Since Anthony Weiner's press conference a week ago following the revelation of his post-resignation online tryst using the handle Carlos Danger along with his wife Huma Abedin's public forgiveness, I have been waiting with some amount of dread for the Court of Public Opinion to conclude that the reason Abedin is standing by her fallen man is because she's Muslim.
Although Abedin was clear about why she's staying with Weiner during the press conference, no one seems to want to believe her. She loves Weiner, she said, and she believes in him. "It took a lot of work to get to where we are today," she said at the press conference, "but I want people to know we're a normal family."
Perhaps it was the miscalculated decision on her part to use the word "normal" that has set people into a tizzy. After all, "normal" husbands don't tend to Tweet pics of their own genitals to women they've never met. And "normal" wives don't tend to forgive their men for it, over and over again.
That "normal" has turned the Weiner-Abedin marriage into a blank canvas onto which America is projecting their romantic fears and ideals. As a result, Abedin has been called everything from "power hungry" to a "weak and helpless victim." And, of course, just as I feared, her loyalty is now being touted as a result of her Muslim upbringing.
The criticism is coming from both sides of the political aisle. Maureen Dowd's Sunday New York Times article asserts that the reason Abedin is such a doormat is because she "was raised in Saudi Arabia, where women are treated worse by men than anywhere else on the planet."
On the right, Rush Limbaugh agrees. "Muslim women don't have any power, right?" he remarked. "Muslim women are beheaded, stoned, whatever, if they drive, have affairs. In certain countries, Muslim women, if they're raped, are killed -- it's their fault."
In her latest column for The Washington Post, Sally Quinn strangely quotes from the Book of Proverbs as though to counsel Abedin on the Christian thing to do: dump the "scoundrel."
Contrary to popular misperceptions and stubborn, belittling stereotypes, Abedin's Muslim background does provide her a divinely sanctioned exit from her marriage.
Laleh Bakhtiar, the first American woman to translate the Qur'an into English and a convert to Islam, notes in a piece for the online exhibition Muslima: Muslim Women's Art & Voices that despite similarities between the three monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), there are "distinct differences."
One of those differences is in how marriage is viewed.
In her article, "How Islam Confirms Women's Rights," Bakhtiar writes, "In Islam, marriage is not seen as a sacred covenant but as a mutually beneficial contract between a man and a woman. The stress is on, 'mutually beneficial.' Men and women were created to provide solace for one another."
In fact, Muslim women have historically enjoyed the protection of a prenuptial agreement.
The pre-nup not only includes any money [the wife] will receive in the event of a divorce but also contains any Islamic rights she wishes to enforce for herself: the right to a divorce, the right to keep custody of her children if there is a divorce, the right to continue her education, the right to work ... or whatever other issues most concern her.
If there happens to be no formal prenuptial?
"If a woman chooses not to require a pre-nuptial agreement, she will have to follow the Divine Law in regard to any disagreements that may arise between herself and her husband in the future."
Since marriage is a contract between a man and a woman, and not a binding covenant, Abedin has the full backing of Divine Islamic law to kick the "scoundrel" to the curb. I can tell you as a Muslim woman who's been divorced herself that having my faith's support during a traumatic time in my life was reassuring.
But the key word in this case is "disagreement."
As far as Abedin is concerned, there are no "disagreements." She has taken the high road and forgiven her husband.
If we are to stick strictly to religious teachings, there are undoubtedly clear differences between Islam and other faiths on how each views marriage. But aren't religious teachings about forgiveness universal?
And if a woman has found it in her heart to forgive her wayward husband for the sake of a marriage in which she's invested a great deal of time and emotion, and for the sake of her son, undoubtedly, who she's protecting from the anguish of knowing two parental homes, why is that woman considered a blemish to womankind?
As anyone who has tried to forgive unpardonable transgressions knows, forgiveness doesn't come from weakness. It takes a great deal of strength and character.
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