The global war against women: trapped by arranged marriages

Now, you’re thinking this is some awful story about a Muslim girl, right?

You’ve got the right area of religious philosophy: fundamentalism. And this article, in Sunday’s On Religion column by Samuel Freedman, certainly concerns fundamentalist religions’ war on women, but the religion is Orthodox Judaism.

The story is strong and fascinating: Woman Breaks Through Chains of Forced Marriage, and Helps Others Do the Same – NYTimes.com.

A couple of quotes I found most interesting. Here you’ll read that the (Jewish) woman who started the organization Freedman writes about–Unchained at Last, which seeks to provide women with legal services to help them through difficult divorces from exceedingly unwilling fundamentalist men–was joined in her work by a Muslim woman and by a Hindu woman:

Ms. Reiss’s earliest collaborator was Shehnaz Abdeljaber, a Rutgers classmate of Palestinian Muslim ancestry. In their barrier-crossing friendship, the women discovered a common bond. Ms. Abdeljaber had been pushed by her parents into an engagement to a young man from her extended family whom she had never met. Though she managed to break off the engagement, the broader issue intrigued her.

“From the day I met Fraidy, I knew she was going to be part of my life,” Ms. Abdeljaber wrote in an email. “Little did I know that we weren’t going to be just friends. We became sisters, family and partners with her vision.”

In early 2011, Unchained at Last incorporated in New Jersey. Ms. Abdeljaber became the first president of the group’s board, which also included a Hindu woman, Kavitha Rajagopalan.

 And here, the difficulties in facing an entire male-controlled community:

Most clients find the group through word-of-mouth. At the outset, Ms. Reiss said, the organization struggled to find enough volunteer lawyers. Child-custody litigation is particularly difficult. Religious communities have been successful at times in turning out large numbers to paint Unchained’s client as an “unfit mother” because she has left the theological corral.

Most gratifying to me was this, about Unchained’s founder, Fraidy Reiss:

In her own life, Ms. Reiss has become an atheist, and, after several years as a journalist, she became a private investigator.

I have frequently urged women trapped by religious fundamentalism to leave that religion. So here’s a godless blessing to Fraidy Reiss. She is leading the way.

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