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Bigger Hearts | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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If a boy and a girl are in love why can’t they just get engaged?

The answer to that is that they probably live in a traditional Arab Society.

One of the painful realities about the social environment in the Arab world is that parents to not believe in love or their children’s right to choose. This is not an attack on parent’s but more of an argument in support of their sons and daughters right to choose the kind of life that suits them.

Sami, a 24-year-old computer engineer fell in love with a girl and wanted to marry her. When he told his parents know about it, they rejected the idea because his mother wanted him to marry another girl she thought would be better for him. Sammy refused to comply with his parent’s wishes and insisted on marrying the girl he loved. He decided to stay unmarried till he found a way to marry her.

The apparently doomed couple continued meeting in private, until the girls” family caught them.

Sami was severely beaten, his arm was broken and the girl had her skull fractured. A lawsuit was filed against the boy, and her parents refused to drop the case unless Sami proposed to their daughter. The boy”s parents had no choice but to agree in order to avoid the legal consequences. At last, they were engaged.

Sami says, &#34Wouldn”t it have been better if my parents had agreed from the very start? They could have given themselves a chance to get to know the girl and her family instead of shunning the whole idea. If they think that at my age I”m still unable to choose the kind of life I want, then they either wasted their time bringing me up or I”m nuts. I don”t know how much time it”ll take to get over this clash between my wife and my family.&#34

Sami is right. What would it have cost them if they listened to him, and if the girls” parents gave her a chance instead of letting matters get out of hand?

The traditional way of matchmaking goes like this: the mother goes to see the girl and evaluate her. If she likes her, the son goes to see her. If he likes her, they are engaged. Here, the only criterion for a life that lasts an average thirty years is just a face and a five minutes conversation. Is this logical?

Around two years ago, a number of studies appeared that revealed a dramatic increase in the divorce rate of young recently married couples across the Arab world. In Egypt, the divorce rate in one year reached 75,000 cases according to data obtained from the central agency for recruitment and census.

Separation cases in morocco are approximately 32%. A study in Kuwait

(scientifically undocumented) shows that the rate of divorce during the first five years of marriage is at 35%. The rate is higher in the Emirates at 46%. In Saudi Arabia, the ministry of planning reveled that the rate of divorce had increased in the last few years by 20%. Moreover, 65% of marriages through matchmakers ended in divorce.

In fact, the problem is not only the couple’s right to choose, but also how to deal with one another after the marriage.

Zahra, 19, says, &#34The beginnings of a new life with my lifetime partner must have some disagreements and differences. But my deepest conviction is that marriage has to be based on love. In order to be able to make concessions and sacrifices willingly, I must be with someone I choose not to give up on no matter what happens.&#34

Parents need to be more tolerant with their children, as well as respecting their choices. It is unfair to give decisive refusals without listening to the needs of the other side. The Consequences of such blind rejection are more negative than positive. This is not a call for parents to stay out of their children lives, but rather a call for them to be supportive.

Recently, Future TV had an interview with a Lebanese sociologist.

Commenting on the phenomenon of separation he said, &#34the worst phrase I hear said to separated couples is that they should “have bigger minds” (meaning that they should disregard minor issues). Why don”t they change the phrase into having bigger hearts?” Isn’t that a worthwhile inquiry?