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From Back to the Future

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November 9, 2011 by admin

The freeing of Doctor Humayra Abedin is a sign of hope – that the medieval practices of some religions are at last losing their grip.

Dr Abedin was tricked into returning to her family’s home in Bangladesh. She was told that her mother was ill. The true reason for enticing her there was to force her into marriage. Her parents held her captive, even claiming that she was not mentally competent to make decisions for herself.

The doctor has lived in the UK since 2002, where she undertook medical studies. She is a trainee General Practitioner (GP).

The UK has a new law, the Forced Marriage Act, making the kind of arrangement her parents had in mind illegal in this country. Bangladesh had already outlawed forced marriages, and the lead judge in the case, Judge Syed Mahmud Hossain, went out of his way to make in clear that the parents’ actions were “not acceptable” – a strong statement in that culture.

So, thankfully, Dr Abedin is heading back to the UK, and we wish her well. What she went through must have been a nightmare: for an intelligent, highly trained woman in her thirties, living in a modern society, to be suddenly propelled back into the medieval mindset that can contemplate such barbarism as forced marriage, must have seemed like the world being turned upside down.

Her parents, motivated by religious fervour, were prepared not only to break the law, but to lie to and imprison their own daughter. So much for religion as the root of morality.

Of course, this is the moment when the religious trot out their well-rehearsed speeches. “My religion wouldn’t have caused this. My religion is better than that.”

But as faith involves the abnegation of reason, religious belief inevitably creates the potential for illegal or unacceptable behaviour, especially when it demands allegiance in prefence to temporal laws or the commonsense rules of society.

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