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WND and Joel Richardson Mislead on Child Bride Data

From Joel Richardson, last week at WND:

An article featured last week on CNN’s website by Samuel Burke highlighted the epidemic of child brides throughout the Islamic world. Burke’s article begins by discussing the marriage of Faiz, an 11-year-old girl, and Ghulam, a 40-year-old man, in Afghanistan.

…According to Burke, there are approximately 51 million such child brides in the world today.

…The report continues to show that while Muslim men are supposed to wait until their child brides reach puberty before consummating the marriage, the private testimony of many women is that few Muslim men, once married, actually wait.

The implication is that from Morocco to Malaysia, “51 million” prepubescent children are being raped by Muslim men, under the sanction of either law or custom.

Burke’s article refers to the work of Stephanie Sinclair, a photographer who has documented child brides. Here’s what he actually says, in context:

Before their wedding ceremony begins in rural Afghanistan, a 40-year-old man sits to be photographed with his 11-year-old bride… She is one of the 51 million child brides around the world today. And it’s not just Muslims; it happens across many cultures and regions.

Sinclair says while many Afghans told her the men would wait until puberty, women pulled her aside to tell her that indeed the men do have sex with the prepubescent brides. 

…In a Christian community in Ethiopia, she captured the image of a 14 year-old girl named Leyualem in a scene that looks like an abduction…

As regards Muslims, Burke’s anecdotes are drawn exclusively from Afghanistan and Yemen – two particularly underdeveloped parts of the Muslim world. Burke does not claim that there is an “epidemic… across the Muslim world”, and the “51 million” figure does not refer just to Muslims.

Further, it should be noted (and is this a point that Burke also fails to make clear) that the “51 million” actually refers to older adolescent girls rather than to younger children; the relevant source is a report from the International Center for Research on Women, entitled Too Young to Wed: The Lives, Rights, and Health of Young Married Girls:

Worldwide, there are more than 51 million adolescent girls aged 15–19 who are married and bearing the burden of domestic responsibility and the risks associated with early sexual activity, including pregnancy… Rates of early marriage are highest in West Africa, South Asia, and East and Central Africa, where approximately 30 percent or more of girls aged 15–19 are already married. Rates are also relatively high, but more moderate, in Central America and the Caribbean, where 20 percent of girls aged 15–19 are married, compared to 2–4 percent in North America, East Asia, and Western Europe.

A footnote explains that “figures provided on early marriage and related trends are from national Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in the corresponding country”. Also:

…It is difficult to obtain data on marital status or age at marriage among adolescents aged 10–14 because of the legal norms surrounding marriage and the fact that official statistics do not document illegal behavior; in some societies, the proportions of girls who are married when they are younger than 15 may not be insignificant.

The report considers the various causes of early marriage. The authors cite gender roles and a lack of alternatives; the value of virginity and fears about premarital sexual activity; marriage alliances and transactions; and the role of poverty. Richardson, however, sees no need to take any serious research on the subject into account; it is enough to assert that Muslims are simply emulating the behaviour of Muhammad in his marriage to Aisha:

…Why is the left so enraged when anyone mentions the truth with regard to Muhammad, who is so clearly the primary source of the child-rape-as-marriage practiced throughout many quarters of the world?

When given the option of offending Muhammad’s followers or standing with the most innocent little lambs this world knows, there is no option. People of moral courage simply cannot be silent any longer.

Of course, Richardson makes no mention of age of consent laws in Muslim countries, as that might dilute the disgust anger we should feel against “Muhammad’s followers”; George Readings drew attention to these laws in 2009:

…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.

What a shame that Richardson appears to put less energy into providing truthful witness than he does into trying to discern signs of the coming Muslim Anti-Christ.

As an aside, it should also be remembered that a central story of the New Testament concerns a young teenage girl (in fact, perhaps as young as 12) who is allowed no control over her own fertility, and who is then married off to a man traditionally thought to be somewhat older than her. Is that something Christians should emulate?

UPDATE: As pingbacks indicate, the above post has caught the attention of the well-known Australian troll Werner Reimann (“Sheikh Yer’Mami”). Writing on his Winds of Jihad website, he claims that pointing out the above means that “Obviously, Richard (or is it ‘Dick’) supports pedophilia”, and that I might very soon end up “in a cell”. He also posts a photo of a Muslim girl which has been used previously as evidence of a mass child-wedding in Gaza; that story has been so thoroughly debunked that even WorldNetDaily made a minimal effort at damage control.