Saudis, on condition that the man should have a valid resident permit and birth certificate issued by Saudi authorities. He should have lived in the Kingdom for not less than 15 years, but is not allowed to propose to women in the categories mentioned in Article One.
Saudi applicants who do not come under the above-mentioned articles should obtain the permission of the government to marry non-Saudis. The marriage must comply with Shariah regulations. Non-Saudi men and women intending to marry Saudis should be free from certain diseases and should not be among those listed as unwanted in the Kingdom.
The law authorized specialized courts in the Kingdom to certify such marriage contracts after making sure that they follow the conditions and regulations specified in the law. Saudi missions are given the authority to certify marriages taken place outside the Kingdom.
The Interior Ministry has been given the authority to inform higher authorities if any violations are found and such cases would be taken to specialized courts. Violators of the law would be fined not more than SR100,000.
Violators will also be banned from receiving loans given by Saudi lending organizations and government grants during the period of marriage. The court can stop implementation of the punishment if convinced about the convicts’ special situation. The interior minister will issue the executive regulations for this by-law.



Summary and Discussion


Article One, expands the category of Saudis who are allowed to marry non-Saudis including GCC women, ie, it removes prohibitions previously in place on certain Saudis who hold public office.

Those now allowed to marry  include ministers, members of the judiciary,  diplomats of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,  Royal Court employees, members of the Crown Prince's court, the Council of Ministers, the National Security Council and members of councils and organizations which are chaired by the King or the Crown Prince.

They also include: staff at the Ministry of Defense and Aviation, the Ministry of the Interior, the National Guard, the Royal Guard and the General Organization for Military Industries. The latter includes military and civilian officers. Members of the Commission for Investigation and Public Prosecution, and Customs staff are among those who are positively affected by this draft law.


"[All] students studying abroad under the government’s scholarship program are also allowed to marry non-Saudi women."

Article Two allows Saudi men and women to marry GCC citizens. Saudi men can also marry the daughters of Saudi women and non-Saudi men, ie, those not previously considered Saudi for this purpose. In this case though, the Saudi men must not be in the categories mentioned in Article One, ie there are restrictions for the Saudi man in government employ, including students on government scholarship about marrying the daughters of Saudi women and non-Saudi men who are GCC citizens.

Paragraph Two of Article Three A Saudi can marry a non-Saudi woman born in the Kingdom to non-Saudi parents. In this case, the Saudi man is not a government member or employee, or a student abroad on government scholarship; and, the woman has a valid resident permit and birth certificate issued by the Saudi government.

A Saudi woman is allowed to marry a non-Saudi man born in the Kingdom if his mother is Saudi or even both parents are non-Saudis. The Saudi woman must not be a government member or employee, or a student abroad on a government scholarship, as in the categories specified in Article One. The non-Saudi man must have a valid resident permit and birth certificate issued by Saudi, and must have resided in the KSA at least 15 years.

In these cases the regular marriage permission process for Saudi/Saudi marriages applies, including Shariah law,  medical testing, and not being in legal difficulties with the government. Specialized courts in the KSA will be allowed to legalize these marriages. Saudi missions abroad, ie Saudi Embassies and consulates abroad, will also be able to legalize these marriages.

In all other cases, the marriage permission process for Saudi/non-Saudi marriages applies.

Violations of these laws will be punished accordingly.


So stellar news indeed--for Add, Ellen and M, and others whose marriage permission processes are started or about to start. It is especially good news for those in the most common scenarios: students on government scholarship; and Saudis marrying those born and raised in the Kingdom but not Saudi citizens, as was the case for Aziz, told here and here,  who has been so helpful to others.

It takes some of  the strain off of  Saudi/non-Saudi relationships not yet decided on marriage, as that of  Diana, told here; and perhaps would have modified the relationship of Sad Girl, as her Saudi love's joining the military for financial reasons would no longer be an impediment according to Article One.  However, as she told us especially in her comments on that post, and as Consumed by Love experienced, family permission can be more formidable than governmental permission; and the willingness of a partner in the West to live as if married can end with the decision to move back to Saudi--one that may have been pre-formed.

This is also good news, for the not yet ready but eventually will be; and the expat children born and raised in Saudi, as described by NidalM in his 2 part personal essay, here and here.( Hopefully no Aunties are reading)

It would have facilitated the marriage of non-Saudi Sid Ahmed to his Saudi wife; and may be good news for the future husband of Baby Ameena --after they both turn 18, as is being suggested by a new Saudi initiative on the marriage laws, an initiative much to the relief of Abu Abdullah, and Umm Abdullah, I'm sure.

Last, but definitely not least, it is a boon to Saudi women who may wish to marry a non-Saudi; and to their children, as the marriages of the children of Saudi mothers and non-Saudi fathers will have an easier time of marrying a Saudi, if they so choose.


I hope that this law passes as it is expected to, and soon.  I also hope that this revision, along with the lowering of age requirements for Saudi/non-Saudi marriages, herald more changes toward facilitating Saudi/non-Saudi marriages. Such changes would bring the marriage permissions of non-Royal Saudis wishing to marry non-Saudis more in line with the Royal Saudi/non-Saudi patterns of intermarriage, as described in a series of posts, under the Category  Royal Saudi/non-Saudi Marriages and Their Families (see sidebar RoyalSaudi/non-Saudi).

*Add has kindly promised Chez Chiara readers his own Saudi/non-Saudi marriage permission story when his "odyssey" has ended. :) :) :) It seems he doesn't want to name his first borns Chiara and Chiaro. :(  However, he could of course see the light and do both. :) Hmmm, baby naming laws in Saudi...I feel a post coming on.


What are your reactions to this proposed legislation?
What other changes to Saudi marriage law would you welcome?
Does this impact you or anyone you know of? How?
What are the social and political underpinnings and implications of these legal revisions?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?


Addendum: Another regular reader, Khalid (a Saudi engaged to a Saudi), sent the original Al Riyadh article via email. For those of you whose Arabic reading skills are better than mine (name, Allah, and the Coca-Cola sign) here it is. The rest of us can be amused by the Googlish. He also said that high enough wasta works to speed up the process.

«الرياض» تكشف عن تفاصيله.. وجهات رسمية تدرس إقراره
تنظيم مقترح يسمح بزواج الوزراء والقضاة وموظفي الخارجية وأعضاء الشورى وهيئة التحقيق والطلاب المبتعثين.. بغير السعوديات
الرياض عبدالسلام البلوي

أجازت التعديلات المقترحة من قبل وزارة الداخلية وهيئة الخبراء على مشروع تنظيم زواج المواطن بغير سعودية وكذلك المواطنة بغير سعودي للوزراء ومن في مرتبتهم وشاغلي المرتبة الممتازة، والمرتبتين الخامسة عشرة والرابعة عشرة وأعضاء السلك القضائي وموظفي وزارة الخارجية الدبلوماسيين والإدارين ،أجازت لهؤلاء الزواج بغير سعودية ، كما أجازته لموظفي الديوان الملكي وديوان سمو ولي العهد ومجلس الوزراء ومجلس الشورى والمراسم الملكية ومجلس الأمن الوطني وأعضاء مجلس الشورى خلال فترة عضويتهم وأعضاء المجالس والهيئات التي يرأسها الملك أو ولي العهد وكذلك منسوبي وزارة الدفاع والطيران ووزارة الداخلية والحرس الوطني والحرس الملكي والمؤسسة العامة للصناعات الحربية سواء أكانوا من العسكريين أو المدنيين إضافة إلى أعضاء هيئة التحقيق والادعاء العام وموظفي الجمارك وجميع الطلاب الذين يدرسون في الخارج المبتعثين من قبل الحكومة .

ونصت المادة الأولى من التنظيم الذي تدرسه الجهات المختصة تمهيداً لعرضه على مجلس الوزراء لإقراره والعمل فيه بدلاً من " تنظيم معالجة حالات زواج السعودي بغير السعودية أو زواج السعودية بغير السعودي الصادر بقرار مجلس الوزراء عام 1393 " ، نصت المادة الأولى على أن للفئات المذكورة الزواج بمن لا يحمل الجنسية السعودية بما في ذلك مواطنو مجلس التعاون وذلك بإذن من المقام السامي .

وتسمح المادة الثانية مع مراعاة المادة (الأولى) من هذا التنظيم للسعودي والسعودية بالزواج من مواطني دول مجلس التعاون لدول الخليج العربية، كما يسمح للسعودي بالزواج من المولودة من أم سعودية وأب غير سعودي على أن لا يكون راغب الزواج من الفئات المنصوص عليها في المادة (الأولى) من هذا التنظيم، ونصت الفقرة الثانية من المادة الثالثة على أنه يسمح للسعودي بالزواج بغير السعودية المولودة في المملكة من أبوين غير سعوديين بشرط أن تكون لها إقامة نظامية، وشهادة ميلادها صادرة من سجل المواليد في المملكة طبقاً لنظام الأحوال المدنية، وأن لا يكون راغب الزواج من الفئات المنصوص عليها في المادة (الأولى) من هذا التنظيم، ويسمح للسعودية بالزواج بغير السعودي المولود في المملكة من أم سعودية أو أبوين غير سعوديين، بشرط أن تكون له إقامة نظامية، وشهادة ميلاده صادرة من سجل المواليد في المملكة طبقاً لنظام الأحوال المدنية، وعاش في المملكة مدة لا تقل عن خمس عشرة سنة، وأن لا تكون المراد الزواج منها من الفئات المنصوص عليها في المادة (الأولى) من هذا التنظيم.

وأرجع التنظيم المقترح لوزير الداخلية أو من يفوضه الموافقة على طلبات زواج السعوديين بغيرهم في غير الحالات المنصوص عليها في المواد السابقة من هذا التنظيم ، واشترط أن يكون الزواج متوافقاً مع الضوابط الشرعية، وأن يكون غير السعودي وغير السعودية الراغبين في الزواج بالسعوديين خاليين من الأمراض المانعة من الزواج، وأن لا يكونا من غير المرغوب فيهم في المملكة، وأسند التنظيم الجديد المحاكم المختصة في المملكة مهمة توثيق أو عقد أي زواج سعودي بغير سعودية أو العكس بعد التأكد من انطباق الشروط والضوابط الواردة في هذا التنظيم عليهما على أن تتولى الممثليات السعودية في الخارج هذا الاختصاص قبل توثيق عقد الزواج إذا كان عقد الزواج سيكون في الخارج.

وحدد التنظيم وزارة الداخلية كجهة مسؤولة عن الرفع إلى المقام السامي عن أي مخالف من الفئات المنصوص عليها في المادة (الأولى) من هذا التنظيم، للنظر في إحالته إلى المحكمة المختصة، أو اتخاذ ما يراه في شأنه، على أن تنظر المحكمة المختصة في توقيع غرامة مالية على المخالفين لأحكام هذا التنظيم لا تزيد على (١٠٠) ألف ريال تودع في حساب جاري باسم مؤسسة النقد العربي السعودي لمصلحة وزارة الشؤون الاجتماعية، وتخصص لدعم الجمعيات المتخصصة في مساعدة الشباب السعودي على الزواج ، أوحرمانه من الاستفادة من قروض الصناديق والتسليف والمنح الحكومية خلال مدة الزواج ،أو العقوبتين معاً ، وللمحكمة إيقاف تنفيذ العقوبة إذا رأت من أخلاق المحكوم عليه أو ماضيه أو سنه أو ظروفه الشخصية أو غير ذلك ما يبعث على القناعة بوقف التنفيذ، وأسند التنظيم لوزير الداخلية إصدار القرارات اللازمة لتنفيذ هذا التنظيم بما يطابق أحكامه ويحقق أغراضه .


!شكرا خالد

   !ثم نفس الأسئلة على النحو الوارد أعلاه

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

They’re back! The Comments Have Returned! They Want Attention and Company!


The comments, who were orphaned from their parent posts, the ones who moved to this blog from their previous postings by me elsewhere, are now back! Their parent posts look much happier about it, and I certainly am happy about it too. I was the one who knew where the comments were, and was responsible for reuniting them with their posts, which now appear here before the Welcome to Chez Chiara one. It took me some thought about how to do that both ethically and technically, and some prompting from regular commentator Add, who again recently delicately asked about their health and lamented their absence from the blogosphere.


He was right of course, in that the comments provide a great deal of information, support, examples, counterarguments and stories. They are also good for comic relief at times. Most important they provide a community of commentators whom anyone is free to join. Some regular commentators have found their way here, while others are still missing, but hopefully will be back before long.


Ethically, I was concerned that the comments appear as they did originally to respect the efforts of their authors and the spirit of the exchanges. For that reason I rejected my initial ideas of providing a summary with or without commentators’ names, or only publishing certain ones (how to choose!?). I also decided that the comments were attached to the posts themselves, rather than the blog where they originally appeared, so some have been very lightly edited to reflect that. Otherwise all the comments appear as they were originally left, on the post they addressed, and in sequence.


In terms of the technical side of things, I realized that the only way these comments would be reunited with their posts was for me to put them in manually, including the old time and date stamp, and the new one as they were posted. Alas, I, who spent the better part of a year using the Name/URL option, some how forgot that I could ethically put in the original commentator’s name rather than my own, so the first half of the posts (the ones on Celebrations, and Royal Saudi/non-Saudi marriages) have my linked name and avatar on my comments; and, a shadowy Blogger avatar and my name in black on the comments I copy pasted in for others. Within the latter are the original comment with the original commentator’s name “XYZ said…”, and the original time stamp before the new one.


The other half of the posts, the Personal Stories, and the Blogging and Ethics ones, have my comments in my usual format with the original date and time stamp before the new one; and, those of the original commentators have “XYZ said…”, their comment, and the older date and time stamp, before the new time stamp.

On the posts where there were new comments left after they were posted here, the old ones follow on immediately. This is not overly confusing, and occurs rarely. In fact most comments flow on from whatever is first on the thread.


Regarding commenting now, in general, anyone may comment on any post new or old. Disagreement and corrections are welcome, as long as a respectful tone is maintained. Personal attacks, including discrediting anyone’s right to comment on a post are not welcome. Needless to say vulgarity is not appreciated, as is any form of hate speech against any individual or group. These cautionary notes are in the hypothetical, as so far all comments have been very appropriate, and I haven’t had to reject any!


I will be keeping moderation on for the time being, as I think it helps preserve a civil tone on the blog, and prevents spam. Right now I am able to approve comments fast enough that I don’t think opportunities for dialogue are hampered. That may change, and if so, I would try having moderation off, and just the word identification for the spammers.

cont'd...

The maximum length of a comment is set by Blogger (by stroke count not word count) so if you feel your comment needs to go over, then submit part of it with “cont’d…” at the bottom and the rest with “…cont’d” at the top, or something similar so readers can follow along.

...cont'd

 As others know, I love to link, and think a discussion is improved by providing the original sources for others to view, when appropriate. When providing information and resources for others, links are even more significant. Links to relevant pics and videos enhance comments as well. Some of these are also humorous!


Spam sketch from Monty Python

Although it is easy to embed a video in the comments, by copy pasting the embed html from the video's entry, I am trying to find a way to have the internet (http) hyperlink embed in the comments. Any suggestions would be appreciated!*

*Umm Abdullah, who is a web designer as well as being the Nomadic Gourmet, the wife of Abu Abdullah and the mother of  Baby Ameena, offered the following tutorial to me after an email request, which I wanted to share with anyone interested:

To hyperlink something in a comment:

< a href="http://www.url-that-you-want-hyperlinked.com">word or words that you would like your readers to click< / a >
[with no space at the beginning between "< and a" or at the end between "< and / and a and >" which was done here to show the hyperlink html code rather than have it automatically link]

example: < a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMQbUajiIv4&feature=channel">BBC documentary about how Indians made it to the Caribbean- Coolies: How The British Reinvented Slavery< / a >
[with no space at the beginning between "< and a" or at the end between "< and / and a and >" which was done here to show the hyperlink html code rather than have it automatically link]


The Blogger commenting format does allow for manual insertion of the html codes around a word or words for italics < i > < / i >, bolding < b > < / b >, and underlining < u > < / u >. Just use the html codes given here, on either side of the text you want to alter, without the spaces between the characters.


I do think the Anonymous option is valuable. However, it would be nice to be able to follow a given Anonymous’ contributions so feel free to invent a blogonym that hides your identity as much as you feel comfortable with. The Name/URL option is one way to do this, as no URL is required. So invent a name and put it into that option if you don’t want to link to your site, or your own profile. You may also create a name and profile for Blogger which has no information linked to it or visible.


Except for one complaint recently, everyone seems to have found that the commenting format used currently accepts their comments with a minimum of fuss. If there is a problem, please copy your comment and then paste it back in, and try again. Also, if it is not meant to be, and the commenting jinn just won’t let it happen, or prefers to eat it, send it to me by email, and I will put it in under your name. Let me know in a comment or an email if there are problems with the commenting jinn! (email chiaraazlinquestion AT yahoo.com)


If you want your name and email/URL to pop up each time you comment without you having to type it in, use the Google Account option, or one of those other account type options. You may also get your own free avatar easily at www.gravatar.com.


I have added a Google Translate function to the side bar for those who might wish to double check a meaning, or read the post in a different language. Google is better at translating some languages than others, and at some sentence structures and vocabulary than others. Back translating, ie putting the translation given back in to be translated to the original language, is one way to check the accuracy of the translation. The same technique is good for those commenting in English whose first language is not English.


Another tip, if you are uncertain about your English, is to compose your comment first in a Word or Google document and use the spelling and grammar checking functions there, before copy pasting your comment into the comments on the post. No worries, though, comment as you feel comfortable. There are no points off for grammar, spelling, or typos (thank goodness!).

Do have a look at the posts prior to the Welcome to Chez Chiara one, or those in a specific category or by word search that interest you, and update yourself with what was written addressing them when they originally appeared (all within the last 6 months).


Particularly good collections of comments on the earlier posts are: Blogging and Ethics Parts I, and II; The Marriage Permission Process: Is Either of You Non-Saudi?, and the Update; From the International Ummah to Married in Saudi Parts I, and II; Royal Saudi/non-Saudi Marriages and Their Families: Part III Prince AlWaleed and Part IV Prince Khalid; Saudi Arabia and Hajj; Ramadan and the Mixed Couple/Family; (Auto-) biography of a Saudi Fraud: “Non-Original” Saudis and Cultural Identity: Parts I, and II; Saudi/non-Saudi Students: Marriage and the Marriage Permission Process: Parts I, and II; Desis, Multiculturalism, Saudization and Marriage: Parts I, and II; Courtship Interrupted, Family Permission Denied: How do you mend a broken heart?; Flirting, Dating or Courtship? Learning to Appreciate Saudis.


However all the comments on all posts, older and new, are worth the read to supplement their posts. The original ones apologize if they have clogged anyone's Google Reader or other reader by deciding to act in solidarity, and manifest themselves all at one go. The comments very much enhance their respective posts and would enjoy the attention of being read again, and having new comments added to them.

Let the commenting on older and newer posts begin!


Any comments on the comments/commenting?
Any current problems with the commenting jinn?
Any suggestions on the ethics or technicalities of commenting here or in general?
Any other suggestions, comments, thoughts, experiences?

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