I agree with the Cardinal

A week ago an Italian cardinal gave a warning to Italian women that they should not marry Muslim men, what with the country’s Muslim minority gaining in numbers and 20,000 mixed marriages taking place in 2005 alone, a 10% increase on last year (hat tip: Kashif @ Peace, Bruv). No doubt the Catholic clergy are worried that this may result in the children of such marriages not being raised as Catholics or indeed Christians, but as I understand it this has been the advice of Muslim ulama to our community for years.

Kashif writes that one “wonders whether their advice is based on concern for the marital well-being of the Italian woman, or out of fear that the Italian women will convert to Islam”. We all know the stereotypes which exist regarding Arab and other Muslim men, but the Catholic church has always demanded, for example, that when Catholics marry non-Catholics in Catholic churches, that the children are raised as Catholics. Of course, if a Catholic marries a Muslim in a mosque, there can be no such undertaking. And Catholics of course regard the “right” religion as part of well-being, just as we do.

But there’s another matter we should think of before we dismiss this as the utterances of an Islamophobe or other bigot, which is the number of ugly custody disputes which have followed the breakdown of such marriages. There have been quite a few incidents of the children being abducted by the foreign parent and removed to a country which is beyond the normal treaties which exist for recovering children kidnapped in such circumstances (admittedly, in some cases the broken marriage has been between a foreign Muslim and a local convert).

In this country (I’m not sure about Italy), judges are notorious for favouring the woman in custody disputes, even when she has set up home with an unsuitable man or obstructed contact. Of course, religious advice is less likely to reach the less observant, but consider a situation where the man (or the woman) becomes more religious after a while, putting a strain on the couple’s relationship. The bottom line is, we have a very limited chance of being able to protect the child’s religion in such circumstances, short of removing them to our home country (if that home country is not in the EU or other Hague Convention country).

The best course of action is for Muslims to marry Muslims - and this helps to build up the marriage as well as helping to stop it breaking down. On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked to marry non-Muslim women “for da’wah”; I have always flatly refused as this, apart from anything else, is not good da’wah. In our society, it’s a recipe for disaster.

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