بِسْــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِالرَّحْمَنِ اارَّحِيم
In the name of Allah, the beneficient, the merciful.
“Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you.” we heard him say.
As we climbed the stairs he kept on repeating his mantra: “Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you.”
We were in the aftermath of the earthquake in The Rif, or Riff (Tamazight: Arrif), a mainly mountainous region of northern Morocco, visiting a Judge who will unveil the entire problem of the Arab world in one convivial conversation.
His office looked like the office of an imam. Multiple perfume-holders of silver and copper were placed on an altar behind him. Copper carved candleholders held white unused candles that had softened and bended in all kinds of dancing shapes. The Judge looked like an imam from el Andalus. A chestnut brown beard, brown woollen Jellaba (Moroccan traditional dress), traditional perfume was all over him and in the room. On the table next to him lied cookies and a bottle of mandarin juice. He kept on asking us to take a drink and a cookie. Everybody refused, but I, being a Dutch Moroccan, could not refuse a free cookie, so I took one. Not taken back by our refusal of the drink, he poured our glasses and offered each one of us a glass. You would expect a judge to have an assistant. Even the lawyers here have assistants, but not this one, he did everything himself. He walked back into the kitchen and brought back a glass of minttea.
“اَهْلاًوَسَهْلاً (ahlan wa sahlan), Welcome everybody”, he said with a clasp with his hands. Before starting his work, he asked each one of us about ourselves. He started with me. I told him I was an art student with an interest in the Arab world. I also added that I was a female imam and that I helped women online. When I said that, surprisingly he asked me if I could give him some advice. The visitors with me said that I only advised women. He was not impressed by their answer, me neither. I told him I help everybody, men and women and that I love Morocco, it’s hospitality, warmness, the sun, the beach, the great food etc, but there was one thing that needs some help: women in our country are second-class citizen. With utter disbelief he looked me in the eyes: “Hahahahaaa it’s the women who are first class citizen here, the men are the ones who are suffering.” Silence in the room. I didn’t know what to respond. His reaction seemed outworldly and crazy, “how could I respond to this?” I thought to myself. The conversation evolved to another topic. I looked through the room. A mystical looking painting was hanged in the center of the front wall. A colorful bird inside a golden cage. Underneath it an elusive text in Arabic, I couldn’t understand the intrinsicate calligraphy. Something that started with Baraka, which is Arabic for bountifulness, a world used very often in the daily Arabic speaking rituals. I wanted to ask him about it, but felt it was not the right moment yet, so I waited. One girl in our group was dressed in the latest Dubai fashion: a black Abaya, with pink sunglasses and black gloves. The gloves were to cover her hands from male glances. She looked like the perfect muslimah. I felt a bit underdressed without a veil in my leggings and short dress; unconsciously I pulled my short dress over my knees. I was an imam after all, so I needed to look like one, whatever that may be. Behind me I saw the sign with his name and title. I took a black pen and started to write the name on a paper, I felt I needed to keep myself busy.
A MAN CAN HIT HIS WIFE, HE HITS HER, BECAUSE HE LOVES HER
At the ending of his work he turned back to me. It fascinated him that I thought women were oppressed here in Morocco. “They are not”, he said, after which he offered me another drink. I thanked him and asked him about the painting. He responded in Arabic. “This painting is made for me, because my work entails a lot of marriages. The bird inside the cage is the bridegroom waiting on his bride for the wedding night, but the bride has flown away, she escaped and left him alone behind.” Everybody laughed. The eccentric judge explained it further. The men here in Morocco are suffering immensely. In the past we had Hassan II. Feminists came to pressure him to change the Mudawana (Islamic family law), but he denied their request, it was not up to him to change divine Islamic law. Then he beated with his palm on the table, “but now his son Muhammad 6 is much milder, they were able to pressure him into changing the law. So now you see forty percent of all marriages here done by ignorant girls around 18 years old, marrying without their father’s permission. Their poor dad doesn’t know whom they are going to marry. My own daughter can decide one day or the other to marry her boyfriend and go with him to another country without me knowing anything about it! In the past we had very few divorces. Men rarely divorced their wives and families were kept together, but now everybody divorces. Women come here and can divorce their husbands in one week. Then they are free to do what they want and the men stay behind with the bills.” I responded that many women divorce, because of abuse. This did not impress him: “A man can hit his wife.” I didn’t believe what I was hearing. “Yes, a man can hit his wife, he hits her, because he loves her!” I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry about what I was hearing. He was pleading for violence on women while being in a group with only women. I chose to laugh. My mother warned me in Dutch that I shouldn’t fight with him, because the Judge had trouble with his heart. I was not at all planning to fight with him, I actually felt sorry for him. He honestly believed men were victims. I repeated what he said: “so a man who loves his woman beats her?” I could barely hold my laugh. “Yes, he loves her if he beats her. She needs to be corrected. If you love your child and your child does something wrong, don’t you beat that child for it’s own well being?” My mother was looking at me anxiously, so I nodded. “Yes, you beat your child to because you love him”, he answered. If I saw my son dealing in drugs with his friends. Who will I beat, my son or his friends? My son of course, because I love him!” It was almost Dohr, the Friday-prayer time, he had to go to the mosque, but the topic was very dear to him, so he finished what he was saying, even though my mother reminded him of the prayer time. He told us an anecdote with his wife. He called his wife from work asking her to send their son to bring them his judicial clothes. She refused his request, because she believed it was too rainy for their son to walk through the muddy road to the courthouse. When he insisted on her to send their son with the clothes immediately, she disconnected the call. His breath started to become more heavy and tense as he remembered what happened. “I was boiling!” He went back to the house, took her mobile phone and threw it powerfully to the wall. It broke in 1001 pieces. “I bought you this phone woman, how dare you put the phone down on me!!” “If I didn’t break that phone I would have given her a beating!” He went back to his chair, breathing heavily.
MEN HERE SIT IN A GOLDEN CAGE
He came with another anecdote. One day his best friend came to his office. He told him he just came out of jail; his wife had put him there. She made him terribly angry, he didn’t want to beat her, so he broke everything in the house to easy his wreath. When he went to his bedroom to repose, the police entered his room. His wife called them up and accused him of beating her. Once the police saw that everything in the house was broken, they concluded that she was right. “They took him to prison and he stayed there for four days!” “Courts here are filled with women who want to divorce. The Moroccan family is broken. Women have their freedom; they don’t know what they are doing. The family pays the bill and the biggest bill is paid by the man.” I took another glance to the painting with the caged bird. Men here sit in a golden cage, but the burden to sit in a golden cage alone is terrible. There is no communication between men and their wives. It’s difficult to communicate with an oppressed, ignorant woman whose sole existence is to serve a man and his children. He asked me about my brothers, “They beat their wives too right, because they love them!” I responded denying, “my brothers love their wives, they will never beat them.” His look was disappointed. “A wife should be corrected, just like a child. This is true love.” It was time for the mosque. I felt very sorry for this judge. He was a very hospitable, warm and charitative personality, but he had to live with the burden of having to live with illiterate and stupid women whom he and his system have created. This experience gave me more confidence that female imams are really the answer to Islam's problems. These men need us more then they ever will realize. He greeted us warmly: "Fi Amanullah (may Allah protect you)" – he said, he was saying good-bye to us. I though to myself that Allah will indeed protect us, if we women decide to protect ourselves, instead of relying on the men. The Earthquake must have been a Goddess that reminds us that we shouldn't let the men walk all over us, if we tremble, they will shake.