The Fallacy of Western Love | Meriam Al Khalifa

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 02:12 a.m. EDT, 15 June 2011

BAHRAIN - This post is about Meriam Al Khalifa who is a young Bahrani woman who eloped with an American serviceman and left her home in Bahrain during the night without the consent or knowledge of her family.

The picture to the right is of another beautiful Arabic woman Fathima Kulsum Zohar Godabari, who unlike Meriam Al Khalifa, has comported herself with the dignity expected of a woman of her station within the confines of her society and Islamic faith.

Her photo is used to both illustrate the nature of the wealth, lifestyle, and religious nuances that doomed Meriam and Jason Johnson's relationship from the beginning, as evidenced by their divorce filing on November 17, 2004 after five years of marriage. Several news programs featured the story of her 'escape' from Bahrain with her loving boyfriend when his tour of duty ended. As I watched the interview and how they interacted together, waves of emotions came over me.

First, the American media glorified the enormous disrespect Meriam displayed toward her family in allowing the exuberance and headiness of new love override common sense and propriety. The portrayal of this story was subtly propagandist in the assertion that despite the odds Western ideals can vanquish Middle Eastern tradition. Ultimately, their story demonstrated nothing more than youthful naiveté and indiscretion.

We have all been young and even as adults we can become intoxicated by the powerful and euphoric feeling of new love. During this time we can't bear to be separated from our new romantic partner, in our eyes they can do no wrong and the exuberance that we feel seems as if it will never dissipate.

Second, it didn't work for Romeo and Juliet, and in general it doesn't work in real life either. As I watched the interview during which they chronicled her journey to the States and her subsequent meeting with her in-laws, it became almost unbearable to watch. Meriam came from a very privileged background and as she sat a picnic table in a tiny back yard it was clear from her reaction that this was not the life that she thought she would have when she fled Bahrain.

In Bahrain, Meriam lived in an extremely affluent neighborhood that is home to families associated with the Royal Family and other high-ranking government officials. Her family's compound as depicted in the interview was a mansion worthy of a Palm Beach estate. Although, some would classify her existence as that of a beautiful bird in a gilded cage; she was nonetheless cared for like a bird whose wings have been clipped. Because of this and other reasons, it became apparent that she was ill-equipped to live as the wife of a hardworking, family-oriented, blue-collar serviceman.

Finally, there was the issue of faith. Unfortunately, in all faiths the pull of the world is often too strong to resist and thus religion becomes loosely worn by many of its practitioners. Unlike Islam, Orthodox Judaism and Christianity with which most people are familiar, Jason is an observant Mormon.

The fact that he is Mormon was less emphasized in the interview than the fact that Meriam is Muslim. Having grown up within a very patriarchal Islamic family, I know that the formative years and the nuances of culture, society, and faith which are inculcated at that time are not easily sublimated. I suspect that this may have also played a part in the demise of their relationship.

In Orthodoxy it is the responsibility of the a wife to take her husband's family as her own and to accept their ways as her ways. This would be nearly impossible for an Islamic woman to do, especially if the faith to which she would be subject is vastly different in its understanding and core beliefs. For a Muslim one of the basic tenets is that there is only one true God, and there were no other prophets after Muhammad.

This would, from a Muslim's perspective, disqualify members of "The Church of Christ Latter Day Saints (LDS)," who believe that the true, restored church was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr., who is considered a prophet. Through religious revelation, he embarked upon the literal restoration of the early church, which included the re-establishment of the Church of Christ and later propagated by Brigham Young who is also known as the Modern Moses. (Source: Wikipedia)

I am not normally in favor of divorce, nor am I happy at the dissolution of someone's marriage, but in this case I differ. I feel that this marriage should have never occurred, and I believe that by its dissolution a whirlwind affair was revealed for what it was, a Western fairytale.

Though fairy tales often dispense cautionary wisdom, the lesson here is that illicit love adversely impacts more people than intended, and in the end little more than sexual pleasure is gained and often with regret and recrimination.

I could glean nothing more about the outcome of Meriam Al Khalifa's life upon her return to Bahrain, but I hope that this youthful indiscretion does not mar her life forever, nor render her unsuitable for a future marriage or motherhood.

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