Published June 16, 2010
Contrary to myth, when a perfectly good mother is custodially challenged by her child's father, she is immediately at risk -- most certainly in any Muslim country where the male custody of children is viewed as a religious, tribal, and legal right.
If the mother has grown up in that country, she knows this can happen, which is one reason why Muslim mothers do not seek divorce and "accept" second and third wives into their homes.
If the good-enough mother is an American, Canadian, or European woman, she usually has no idea that this can happen.
Arab and Muslim male visitors to Western countries tend to choose Western women as spouses who have been raised on romantic fairy tales, who are vulnerable and trusting; they are very young, perhaps quite lonely. In short, they are not your average Prom Queen.
The men seeking Western wives routinely "wine and dine" them, treat them with great charm and every courtesy and make outsize promises which the women choose, unwisely, to believe.
After they begin an affair, or marry --usually after the men get their Green Cards -- everything changes overnight. Literally and immediately.
While exceptions do exist, in general, the Western woman is, more often, treated as if she were an Arab or Muslim woman, which means she is verbally abused, downgraded in status to that of a house servant, routinely monitored, isolated, threatened, battered, expected or even forced to convert to Islam, and to promise to bring up her children as Muslims. If she refuses to do so, she might even be honor-murdered.
In 2002, in New Jersey, this happened to Hindu-born Marlyn Hassan, who was 8 months pregnant with twins at the time.
I have talked to many American mothers who have traveled to the Muslim world to meet their husbands' families who soon find that they cannot leave. Their passports may be taken away.
Long ago, this happened to me in Kabul, Afghanistan.
In a foreign country, such married (or even divorced) women may have no independent means of support.
They will soon discover that while they may leave, their child forever belongs to his or her father and to that father's family. -- This is true even if the father has nothing but contempt for or is highly ambivalent about Americans; is known to be a child abuser or is known to neglect his children.
Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D. is emerita professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969), the National Women’s Health Network (1975) and the author of thousands of articles and of thirteen books, including "Women and Madness" (1972), "Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman" (2002) and "The New Anti-Semitism" (2003). She nce lived in Kabul, Afghanistan and is currently updating her classic work "Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody."She may be reached at her website www.phyllis-chesler.com.
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