Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Engagement Customs

I had the lack of fortune (neither being fortunate nor mis-fortunate) of attending an engagement "Jaha." Now, I have been to several wedding "Jahas" before, but this was my first time in a fully fledged engagement Jaha, where the family of the broom-to-be, along with some VIPs goes to ask for the hand of the bride-to-be.

I found this custom to be totally useless and a waste of time. Just like various vestigial structures in human anatomy, this custom has lived on long after its function has been rendered obsolete.

I must concede that the problem of sticking to obsolete customs is not limited to the Jordanian society, but other places also, including the west.

But I digress; I have no concern with the west for now; their customs and traditions in question are generally on the benign side. That is defiantly not the case with the custom of "Jaha." As a matter of fact, I can at least point out four big problems with this concept:

1) It does not place any value on the individual, but the value is derived from the clan, the tribe, the VIPs and the family. The elders have to do the talking, and the "young" broom-to be has to keep his mouth shut. The person in question could be a rocket scientist, and he would still have to allow someone else to talk, even if this person was illiterate.

2) The whole thing assumes that the bride-to-be has no power over yes or no, as she is never present, but instead her father has to do the acceptance or refusal on her behalf.

3) No women are present. This made sense when women did not contribute to the society and had the kitchen as their sole domain. Now things have changed. It would not hurt if various VIP women started to be included in this stupid custom. After all, we started to have female ministers and members of the upper/lower house of the parliament. If they are good enough to run a ministry, or represent the "people," why not be part of a stupid "Jaha."

4) In none pre-arranged marriages, the whole thing is an act. But if one is going to act, why act some stupidity he/she inherited from antiquity.

I know that old traditions/customs die hard. While we can not get rid of our vestigial organs, we can make a conscious choice to replace our customs with new ones or update them for the times. We need to be aware of how stupid, degrading, retarded, and useless they can be. We really need to ask if they are appropriate for the 21st century.



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