Jul 10, 2007

My Big Fat Taliban Wedding

The other night I sat down to watch the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". It wasn't the first time that I saw the movie, the first time I saw it I enjoyed it, but this time I saw the movie from a different perspective, imagining that one of the families was a traditional fundamentalist Muslim family instead of being Greek or American.

Towards the end of the movie, Gus Portokalos would use the metaphor of an apple and an orange to illustrate how despite the vast cultural and religious differences between the two families, that in the end, we are all human. "Here tonight, we have, ah, apple and orange. We all different, but in the end, we all fruit." It's a touching message, one that attempts to reinforce the ideology of diversity and multiculturalism, that despite the difficulties that we might face getting to know one another that eventually we can come to have a mutual appreciation and respect for one another.

Despite the cultural and religious differences of the two families in the movie, they shared a common set of core beliefs. It was this set of common core beliefs that eventually brought these two families together and united them. There is no strength in diversity, it is what we have and share in common that truly unites us. As I watched the movie, I imagined how things might just be different though if it had been "My Big Fat Muslim Wedding" instead of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". Would there be a common set of core beliefs to unite the two?

In patriarchal Muslim societies, virginity is the main criterion for the fidelity of unmarried women, the symbol of women's honor and, consequently, of the honor of her male relatives and of society-at-large. Presenting evidence of a bride’s virginity, such as a blood-stained bed sheet, is a central part of the wedding ceremony.

The exact custom varies from place to place, but the required elements are the same - "a blood-stained sheet and a scream". In some places, on a couple's wedding night, the mother of the groom might wait outside the room to hear a scream and then for her son to come out of the room and produce a blood-stained sheet indicating that his bride was virgin. In other places, the couple might retire to the bedroom during the wedding festivities while the crowd waits patiently with bated breath - a loud scream in pain emanating from the bedroom and the groom emerging holding high in his hands a blood-stained sheet as evidence of his bagged trophy is met with the roaring approval of the crowd.

In most cases though still today, the bride is expected to scream in pain from her hymen being ripped upon vaginal penetration and then bleed, thereby staining the sheets. If she does not bleed then she can be accused of not being a virgin and as such the marriage can be declared invalid. In some countries including Iraq, this can be met with dire circumstances with the male relatives immediately going into a primal blood-lusting frenzy and then doing the 'predictable thing'.

Even though the "blood-stained sheet thing" is gradually becoming a thing of the past in some of the more moderate Muslim countries, the obsession with proof of virginity still persists.

And so, on to the subject of insurance. In some places the groom might opt to have his piece of meat "inspected" and "certified" prior to the consummation of the marriage to avoid any unforeseen and potential "problems" that might arise. Until recently, it has been customary in some Muslim countries such as Egypt for midwives to break the hymens of the brides using their fingers thereby establishing the purity of the bride for the sake of the groom. The bride would be taken to the bedroom and told to relax while the midwives lift up her dress, pull down her panties, then bend her over a bed or chair, spread apart her buttocks and then with a white cloth-covered finger deflower the bride. A stuffed envelope given to the midwife earlier by the bride together with some chicken blood and a little slight of hand by the midwife would often be enough to convince the unsuspecting groom that he had indeed bagged himself a virgin.

Today with advanced medical technology, many Muslim women in Europe are now opting for an expensive surgical procedure out of fear to hopefully pass themselves off as virgins to their prospective spouses. While the actual procedure differs in many ways from female circumcision, the overall intent and purpose remains the same.

I'm wondering what type of fruit Gus Portokalos would use as a metaphor for the traditional Muslim family? I'm guessing a tomato.


  1. lol, great commentary! I love film reviews, keep it up! :)

  2. Excellent insights! Thanks!


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