A Yemeni court has annulled an eight-year-old girl's marriage to a man in his 20s, after she filed for divorce.
The girl, Nojoud Mohammed Ali, took a taxi to a judge’s office on her own, after running away from her husband.
Lawyer Shatha Nasser told the BBC she heard about Nojoud by chance and instantly decided to represent her."Child brides are common in parts of Yemen, but this case received wider attention because it reached court," she said.
The report adds that Yemen has no legal minimum age for marriage, although the wife is only allowed to live with her husband once she has reached puberty. Nojoud told the court she had signed the marriage contract two-and-a-half months ago on the understanding that she would stay with her parents until she was 18, but her parents forced her to go and live with her husband a week later. The court was told that the marriage had been consummated.
The CIA factbook lists the religion of Yemen as 'Muslim, including Shaf'i (Sunni) and Zaydi (Shi'a), small numbers of Jewish, Christian, and Hindu'. And Wikipedia states: 'Less than 1% of Yemenis are non-Muslim, adhering to Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism.'
So I suppose the reluctant bride and her groom could have been members of a gun-toting, bible-bashing minority Christian sect clinging to ancient traditions like child marriage out of a sense of bitterness. However, while I wouldn't want to go jumping to conclusions, given that Nojoud's father is called Mohammad it's highly likely that they were Muslims.
And the BBC defers to no-one in its skill at navigating the minefields of multiculturalism, so it manages to report the story without mentioning the ‘M’ or ‘I’ words. Perhaps the BBC doesn't think that Islam is issue here. After all, it also reports that:
Yemen is one of the world's poorest countries.
The courtroom was packed with members of the press and human rights activists, who are using the case to highlight the need for more child protection in Yemen.
So there you go - the problem of 8-year-olds being married and sexually abused can probably be sorted out by lifting Yemenis out of poverty, and getting social services involved.
Compare the BBC's kid-gloves approach to the eccentricities of Islam with its recent reporting on the polygamy sect bust in Texas:
Texas authorities have continued raids on a ranch belonging to a breakaway Mormon sect, removing a total of almost 200 women and children since Thursday.
No problem mentioning the religion there. Every BBC report on the story refers prominently to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and some mention Bibles.
Most reports also include the following stock sentence:
Members believe a man must marry at least three wives in order to ascend to heaven. Women are taught that their path to heaven depends on being subservient to their husband.
Maybe the BBC could included a similar sentence, by way of establishing context, in reports such as today's from Yemen. Here's a suggestion:
There is no minimum marriage age for men or women under Islamic law. Mohammed was betrothed to his second wife, Aisha, when she was aged six, and the marriage was consummated when she was nine and he was 52.
Of course, they'll do no such thing, despite the fact that in a recent lecture the BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, stressed that broadcasters should not shy away from reporting on sensitive issues regarding any religion (the lecture is linked at the top-right of the page):
...we have a special responsibility to ensure that, whatever the difficulties and the sensitivities, the debate about faith and society and about the way people with very different beliefs encounter each other – that this debate should not be foreclosed or censored.
Thompson's words are laughable. Time and again the BBC cows to threats, and even the possibility of threats, by Islamists, whether apologising for jokes made by presenters, calling Muslims who killed Christians in Turkey 'nationalists', changing the plots of dramas to avoid causing offence, or apologising for showing the merest glimpses of the Mohammed cartoons.
Perish the thought that, confronted with honest reporting about extreme aspects of Islam, Westerners might be more resistant to millions of people arriving in their countries from Islamic countries, free to practise their customs and under no obligation to assimilate. And perish the thought that people might be a little more supportive of US-led efforts to stop Islamic extremists dominating the Middle East.
You can find a serious discussion of child marriage in Islam, by a Muslim writer, here.
Of course, the BBC aren't the only ones in the UK living under self-imposed dhimmitude.
Update: Freeborn John links, and has extended thoughts on both child marriage in the Islamic world and the BBC's bias in general. Also linked by Pajamas.