In Italy, marriages between ethnic Italians and foreigners have increased tenfold in fifteen years, according to the latest survey. Mixed marriages are up from 60,000 in 1991 to 600,000 last year, Catholic charity organisation Caritas/Migrantes said, citing data from statistics agency Istat.
The biggest problems in mixed marriages have to do with children, especially where Muslim or North African men are concerned.
By custom and religion these men have a high perception of their domestic entitlements: a fact that can lead to growing tension, Caritas and Istat said.
The Muslim tradition of female subservience often leads to marital break-down, even though most Italian women convert to Islam, the report said.
“In North Africa, children are considered the ‘property’ of the husband,” said one of the experts cited in the report, from Milan’s Bicocca University, pointing out that “Some of these fathers will end up kidnapping their children to bring them back to patriarchal domains”.
Given the tension sparked by these crucial cultural mismatches, mixed marriages can be short, the report said. The current average duration is just five years in Milan, compared to 13 years in the southern melting-pot port of Lecce, the report highlighted.
As a potential way-out to the problems arising from mixed marriages, the Catholic Diocese of Hildesheim in northern Germany is advising Catholic women who marry Muslim men to draw up a notarized marriage contract.
The president of the Hildesheim diocesan council, Margaretha Meyer, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that most women who marry Muslims are uninformed about possible problems that can develop because of different legal systems in Islamic countries: “The experience is that the situation for women is different, if they have a contract”, Meyer said.
The diocese has prepared guidelines for new marriage partners in light of the growing number of mixed-religion marriages.
The role of a woman in Islam and the divorce laws are much different than Germany’s, Meyer said.
“Women who live in Germany have little understanding of the differences because equality is taken for granted here”, she said.
The diocese recommends a marriage contract which is recognized in Islamic countries and which provides for division of assets, and freedom for women to make decisions about their work outside the home and their travel. The contract could also exclude emigration to the Islamic homeland of the partner.
In addition, the contract should specify a permanent marriage relationship, taking into consideration that under Shia law, a marriage could be limited to a certain time period.The diocese urges that the contract also provide for religious education of the children, since the issue often leads to conflicts later, Meyer said. While the Catholic church has always insisted on a Catholic education for children of Catholic parents, the situation is different in a mixed religious marriage, where the parents can only try to carry out the religious education “according to their ability.”
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Despite the concerns and precautionary measures, the diocese said it sees a chance for a deepening of religious belief within the marriage of people of differing beliefs.
“At least this leads to serious discussion and examination of what religion means”, Meyer said.
The loyalty of Muslims to Islam often motivates their non-Muslim partners to more intensely study the Christian Bible and the message of Christ, Meyer said.
What is important, however, is to recognize that european laws must protect women and their human and civil rights, and never trying to reach a compromise on that. We are not so sure that the european Left would agree on that.
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