There are many things that go on in some Islamic countries that I am appalled at; however, I respect the religion itself. This does not mean I agree with it. Just the opposite is true: I strongly disagree with Islam, as I'm sure Moslems strongly disagree with Catholicism. I truly want to foster respect between the two religions so that we can live in peace, and more importantly, so that conversion between the two religions can take place without violence.
The story in the e-mail that my friend sent me does nothing to foster such peace. In fact, the entire intent is to insight hatred. I have seen more than enough false information on the internet to insight hatred towards Catholics, so I am very sympathetic to all religions that fall victim to similar misinformation (the term misinformation seems too weak, as do lies and slander).
What made me suspect this story was false? Two things: First, I had never heard of religiously sanction pedophilia in Islam before, especially on such a large and public scale. Second, the story did not match the pictures that accompanied it.
The immediate thing I noticed about the pictures was the joy in the faces of the girls. They looked just like my daughters when they were flower girls. In the four pictures, I counted 19 girls, and none of them look scared.
The next thing I noticed was that the pictures were taken early during the day. I wasn't sure, but I had the suspicion that since this was a Hamas wedding, it would be a very strict Islamic wedding. As such, the bride and groom are kept separate on the wedding day, as are the men and women. The young children can either stay with the men or the women. The first time the bride and groom see each other on the wedding day is after the marriage takes place. I judged that these pictures were taken before the wedding, not after; therefore the girls in the pictures could not be brides.
As well, Hamas women have to wear long-sleeved dresses (jilbabs) and head scarves (hijab). If a girl is old enough to be married, that is, to be sexually mature, she would have to follow Hamas dress code for women. The girls in the pictures have bare arms, bare heads, and even bare shoulders and necks. Obviously the Hamas men holding their hands would not find them sexually desirable, otherwise they would be forced to cover up so much skin. Hamas brides are not allowed to dress the way Western brides dress.
I decided to investigate my suspicions on the internet. The first website I found was The Last Crusade (http://thelastcrusade.org/2009/08/07/hamas-plays-host-to-pedophilia/). This page seems to be the source of the story. You can go here to see the pictures, but more importantly, you can read the comments. These comments testify to the results of such slander: hatred. A couple try to give a logical explanation for these pictures, but for the most part, most accept the false story without question and express words of hatred for a people. Such hatred is no better than the hatred that causes people to fly planes into buildings.
I spent a couple of hours searching the internet, but almost everything I found was an offshoot of the original false story. I only found a few webpages that countered the original story. The two best ones are from WorldNetDaily.com (http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=106002), and Sky News (http://blogs.news.sky.com/foreignmatters/Post:dcc9d723-8046-4857-b618-5c1135ba6417).
The WorldNetDaily.com page begins with this:
Hamas has strongly denied Internet rumors and blog reports claiming the Palestinian Islamic group last week held a mass ceremony at which little girls were married off.
Tim Marshall from Sky News was actually at the mass wedding, and says that "the grooms, aged about 18 to about 28" were "holding hands with their young nieces and cousins, little girls aged from about 3 to 8". He goes on to say, "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." I highly recommend reading his whole post.
What's really amazing is some of the comments on Mr. Marshall's post. People are willing to believe something outrageous even though an eyewitness gives evidence to the contrary. They can only see foreign cultures through the limited lenses of their own culture. Why would a non-Christian, non-Western culture adopt the wedding customs of a culture they detest? Surely it's not too hard to understand that a strict Islamic culture would only celebrate a strict Islamic wedding.
Here are some of the rediculous examples:
- While you were there, did you actually see the wives standing next to their husbands as part of the ceremony? Do you have any pictures of the true wives and husbands side by side? ARE there any pictures of the adult wives next to their adult husbands?
- Or perhaps you were taken in by your 'hosts' explanations about how the 'brides' were elsewhere.... how doe's one get married to an absent bride? - why were the little girls (who were there) dressed like brides?
- So Tim, During this marrage party, do the grooms know who they are marring if the girls are not present with them and if the girls are not seen, what if she says she does not want to marry this person and finally, why would they bring on children dress in white wedding dresses and not allow the brides to go onstage?
- It is highly irregular for flower girls to hang out with the groom one-on-one, as this kind of contact is forbidden even if they are cousins. Flower girls usually aggregate around the bride, and flower boys and ring-bearers hang out with the groom.
- Until we see EVIDENCE that there were adult female brides at this event, why in the world should we believe a biased reported like Tim Marshall? For me, the evidence speaks for itself…
For those of you that can only see through Western (i.e. Christian) cultural lenses, these are a few differences in Islamic, Hamas weddings:
- The brides, like all Hamas women, are covered from head to toe (usually in black) with only their hands and faces showing.
- Girls that are not sexually mature can show some skin. They are allowed to do this because they won't incite lust in the men.
- The men and women, including the grooms and brides, are kept separate throughout the whole wedding celebration. A male reporter or photographer would not be allowed to be in the same room as the women. A female journalist would not even be allowed to go to the wedding, unless she followed the dress code and stayed with the women.
- Children stay either with the men or the women.
- The first time a bride and groom see each other on the day of their wedding is after the marriage contract is signed and they are married. At this time the groom goes over to where the women are to give presents to the females in the bride's family (I don't know if this would be done at a mass wedding). After giving the presents, the groom return to where the men are for the rest of the night.
- When the groom leaves the wedding, he again goes to where the women are, and receives his bride. This is only the second time (maybe the first time at a mass wedding) they are together at the wedding, and I doubt any male journalist are allowed to be present.
This is the video from Sky News of Tim Marshall reporting on the mass wedding: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/video/Gaza-Hamas-Firmly-In-Control/Video/200908115353754. Note that he says, "The women are elsewhere." When you do see Hamas women in the video, they are completely covered except their hands and faces, and none can be seen at the wedding: no brides, no sisters (unless they are very young), and no mothers.
Again, in this video there are no women. Notice that the men dance with other men, not women. That's because they're kept separate. As well, some of the grooms are not accompanied by little girls in white dresses. The groom with one leg is with a little girl in a white dress during what seems to be in the morning before driving to the wedding; therefore, she cannot be his bride because he won't be allowed to see his bride until after the wedding.
This video must have been filmed by Palestinian journalists because it shows women at the wedding (it's also all in Arabic). Notice that they are covered with only their hands and faces showing, and the men and women are not together. Some of the little girls in white dresses are with the men, and some are with the women.
I also found one more article, this time from the New York Times dated October 30, 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/31/world/middleeast/31gaza.html). It seems a mass wedding sponsored by Hamas took place last year as well. Actually, it says that ten such events organised by Hamas took place last year; however, nobody took the pictures out of context.
In the picture for last year's story, the grooms are standing on the left, and the "children" are dancing in their white sleeveless dresses. Like this year's story, the brides are not in the picture, but the article does say, "the brides all wore black." It goes on further to say this:
The 300 grooms were dressed in black pants, white shirts and colorful ties but no jackets, because of recent budget cuts. The brides, sitting separately among the women, wore head scarves and black robes over their evening dresses but were easily spotted by their heavy makeup. The couples had all signed marriage contracts before the event.
The grooms danced on the stage as a male singer extolled the virtues of married life. Ehab Adas, 25, one of the grooms, said he missed fighting but was keeping busy working as a secretary at the Interior Ministry. He pointed out his bride in the crowd, and proudly displayed the last text message he had received from her on his mobile phone. "Today is my real wedding," it read. He had replied simply, "I love you."
Although Hamas has long organized joint weddings, it is now doing so with more verve, placing special emphasis on remarrying its war widows. One of them, Amani Saed, 24, attended the mass wedding with her two young sons from her first marriage, Rami, 5, and Muhammad, 3. Their father, Khaled Saed, was killed at the age of 28 during the clashes between Hamas and Fatah in August 2007.
This is a far cry from pedophilia. The next time you read something about another religion that seems too evil to believe, check into it before you accept it, and more importantly, make sure it's correct before you pass it on to someone else. Such misinformation can get someone killed. If members of Hamas checked into the stories they're given, there'd be a lot less dead Israeli children.
In my next post (http://grigaitis.net/blog/2009/09/dr-williams-dishonest-scholarship/) I reveal how the e-mail that this post deals with misquotes the Qur'an, cites sources that are irrelevant to the point they are suppose to support, and quotes a fictitious source.