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Archive for March, 2009

Polygamy in Oman

Today, I want to talk about the polygamy issue in Oman. I was reading the other day about how some guy wanted to marry a second wife over his first, and how she wanted divorce. The “poor” guy was in a dilemma. He loves his first wife and she is great to him and to their children, but he wants a second wife to complete his religious obligationto rescue unmarried women from their despair!

There are a couple of reasons why a man marries a second wife in Oman:
1- His wife does not take good care of him.
2- His wife does not bare children.
3- His wife does not like to have intercourse as often.
4- His wife is so great to him, and he wants more love.
5- And, just because he feels like it… etc.

I call polygamy in Oman an issue because when the husband marries a second wife regardless of his wife’s feelings or her opinion on it, it becomes an issue and sometimes destroys lives. Men think of it as their right in Islam and no one can tell them they cannot have more than one wife. They view women as being overly sensitive on this issue and that they are influenced by the west to object… “Oh my God, women of the past were angels, they didn’t complain!!”

The reality is: Yes, Islam did allow men to have up to 4 wives. But, that was in a different era. We do not live in a war zone right now and we don’t have women living with orphans that need a male support. (the definition of an orphan in Islam, is a child without a father)

A reality check: the population in Oman has about approx. 340 thousand more males than females. So, saying that they are rescuing Omani women from living and dying alone is in fact… just an excuse!
If a woman agrees and welcomes a second wife into her life, then that is her business. However, in our generation, having a second wife is more problematic and destroys a family. I cannot judge the people of the past. That was their norm. Women obeyed and adapted. Today, it is different. Plus, if men really wanted to follow Islam, they should marry older women “in their 40’s and not 20’s” with orphan children..! But their selfish being interpret religion for their own pleasure!

Can women divorce their husbands in this case? The law in Oman states that a woman can ask for divorce if her marriage causes her harm and distress. So, yes, she can. Some might argue that she cannot because they don notunderstand that the situation does in fact causes “distress” and “affects” a woman’s well being.

However, the Real Problemis for those who marry a secondwife in secret.. In many cases, these men use their “1st wife’s” salary to build a second home or rent an apartment and sometimes to support the “2nd wife”. The law in Oman SHOULD make it mandatory that a man acquires his first wife’s signatureto marry a second one. At least, in that case, a woman is aware of the situation and can ask for divorce..etc.

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When I wrote about the racial classes in Oman, I didn’t realize that there was an open discussion on Sablat Oman about this issue. I started reading it, but I couldn’t help being pissed off!

The story is a scenario, I think. It is about a girl in Suhar who was abused by her stepmother. Her black friend introduced her to her brother. They started talking, fell in love, then wanted to get married. The guy proposed and the father said no. The girl sacrificed her life and went to court to get married. They got married and she lived with him. Her family, of course, disowned her.
The story goes further into saying that: The guys family dislike her because they feel she is different. The girl faces a lot of gossip from people who look down on her wherever she goes. She feels guilty because the husband and she got kicked out of her sister’s wedding. The husband faces a lot of criticism from his friends for running away with a girl…

The person who started this discussion asked for everyone’s input and thoughts on the post. Here, I will translate some of the responses for all of you to judge (These are only 10 out of 188 responses):

Response #1:

Their marriage will not last long and he will divorce her after a short time. Just as she abandoned her family, he will abandon her. Their marriage is legitimate with no dust… I, with honesty, do not agree with such kind of marriage or the kind it was done.

Response #2:

They deserve it. No one told them to get married in court. Why would she go against her own father. I’m not racist, but the person’s lineage should be taken into consideration in marriage… so don’t ignore the good heritage. Plus, the disadvantages are more than the advantages because of all the problems she faced for the marriage.

Response #3:

I don’t agree with the girl, but it’s certain that she married the guy because of her own living situation with her step mother.

Response #4:

The girl is wrong, and I would not marry my daughter off to someone who is not from her nationality…

Response #5:

Marriage in court between two people and without them being compatible…

Response #6:

God bless them..

Response #7:

With honesty would you let yourself marry someone:  this way, and pardon me, but from a skin that is different than yours….

Response #8:

First of all, Islam forbade racism.. and that is what should be the majority in the region.

Response #9:

First and last this is our culture and I don’t think it will ever change. The girl that does this deserves to be disowned till the judgment day.

Response #10:

Subhan Allah, people can’t stay put when they find stories like these and you see them stabbing with their knives for this very ugly ugly racism and being artistic on executing these knives over God’s creation, and some forgot that they are the same. Everyone will die one day but superiority, overly proud, and finding the weakest people to smash them stays.

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Though I did not intend my post on racial classes in Oman to be this long, I thought that it is important to describe it in detail. Omani’s might not realize this, but this is a serious issue! Racism should never be tolerated in Oman (or any country). I think that the government should realize that merely giving fines to people for calling each other names is not enough. That does not stop the issue, it just makes it not public.

People need to be educated. I mean.. For Gods Sake! what is the use of all those Imams we have in the country! decoration!? Since the government mandates and regulates their speeches on Friday prayer (mainly not to piss off Uncle Sam), why not have them talk about this issue?

The truth is, people would say.. we are equal, we believe in that, it is in the Quran. However, the culture does not believe in that and people are not willing to give that up. Racism in Oman is a reality. It is wide spread and practiced. I was told that even in the work place, people would respect you more for who you are rather than for what you have accomplished. People married their daughters off to guys who are not fit to be husbands, but because their family name is well known and respected.

A heart breaking story I heard about was a girl from a well known family (Orbi) who married a Abd. She fought her family to be with him and married him against their will. They “of course” to not be shamed for the rest of their lives disowned their own daughter. And no.. they usually don’t get over it and take her back! This is not the West we are talking about! A year later, the husband gets into an accident and becomes paralyzed.  The sad part about this story is that people thought that the accident was a punishment from God! and that she deserved it! Her family of course will not support her in this crisis and she is on her own. The lesson to other girls.. this is what happens if you marry a Abd!

Also, when you tell people… this is wrong! they sometimes acknowledge it. Just like when Prophet Abraham told his people.. how can you worship these stones.. they can’t talk back, listen, or do you any service.. The people said.. But this is how our fathers did it.. and guess what! that is exactly the answer you would get from these people! As much as the idea is stupid and obviously way outdated, these people won’t change because that’s just how their fathers and ancestors did it!

You would THINK they had functioning brains to think and evaluate for themselves!

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There are three main racial classes in Oman – from highest to lowest: (1) O’rbi “original Omani”, (2) Abd “slave”, and (3) Beesari (no origin).

(3)Beesari:

Now this is the most confusing of all classes that you would ever have to hear about. A Beesari is a person with no origin. Now, why are these lower than the Abeed? Well, it’s because you can’t trace their blood line.. at all. No origin, no ancestors what so ever! The funny thing is that people from the first and second class would not marry someone who is Beesari because unknown blood line might bring “disorders” or “genetic” diseases to who is marrying them. BUT, marrying your cousin is totally fine! No diseases there! Cause that makes total sense!

People have gone so far as to say that Beesari’s ancestors are….. Well, lets rule out the others first!
So, white people in general are pigs.. Jews are monkeys.. who do we have left?? Donkeys!
Why would that be shocking? I mean, it makes sense… totally!

So because O’rbis and Abeed (I think Abeed are just happy at this point to feel superior over someone) don’t know where Beesari’s came from, they just thought about giving them a donkey ancestor. Associating Beesari’s with animal ancestors makes them seem less human, and therefore, it is okay to treat them with no respect. I think we need to have some DNA testing here. I’m sure people would find out that Beesari’s came from…well,  just around the corner!

Physical Characteristics: They are mostly  light skin, but they either have the coarse hair or the flat nose. Now, unlike the Abeed who are generally black, Beesari’s are harder to identify. It takes research to identify this group, and sometimes you can tell by their last name and town. However, many Beesari’s have managed to hide it and marry someone from the Orbi’s class. And once you do that.. Boy, you climbed really high! you are just that good! Beesari’s would show case it and brag about it till the bride’s family finds out and force you to divorce her! Cause God Forbid people found out! How can this girl and her family live with this embarrassment and shame!

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There are three main racial classes in Oman – from highest to lowest: (1) O’rbi “original Omani”, (2) Abd “slave”, and (3) Beesari (no origin).

(2) Abd:

The word Abd means slave. It is used towards ex-slaves in Oman. Is it used in the derogetory way? Well, yes!
These people are different from the Sawahili because those are originally from Zanzibar and they can trace their lineage pretty well. However, people with Sawahili origin do not belong to any of these classes because similar to the Baluchi’s.. They are not really Omani!

Slavery has only been formally abolished in 1970 in Oman. Many Omani’s in their 50’s would remember walking around the slavery markets, and a lot of these second class Abeed -slaves- are actually either “literally” ex-slaves or first and second generation of ex-slaves. The reason they are called Abeed is because they are identified as ex-slaves and not original Omanis. Now, the government has been trying – or may I say… trying, just not so hard! – to punish those mostly O’rbis for calling someone Abd in public, which is of course retarded! I mean, My God! That is just who they ARE! I don’t know if the government understands that the problem is deeper than just Calling someone Abd! The fine “so i’ve heard” is about 500 rial (1200 USD), and now O’rbis giggle in their households thinking this is a stupid law! Especially that the Abeed sometimes provoke O’rbis to call them as such for money! I mean really, they try so hard – poor things suffer so much – to stop their urges, but it’s not THEIR fault if they are provoked!

Physical Identification: Since slaves in Oman were brought in from Africa, usually these people are black, with the coarse hair, and flat noses.  These are enough characteristics for a Orbi to feel superior and act as such. Now, maybe not allare black, but if an Orbi has a Abd ancestor “even if it was a cousin to an ancestor”, then their blood is tainted  Abeed and they do not belong to either class. It is hard for women and men to get married in this situation because they don’t want to go below their class and the O’rbis think their blood is tainted… Which is another reason for O’rbis to justify why they wont marry from the Abd class.. they don’t want their children to suffer! Cause God Forbid.. they can’t change their culture! That’s just how they were raised!

Now, originally in Islam.. God’s message is.. All People are Equal
Well, yeah.. but not really! Allah didn’t mean it in that way. He meant to say that all people are equal to Him, and that He will judge people equally based on how faithful they are to Him. But wait! doesn’t that mean we are all equal? Well, To Him we are, but in the cultural sense.. we are not! Some are just better than others…

So Confused!

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I wanted to start my blog with a post on one of the most sensitive issues (at least to me) in Oman: Racial classes

There are three main racial classes in Oman – from highest to lowest: (1) O’rbi “original Omani”, (2) Abd “slave”, and (3) Beesari (no origin).
Now before I start explaining the differences between them, I want you all to know that these racial classes have nothing to do with skin color, but with your origin or line of blood. Also, I want to make clear that not all people believe in this system, but it is out there.. and wide spread!

(1)O’rbi:
This category includes the all well known and may I stress “proud” original Omanis. They are the “above” all in their “well known” line of blood. There are different types of people with this group: First, are those with the famous last names and huge families (or tribes, which ever). And i’m not talking about the Bluchi’s or Zidgali’s (they are not really Omanis!), but i’m talking about those who “proudly” can trace their ancestory lineage to hundreds or even thousands of years back being from Oman. Usually these are called the Sadah; meaning leaders. Second, you have the people with the middle size “tribes” who are still well known, just not as the first category. These are the wannabees or the social climbers. Each mother hopes her daughter would marry from the first type so that they can be even more “proud”. I will call these Awlad Shewkh; meaning sons of Shaiks, cause I think thats how they like to refer to themselves. Third, are those with the “not so well known” last names or “not known at all”. These people belong to the smaller “tribes” or the poor ones. They are either “poor” and “proud” or just poor. For lack of a better word, I’ll call these Masakeen, cause they are.. poor.

All these types of  O’rbi’s share a common thought: we are “proud” and “better” than all of you “fake Omanis”. Here, i’m only identifying them. It is not uncommon in Oman for someone to ask another classmate/ coworker/ friend: What is your last name?
Because in reality, they are asking: What is your status? Sometimes it is just to have a sense of where a person is from because some family names are concentrated in certain regions in Oman. But, in other cases, it is to assess how much “respect” you should give to that person. If the person is from the Sadah, then you darn well should show respect!

Nevertheless, these are the people who like to think they represent Oman in its best.. “not so sure!”
So, they are hospitable to strangers and welcome them in their homes, they give them food, never say no for someone to stay over night with them.. very humble especially towards the Sadah of course or the those who are in the higher category. They are the most likely to be offended by someone somewhere for something.. and of course, they are the most religious “not really! just the most that stick to cultural beliefs and never change!” Thats another thing about these people: the HATE to change, unless of course they climb that social ladder, then they would be happy to get dozens of housemaids.. but God Forbid they change their “cultural beliefs!”

One reason why we still have this stupid “racial classes” in Oman is because these idiots think it will be chaotic to “God Forbid” .. change! and think that other people in Oman who served the country and earned their Omani national are actually “just like them”! OMG! Did I just say it.. We are .. what?!!! Equal! so confused! 

Sorry Barak Obama, I guess your message for change only reaches the US and the rest of the world..

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Hello Everyone!

After reading several blogs out there from non-Omanis about their frustrations and culture shock in Oman, I decided to make my own blog and share some of mine.

I’ve been living outside Oman for quite some time and that taught me to be objective towards what is known to be “the norm” here. Basically, Oman is a beautiful country, but far from perfect. Actually, its imperfections are sometimes annoying and disturbing to the degree where I am depressed and sad. So, I realize I need an outlet to vent so I don’t kill myself 🙂

An Omani Dreamer: for a better Oman

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