Married to Mohammed - Part III

Thursday, September 06, 2012 |  Elizabeth Blade

This is part two of a four-part series on Christian women marrying Muslim men. If you have not done so already, we recommend first reading Married to Mohammed - Part I and Married to Mohammed - Part II

There are those who are not alarmed by the disturbing conclusions about the treatment of women in many Muslim countries. Olga Lykova, 33, has been married to her Egyptian husband Muhammad for the past six years, and never regrets her decision.

“Although we are coming from different backgrounds: he is religious, while I am secular, he respects my choice,” she told the magazine. “Of course he would love to see me becoming a devout Muslim, but I made it clear that it’s not going to happen. He learned to accept it,” she added.

Even though Lykova says her marriage is still strong, she knows of very few instances where interfaith relations worked out. Living in Sharm El Sheikh, a city with no more than 40,000 residents, Lykova says she heard of many love stories that ended in divorce.

The reason for this, according to Lykova, is the clash of cultures. “Egyptians living in resort towns are a bit more open minded because they are constantly exposed to foreign cultures. But at the end of the day they are still pretty traditional when it comes to their view that a woman's sole responsibility is to please her man. This attitude creates a lot of tension within a mixed family, as western women are not used to this kind of treatment,” she explained.

“Moreover, Islam seems to be quite permissible when it comes to the rights of a man, allowing him to have four wives. Although not many Egyptians marry more than once, many of them do have numerous love affairs, something that’s unacceptable by western women,” she added.

Another reason for failed marriages, Lykova says, is that most of them are based on deceit. “Here you can come across Egyptian men in their 20s marrying 80 year olds in a bid to get the woman’s money,” she said, stressing that the men's behavior is dictated by the strong desire to get out of poverty, as most Egyptians, who live and work in resort towns, belong to the lower classes of society.

“Cases where an Egyptian man takes a foreign woman in addition to his Egyptian wife are also quite common. Usually the two women don’t even know about each other. Needless to say, that instances of domestic violence, as well as verbal, sexual, mental and financial abuse are also a common phenomenon,” she added.

Addressing the attitude of Egyptian society to interfaith marriages, Lykova said it was largely positive. "In Egypt it's quite unacceptable for a Copt to marry a Muslim. But when it comes to an Egyptian marrying a foreigner from a different faith, most Egyptians would have nothing against it," she explained.

This attitude is primarily explained by the tolerance of the Egyptians as well as the flexible Islamic law, according to which a man is allowed to marry women from other monotheistic religions. In fact, the prophet Mohammed himself was married to an Egyptian Copt (Maria) and a Jewess (Safiyya), both of whom converted to Islam after their marriage.

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