While Americans may believe the most significant issue affecting the future of the Middle East might be ‘war’ or “terrorism”, this may not be the case.
Martin Accad is the Director of the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, Lebanon. In his opinion the most significant issue affecting the future of the Middle East is religious registration of citizens.
In a recent article written by Accad entitled “The Single Most Important Issue Affecting The Future Of The Middle East”, he opens our eyes to how tribal, sectarian societies limit the freedoms of the people of the Middle East by requiring Religious Registration of all citizens. The end result is that legal issues such as marriage, divorce and adoptions are handled in a religious court. There are no civil options. As a result changing one’s religion is a LEGAL issue rather than a SPIRITUAL issue. To quote from his recent piece:
“Maryam was born a Muslim. Her society required her to live as a Muslim and eventually to die as a Muslim as well. Youssef was born a Christian. His society too required him to live and die as a Christian. But when they fell in love with each other, they came before a dilemma. Youssef would have to convert to Islam for their marriage to be legally recognized. Had they been Lebanese, another option would have been for Maryam to convert to Christianity as well, but not in any other Arab country, not in her country.
They could get a civil marriage outside the Arab world, in Cyprus or Turkey, but it would never be recognized legally in their country. And if the thought of living life together discreetly in quasi illegality was bearable, they could not bear the thought of bringing children into this world that would be considered illegitimate because born out of wedlock. Not only that, but their children would not even have a legal identity. No citizenship, no civil rights, no passport, forever trapped…
Maryam and Youssef wish they could suddenly wake up and realize this was just a nightmare. But sadly this is their reality, and they know that there are dozens of other couples in the same situation. The story, two years ago, of that other Maryam in Sudan remains etched in their memory: the way that she was imprisoned and how she received a sentence of lashings and stoning for adultery, even though she had been legally married to her Christian husband in another country. That other Maryam had to give birth to her second child in prison, and were it not for international pressure that forced her release and exile, the sentence would have been carried out.”
Through the Institute of Middle East Studies, as well as through a new center set up with two other friends (www.crga.org.uk), Accad seeks to bring into the open the injustices of such a system.
He also announced their initiative on a guest blog on the website of Frances Fuller, author of ‘In Borrowed Houses’ at http://www.inborrowedhouseslebanon.com. Fuller spent many years in the Middle East. She puts a face on the Middle East many Americans have not yet seen. Her award-winning memoir, ‘In Borrowed Houses’, gives readers a penetrating glimpse of the Middle East from the inside.