Tim Marshall reports at Sky about the reaction to a recent piece he wrote concerning a mass wedding in Gaza:
…Then the grooms, aged about 18 to about 28. They are holding hands with their young nieces and cousins, little girls aged from about 3 to 8, made up to the nines, wearing white wedding dresses.
…Our report on this put it into context saying that it took place just a mile from the Israeli border and was a message from Hamas about its strength confidence and future fighters. Oh and that the brides were elsewhere. Pretty straightforward.
It never struck me for a moment that the little girls might later be described in the bloggersphere as the brides! How naive I am.
Dozens, and I mean dozens, of websites took the video of the event and wrote lurid stories about Hamas mass paedophilia with headlines about ‘450 child brides’, and endless copy about how disgusting this was, how it showed how depraved Islam is, et al, ad infinitum. Site after site jumped on the story, linking from one totally wrong load of rubbish to the next . I’ll give credit to Tundra Tabloids who at least took down the video, but most sites just ploughed on regardless.
The many websites that picked this up have responded in various ways: some issuing corrections, some quickly deleting their postings, and some insisting that it’s all true and that Marshall is trying to cover up the fact: “Why”, demands one site “would Tim Marshall defend the Gaza pedophiles?” One of the sites that decided to scrub was Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch, which is worth noting as Spencer claims some sort of academic expertise on Islam. Of course, we know that child weddings do occcur in the Islamic world, but the idea of a mass child wedding becoming the focus for popular public celebration in such an urbanized environment as Gaza should have evoked some scepticism. Even WorldNetDaily has – grudgingly -debunked the tale.
George Readings recently posted a good article to the Spittoon which puts this kind of thing into some context:
The “argument” goes that Muslims believe Muhammad to be a perfect model for behaviour and therefore the fact of Muhammad’s marriage to A’isha somehow proves Islam to be a depraved religion…This attempt to aggressively apply a modern British definition of paedophilia to seventh century Arabia strikes me as a sign of severe anthropological illiteracy…
…Marriage to a pre-pubescant child with whom consummation occurs upon reaching puberty is not a model most people would be happy with in the modern world (although Bolivia sets the age of consent at puberty).
Which is probably why nearly all Muslim countries have reformed these rules beyond recognition. The age of consent in Algeria and Malaysia is 16, in Indonesia it is 19 for males and 16 for females. In Egypt it’s 18 for both and Tunisia 20. Reform has not, however, come to Saudi Arabia. Back in April the world followed the case of a mother trying to obtain a divorce for her eight-year-old daughter who had been married off by her father to a friend he owed a debt. In the end she succeeded and now there is even talk of Saudi Arabia preventing marriage before the age of 18.
In Christianity, the traditional story of the Virgin Birth is focused on a female who was probably supposed to be a young teenager at the time she is made pregnant; in the USA, some fundamentalist Mormon sects continue the practice of marrying older men to young girls. Most famously, the singer Jerry Lee Lewis – a member of the Assemblies of God and a relative of Jimmy Swaggart – married a 13-year-old cousin in Tennessee in 1957; reportedly, the girl at the time still believed in Santa Claus.
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