Daily Archives: Wednesday, 3 January, 2007

Congressman-Elect Ellison to use Jefferson Qur’an for Photo Op

WaPo article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/03/AR2007010300075.html

The first Muslim elected to the U.S. House of Representatives plans to use Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Qur’an, with the permission of the Library of Congress. The book is not used during the actual swearing-in ceremony, but rather in a photo op afterwards. The congressfolks are sworn in as a group without the use of props.

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Filed under arab, arabist, miscellaneous

How many widows for Saddam Hussein?

There’s one single thing that every American knows about Arabs/Islam: men can have more than one wife. The news media can’t get past the exciting, racy idea that Arab men, especially powerful men, have more than one wife. There is no proof that Saddam Hussein had more than one, but every news agency likes to breathlessly report on his “first wife,” or his “favorite wife.”

It’s hard to know the truth coming out of a country that has kept a tight lid on its information for many decades. There are definitely rumors of Saddam’s marrying a second time, to a woman named Samira Shahbandar. These rumors are intertwined with rumors of the happy couple’s having a son, Saddam’s third son, named ‘Ali. However, after the invasion of Iraq and the Hussein family’s removal to Jordan, Saddam’s daughter Raghad has stated that Saddam has no son named ‘Ali and people must have been confused by the name of her own son, Saddam’s grandson. Also, there’s the marked lack of U.S. interest in locating this ‘Ali and bringing him in for questioning, suggesting that the U.S. government and/or military is confident he doesn’t exist. Which leaves me wondering if the marriage exists.

Wikipedia even reports the existence of a third and fourth wife, Nida al-Hamdani and Wafa al-Howeish, but admits there is no documentation available of either marriage. It also fails to offer any documentation or proof of the second marriage, but doesn’t mention this omission.
Even if Saddam has had multiple wives, he may have acquired them sequentially. Marriage, divorce, marriage divorce, marriage.

Or maybe he really has had more than wife at a time. It seems only very slightly different from the habit of powerful, western men of serial marriage and occasional philandering.

I don’t claim to know that Saddam hasn’t had four wives, I just object to 1) the assumption that he must have, because everybody knows that Arab men have multiple wives, and 2) the sensationalistic way the media reports these salacious “facts” to the public, especially when they refer to one wife as the favorite.


Filed under arab, arabist, pedantry