Islam’s restrictive rules on marriage and the kerfuffle over Buddhist monks trying to fight back

The “evil monk” makes the cover of Time magazine

We have heard of Buddhist monks in Myanmar trying to restrict marriage of Buddhists. For example, this report is dated February 28, 2014:

Myanmar’s president has asked parliament to consider an intermarriage law, spearheaded by an extremist monk, that is aimed at “protecting” Buddhists in the former junta-ruled nation…

While the proposals from Thein Sein, in a letter seen by AFP on Friday, are vaguely worded, they appear to call for some kind of restrictions on inter-faith marriages.

The proposals include a law “to give protection and rights for ethnic Buddhists when marrying with other religions,” as well as a ban on polygamy and legislation to “balance the increasing population.”
A radical monk called Wirathu has campaigned for a law to force non-Buddhist men wishing to marry a Buddhist woman to convert and gain permission to wed from her parents, or risk 10 years in jail.

Naturally, the Western chatterati are horrified.  Restrictions on inter-faith marriages? Why, that is against human rights!  And 10 years in jail sounds extreme even to Islam-skeptics.

But what about Islam’s rules on marriage? I noticed this yesterday at a Bangledeshi news site:

Q: I am a Muslim girl and I have a relation with a Hungarian Christian man… Can he declare himself as Christian and I can declare myself as Muslim while registration? I will be very grateful to you if you please clarify my doubts in this regard.

A: In Bangladesh, family laws are personal, meaning that such matters are governed by the religious laws of the individual concerned. Since you are a Muslim, Muslim law will regulate your marriage related issues. Under the Muslim law, a Muslim girl cannot get married to a boy possessing any other religion. Though, a Muslim male can marry any girl, who is a follower of any Kitaab [book], e.g. a Christian or a Jew.

Accordingly, you are not allowed to marry a Christian male. Furthermore, in Bangladesh a Christian male cannot also get married to a Muslim girl under the Christian Marriage Act 1872. Hence, your marriage cannot also be solemnized under the Christian law in Bangladesh.

That is standard Islamic law. It is the case in every Muslim country. It has always been the case. So why it is not a human rights issue? Is this yet another case of the entire planet caving into Islam? It sure seems like it.

But Bangladesh does have some loopholes that this couple could slip through:

However, the option of marriages among non – believers (atheists) under the Special Marriage Act 1872 still remains open for you. When a marriage is solemnized under the Special Marriage Act 1872, the bride and the bridegroom have to sign a Declaration which reads as: “I do not profess the Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Parsi, Buddhist, Sikh or Jaina religion” or (as the case may be) “I profess the Hindu, or the Buddhist, or the Sikh or the Jaina religion”.

Construing the words of the aforementioned Declaration, it appears that you may either declare yourself a non-believer i.e. professing none of the religions or you may declare to profess any one of the religions listed there in.

Marriage is only allowed between persons declaring to profess any one of the religions specifically mentioned in the second part of the Declaration. Hence, if the boy declares that he is a Christian, it will not be possible for him to marry a Muslim girl as the name of Islam religion is not mentioned therein.

Therefore, the only option for you to marry him under this Act is if both of you declare yourselves as non-believers. Thus, as you asked in the query, it appears that for both of you to get married under the Special Marriage Act 1872, both you and him have to declare yourselves as atheists.

So legally it is possible. But what of the family reaction? In some circles, it might be acceptable: I am not familiar enough with Bangladesh to say. But we do know from the many cases of honour killing in Pakistan that interfaith marriage would be verboten for the uneducated classes.

So Islam is extremely restrictive. It seems to me that it is only natural that other religions will fight back with their own rules. I exclude Christians in the West, where of course, anything goes. They have already prostrated themselves before Islam.

So why the fuss over this monk? These Islamic rules were crafted with a single purpose in mind: creating more Muslims. Thus the Muslim man who marries a non-Muslim women: the children are Muslim. And the reverse is forbidden and in earlier days was likely dealt with severely (i.e. killing).