This weekend, as television showed pictures
of Israelis and Palestinians firing missiles at each other in a war with
origins going back centuries, M told me a shocking story of a collision of
religious cultures much closer to home.
It is a truly sad tale, made all the more
melancholy because it involves a female acquaintance of ours, who dropped in
for a cup of tea on Saturday afternoon to tell it. I was out at the time but M later gave me the
startling news: our friend is getting divorced.
That was not in itself shocking – a number
of married couples in our circle of friends are currently in the process of
divorcing – but in this case the circumstances are truly awful. After many years of happy marriage, she has been
obliged to leave a man she loves deeply and who, she insists, loves her just as
ardently in return.
Yes, evidently, she had no choice in the matter. As she put it, “You can’t fight religion”.
As she herself acknowledged, there had
always been a potential for marital trouble given their differences in age,
nationality and religion. She is 46,
English and was raised as a Christian. He
is fourteen years younger, Turkish and a Muslim. But none of these factors had ever caused a
That is, not until his family decided that the
time had come to intervene in the marriage – well, actually, to end it – presumably
with a view to saving their son from eternal damnation. The family’s agenda is as straightforward as
it is primitive: he is to ditch his ageing English infidel and find himself a
Muslim woman of child-bearing age.
The husband evidently feels compelled to go
along with this, a craven capitulation which, in my sacred book – which is neither
the Bible nor the Koran nor any of the other collections of religious fantasies
– ought to guarantee damnation, if not for eternity then at least for the
duration of his mortal span. As for the
poor wife, she is understandably distraught, profoundly bemused, almost beyond
I too must confess to being all three. What can possibly be said in defence of such
a pathetically brainwashed husband, or of his shameful family? Or, above all, of the spiteful Islamic creed that,
in its refusal to condemn such cruelties, and so many others, serves to
A plague on them.