Iraq Rewards Interreligious Marriage

by Jesse Galef

Cash reward up front: in all of America’s efforts to encourage and promote marriage, it’s something our government hasn’t tried.  You would think that in the land of both manic capitalism and manic religiosity we would have come up with the idea first, but we were beaten to it.  By whom, you ask?  Iraq!  And they’re putting an interesting twist on it: extra money to couples from different sects.

“After 2006, we found that mixed marriages had stopped,” said Raad Majeed Mohammed, an aide to al-Hashemi, a Sunni and one of Iraq’s two vice presidents. “The idea behind this project is that promoting love and socializing between Iraq’s people is good for the country.”

About a dozen mixed couples will take part in a mass wedding Friday and will receive their $2,000 gifts, Mohammed said. An additional 375 same-sect couples will join the celebration, but they’ll receive $750, Mohammed said. The government wants to help those cash-strapped couples in getting their start, he said.

I hope men and women don’t get engaged just because of the $2,000 offer, but the money might move wedding dates earlier.  The government will pay for gowns for the women, suits for the men, and even hotel rooms for the married couples’ wedding night.  Very generous of them, but I would be uncomfortable with that last part.  It would be a bit like your new mother-in-law saying “I’ll just leave you two alone for a while,” before closing the door with a knowing grin on her face.

I understand the secular motivation to pay people to marry – we do it here in America, just in the form of tax deductions and legal benefits.  We see value in encouraging certain committed relationships in our society (though why we don’t encourage committed same-sex relationships, I still don’t know.)  The Iraqi government sees value in encouraging inter-sect relationships in an effort to heal the great divide created when we invaded.

The Iraqi government could see dividends from this.  As much as I love a good logical argument, interaction in society does a better job of easing religion tension.  It’s far more difficult to demonize or stereotype a group when you have friends and family in that group.

That said, this tactic would never fly in America.  On constitutional grounds, it would be unacceptable for the government to decide who was or wasn’t the “right” religion to get the special benefits.  The best comparison I can think of would be the US government rewarding interracial marriages during the Civil Rights movement.  Put in that context, it’s a gutsy move.

About Dr. Denise Cooper-Clarke

I am a graduate of medicine and theology with a Ph.D in medical ethics. I tutor in medical ethics at the University of Melbourne, am an (occasional) adjunct Lecturer in Ethics at Ridley Melbourne, and a voluntary researcher with Ethos. I am also a Fellow of ISCAST and a past chair of the Melbourne Chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality. I have special interests in professional ethics, sexual ethics and the ethics of virtue.

  • Trace

    Social ingeneering? Oh my.

  • Trace

    Or engineering…oops…I am not spelling bee material.

  • Brian Macker

    “The Iraqi government sees value in encouraging inter-sect relationships in an effort to heal the great divide created when we invaded.”

    This is a very ignorant statement. It’s obvious that you are and were just not paying attention. So the US founded a few hundred years ago is responsible for a 1400 schism in the Muslim faith? Are you not aware of Saddam’s brutal repression of the Shia? You don’t think perhaps Shia women under Saddam were marrying the dominant politically connected Sunni males for a reason? That is when Saddam’s sons weren’t grabbing Shia females of the street for a good rape.

    You can also be sure they are not paying Christian men to marry Muslim women.

  • http://alessamendes.blogspot.com Alessa Mendes

    “interaction in society does a better job of easing religion tension”

    I agree. There are other ways of solving the issue of segregation.

  • littlejohn

    This doesn’t really sound like a great idea. How much would you have to be paid to marry – and stay married to – an evangelical religious fanatic? It wouldn’t be worth your sanity. When I was single I briefly dated a very religious girl because, frankly, she was drop-dead gorgeous. But we argued nonstop about religion and my refusal to attend church. It wasn’t worth it.

  • keddaw

    The state has no business in marriage.

    One man one woman marriage is an Abrahimic tradition therefore for the state to promote it breaks the separation of churh and state. Don’t believe me, then look at who complain the most when any other form of marriage is proposed, be it homosexual marriage or polygamy (and its variants).

    For the majority to use financial incentives to tell consenting adults how they ought to live their life is patronising and insultung. It is also a tyranny of the majority.

    If there were benefits to couples not sleeping together until they were married should they get tax breaks? If there were benefits to 3 children as opposed to 2 or 4 should we alter child credit and the tax code to force parents into trying to have 3 kids?

  • Brian Macker

    BTW, capitalism, aka. free markets, has nothing to do with taxing some individuals to subsidize the marriage of others. Capitalism says, “Pay for your own damn wedding”.

  • Alan E.

    Same-sect marriage is immoral and an abomination to god!

  • http://cranialhyperossification.blogspot.com GDad

    So this is discriminatory against same-sects marriage?

  • Alli S

    This is ridiculous. The government does not have the right to take the tax dollars of Iraqi citizens and use it for this nonsense.

  • bigjohn756

    Two thousand will barely pay for the ammunition used to celebrate the wedding.

  • Miko

    Social engineering is more of a communist idea than a capitalist one, even in the vulgar sense of the word capitalism that you’re referring to.

    capitalism, aka. free markets

    The two are not synonymous. “Capitalism” refers to the private ownership of items which are used primarily as a means of producing other items, or may also be used imprecisely to mean “state capitalism,” which is the use of government to grant monopoly status and taxpayer-funded subsidies to favored industries (and is what I meant above by “vulgar capitalism”). “Free markets” refers to allowing the sale, purchase, and exchange of goods, services, and other products to which individuals ascribe value without the introduction of artificial barriers or restrictions by the government. Note in particular that free markets and state capitalism are polar opposites. Also, while free-marketers are a minority among socialists (and even among non-state socialists), free markets are equally compatible with both non-state capitalism and non-state socialism.

  • ckitching

    This is a very ignorant statement. It’s obvious that you are and were just not paying attention. So the US founded a few hundred years ago is responsible for a 1400 schism in the Muslim faith?

    I think you misunderstand slightly. It’s not that the US caused the schism, but rather that extremists on both sides (and often from neighbouring nations) used the invasion as a pretext to stage attacks against the populace to drudge up the old hatreds. The US did not have caused them, and not even responsible for the flare up of sectarian fighting in the country, but the invasion was the catalyst.

  • Philoctetes

    For the majority to use financial incentives to tell consenting adults how they ought to live their life is patronising and insultung. It is also a tyranny of the majority.

    I hope this is sarcasm. The US tax code awards financial benefits to those of us who are allowed to marry, and do. What is the differance between that and the Iraqi gifts?

  • keddaw

    @Philoctetes

    Not anywhere close to sarcasm. The comments were aimed at the US and other Western governments.

    Iraq has its own set of problems and I don’t really know enough about them to say if state intervention in marriage is a price worth paying to try and fix them, but I do know enough about Western governments to say they should stay the heck out of marriage.

  • DSimon

    I don’t know if this particular approach is a good idea, but I’m pleased that the Iraqi government is treating religious reconciliation and inter-sect communication as goals worth pursuing.

  • DicePlayGod

    In the U. S. 60 years ago, a “mixed marriage” was one between a Catholic and a Protestant. 40 years ago, it was one between a Christian and a Jew. 20 years ago, it was one between a white and a black.

    In Iraq, a “mixed marriage” is one between a Shia and a Sunni. How progressive can you get?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X