Muslim women with international custody disputes receive regular media consideration; the husband’s usual response is that the children need protection from rampant S- African inequities and violence.

While local Muslims enjoy a superior standard of living compared to those abroad, foreigners are generally unprepared for our high levels of widespread violent crime. For example our murder and road deaths alone exceed 30 000 per annum. Even in conflict ridden countries like Algeria and Pakistan, individual behaviour remains subjected to personal responsibility. Although Muslims abroad are generally impoverished, they pride themselves on inherent values based on traditional Islam. This is further entrenched by ancient tribal and cultural codes. That is why crimes like rape, child abuse, gangsterism and violent anarchy are uncommon in these societies.

Violent xenophobia and the lack of local security suggest that most foreign Muslims would prefer to return home when their own conflict abates and work exists. Upon their return, women married to foreign Muslims should know that Islam advocates that women migrate with her husband unless this was contractually negotiated before marriage. Although Islam prescribes that a person may marry for beauty, money or status, noble character and spiritual virtue is preferred. Women are expected to marry at least their “kuff” which means their social, cultural, financial and intellectual equal if a better option is not available. That local women who visit in-laws abroad are shocked by the poverty suggests a lack of scrutiny.

My experiences as a mediator suggest that many Muslims overlook this Islamic advice and primarily follow their emotions. In Islam, since a woman cannot be forced into marriage, she ultimately decides. Although parents are strongly encouraged to intervene and influence their daughters to choose wisely, researched suggests that most individuals continue to make emotional decisions.

When difficulties eventually arise due to the emotional nature of the decision making, couples blame all and sunder but not themselves. While a divorce may be deeply personal it is also a serious public liability. Divorce implies two households and an avalanche of emotional problems which children carry to school. A couple who cannot afford separate housing adds another name to the municipal housing list and teachers and governing bodies eventually have to manage emotionally damaged children.

As a society I believe that we should encourage decision making based on values and conscious as long as this includes accepting full responsibly for the consequences. Those who generally choose to forego traditionally established forms of marriage based on the Abrahamic faiths and who prefer to live as their emotions dictate should at least do so at no cost to the local rate and taxpayers.

Cllr Yagyah Adams

Cape Muslim Congress