Wednesday, July 21, 2010

RE: "Mass Muslim Marriage in Gaza 450 Grooms Wed GIRLS Under Ten In Gaza"

This is a brief analysis of an email -- one of those urging that you to forward them to at least 10 other people, which claimed to describe a mass marriage of Muslim men to child brides of "under 10 year old".

LINK: Mass Muslim Marriage in Gaza 450 Grooms Wed GIRLS Under Ten In Gaza
  • Images 1-4 are supposedly of the "Child Brides". The rest though linked to this email, are unrelated -- showing some Muslim fanatics holding stupid inflamatory signs.

It is typical of many such deliberately dishonest emails, which I discuss in detail in "My Not-Really Right-Wing Mom and her Adventures in Email-Land", and in particular uses the same sort of "real picture -- made-up story" approach used in the "Obama Crotch Salute" story.

Here is one article disputing the "child bride" story:

It contains a link to a 2008 NY Times article with very similar pictures of grown men parading with little girls in white dresses.

This article explains that in fact the brides are out of sight and they are "war widows".
When you get such an email with pictures, especially if there are no signs by which you can confirm the pictures' origins, and if none of the text quotes any solid source -- it is just all in one voice -- that of the email writer, you can be pretty certain that the pictures don't represent what the email implies they represent.

Many messages have been sent around, and many books written, often quite sincere (unlike this deceptive email), which simply argue that Islam leads inevitably to a culture of extreme sexism and abuse of women, tyranny,  and violent hatred of non-Muslims.  All these things exist in various parts of Muslim cultures, but that is not the whole story.

There are are child brides in the more backward Muslim countries, and there is pedophilia, but it is not accepted and paraded in public in giant events. The mistreatment of girl children is common in many desperately poor cultures, not unique to Islam.  And there are also many cases of people who want the best for their children both boys and girls, and effective ways have been found to empower girls and women in some Islamic cultures, as illustrated by some of the following books:

QUOTE: "There could be a powerful international women's rights movement if only philanthropists would donate as much to real women as to paintings and sculptures of women"
    This book has plenty to say the very worst things happening to women in the world. Chapters include "Rule by Rape" and "The Shame of 'Honor'", and it certainly doesn't shy away from misogyny in the Muslim world.
    But it doesn't stop there -- with no hope unless maybe the "hope" of converting (or if not that, then what?) 1.5 billion Muslims -- an idea as impossible as it is inhumane, and based on inability to see that there are many Muslim cultures.
    Indeed the last chapter, which can be read online, is "Four Steps You Can Take in the Next Ten Minutes."

 A True Story that reads like an incredible adventure: In 1993, an unemployed mountain climber, on a mission to climb K2, is separated from his party and becomes lost.  After much wandering and nearly dying from exposure he stumbles into a Pakistani village unreachable by road.  Villagers take him in and nurse him back to health.  Seeing the poverty and illiteracy there, he promises to return in a year and build a school there.  He leaves after consulting with locals on what it will take and the cost of materials.  
   Needless to say, he cannot build a school by himself, but will bring material and some expertise, and expect the villagers will do most of the work. 
   He spends much of the next year soliciting donations from prominent people.  After 1,000 letters he gets one check, for the whole amount that he needs, from an electronics entrepreneur and former mountain climber.      
  In the two years it takes to build one school, a small core of fierce supporters is drawn to Greg Mortenson, the one-time adventurer.  But some of these supporters want schools for their own villages.  Ultimately, this leads him to found the Central Asia Institute, which has now been responsible for educating over 50,000 Pakistani children, as Mortenson became fluent in many languages, and adept at getting around in the back country.
     One condition for the Central Asia Institute's help in building a school is that "A village must agree to increase girls’ enrollment by 10% a year". "Mortenson believes, as do many experts, that providing education for girls directly helps to lower infant mortality and bring down birth rates—which in turn reduces the ignorance and poverty that help fuel religious extremism."

More than a sequel to Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson has carried his work into Afghanistan, including building a girl's high school in the village of Mullah Omar, head of the Taliban since before 9/11.  His organization, which is almost entirely made of of Afghans and Pakistanis, has by now built over 130 schools which are educating 50 thousand students, the majority girls, and has also built community centers for village women.
   Virtually all the work of the CAI is done, and the decisions are made, by a diverse group of Afghan and Pakistani ex-Mujahadeens, ex-cabdrivers, ex smugglers and warriors and you name it. You definitely see a different side of the 1.5 billion people, and countless different cultures, that call themselves Muslim.   Many of these men took on impossible projects so their daughters, and sometimes wives, can be educated.  The propaganda that tells us Islam is 100% a horror show is self-defeating and taken to its logical conclusion, can only appeal to those who eagerly await Armageddon.  After 200 years of 'Reformation', Catholics and Protestants mostly stopped declaring holy war on eachother (tho in Northern Ireland it lasted almost to the present day).  It can and must happen with Islam.

  Bangladeshi-born Muhammad Yunus is another believer in improving society by empowering women.  In 1973 he was an economics teacher in Tennessee with an American wife.  Shortly after Bangladesh became independent, in a time of severe famine, he returned to his newly independent native country.
   After some years there founded the Grameen Bank, the original blueprint for "Microlending" which is now a worldwide phenomenon.  It started with money out of his own pocket to provide tiny loans to poor villagers, especially women, and has grown and diversified enormously in the last 35 years.  The loans must be for specific business purposes (such as buying a supply of bamboo for making stools), and loan recipients are required to belong to support groups, which have helped maintain the extraordinarily high rate of loan repayment.
    Yunus is no fan of government programs for the poor, but believes passionately in his trademark form of "social business" which is something in between the normal non-profit, and corporations which are legally obligated to maximize profits no matter what.
     Some of Grameen's enterprises have included the "Telephone Ladies" who for a time were likely to be the only owner of a phone (cellular) in a village, and who made the phones available for a fee.  Something like the old style payphones that those villages never had -- at a fraction of the cost.
     The "Micro Lending" which Yunus made famous, has been imitated by groups all over the world, and I believe the total scale of this kind of operation had gotten into the billions of dollars.

  History of the Shiite-Sunni split.  Particularly interesting at a time when people believe an email that says the martyr "Imam Ali" flew one of the planes on 9/11 (it turns out Imam Ali was a founding prophet of the Shiites, who died before 800 AD, and so did not live long enough to participate in the 9/11 attacks  - see "My Not-Really Right-Wing Mom and her Adventures in Email-Land"

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