Will Huma Abedin Remain Weiner's Good South Asian Wife?

Will Huma Abedin Remain Weiner's Good South Asian Wife?

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As his enemies on both sides of the aisle of American politics continue to revel in New York Congressman Anthony Weiner's admitted misbehavior, the real world is left to wonder about his young Pakistani-Indian Muslim bride.

When the headlines hit that a lewd photograph was sent from Weiner’s account to a young lady who was not his wife, very few people were convinced of his total innocence. In the minds of many people, something fishy was going on. There was also the known fact that many of the few people Weiner followed on Twitter were young women who were not even residents of his congressional district, and at least one was a professional sex worker.

It did not take a congressional investigation or a detective to figure out that Mr. Weiner had a great deal of interest in women other than his wife of less than one year -- one Huma Abedin, close personal assistant of Hillary Rodham Clinton since the mid-1990s.

She is an American Muslim of South Asian descent -- her father, an Iran expert, was born in pre-partition India and her mother, a professor of sociology in Saudi Arabia, was born in Pakistan. She was born in the United States but raised primarily in Saudi Arabia, where her mother still resides, nearly 16 years after Huma's father passed away.

Beyond the small sphere of her personal friends and family, the public could only wonder at why she married Anthony Weiner -- a man whose current scandal is not a great leap from the playboy image he held before he married her.

But now that the confirmation of his post-marital philandering has been admitted to by himself -- the exchange of sexually provocative imagery and conversations with women who are not your wife does constitute some kind of marital dishonesty -- there are those who no longer wonder at her motives or motivations for marrying him, but outright demand that she step away.

"Don't be another Pakistani Good Wife" one Twitterer posted after Weiner's confession. Don't follow your boss's advice, said countless others, referencing Hillary Clinton's well-known history of standing by her man even after the fact of his cheating was beyond doubt.

What is interesting in Abedin’s case is that despite a public image that puts her allegiance to the United States and its foreign policy in little doubt – she could, after all, have pursued a political career in any number of other places considering her heritage, linguistic skills and cultural knowledge – she is still viewed as somehow foreign, even by Americans with a similar heritage.

Though her boss, a white woman, stood by a cheating husband, if Abedin were to do it, it would be the South Asian wife in her – that traditional notion of a woman who will put up with anything simply because society demands it of her – that will have compelled her to stay, so this argument goes.

There is very little discussion about the reasons she is where she is today and the choices she made to get there.

She works for a Secretary of State who has presided over a Pakistan policy that has been anything but beneficial to the people of Pakistan, a Middle East policy that has seen or expanded wars in the predominantly Muslim nations of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya, and a Saudi Arabia policy that continues on the American government tradition of avoiding any discussion, let alone criticism, of the kingdom – most recently failing to address the very serious issues to do with women’s rights there. And she is married to a previously reputed playboy twelve years her senior who, until last week, had a very promising career as a possible mayor of New York, or even higher office.

There is very little discussion about how her overall political trajectory and life decisions might play into her staying with this man after he clearly has shown little regard for their marriage.

If she stays, the Hillary parallels would suggest political motivations – but even Hillary’s behavior, after decades of marriage, could have at least partially been chalked up to sentimentality. If she leaves, she would prove that she is human, contrary to Weiner’s famous comment that “there’s some dispute as to whether Huma’s actually human or not". She would carry more clout, both with her fellow South-Asian and Muslim Americans, and with her political supporters.

Either way, judging by her past life choices, her heritage would have very little to do with it.

Shirin Sadeghi is Host of New America Now. She is a Pakistan expert and weekly columnist for Pakistan's national daily newspaper, Pakistan Today. Follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/ShirinSadeghi


 

Comments

 
Anonymous

Posted Jun 6 2011


This coverage is very well done! Keep up this good work, Faruqi

Anonymous

Posted Jun 6 2011

@ Shirin ... In this Article you mentioned a pakistani and south asian , if you analyse her by roots yes you can say she is a pakistani and south asian but i dont think you can use the word muslim over here even if you are trying to get some soft corner for muslim pakistanis living in US ... If you are a pakistani expert and i assume a muslim then over here i must say that a muslim girl cant marry a non muslim also a girl with south asian/pakistani sentiments or emotions can never make a mistake as grave as this one ... and do you even think of muslim americans supporting her in any small way other than humanitarian grounds. Over all a good article very knowledgeable but its bit immature with wrong directions.

Anonymous

Posted Jun 6 2011

this is what happens when one marries a non muslim man.

Anonymous

Posted Jun 7 2011

Hi Shirin I read the article in the HP also. It must have been a moment of madness. It happens suddenly and men act without pre-thinking the dire consequences. It happened to the former President of Israel, to Bill Clinton, to DSK/IMF guy and some famous UK politicians. Of course one feels sorry for the hapless wife who can either stand by her man in his hour of desperate need (no pun intended) or walk out on him. This is the wife's dilemma,
nehad ismail

Anonymous

Posted Jun 7 2011

excellent view!

Anonymous

Posted Jun 8 2011

IF this wife is boxed in by her gender-religious heritage, as the author muses, I would say she's in a better position than most people of this background, worldwide. As our own fundamentalists would shout, "god bless America!"

Pakistan is an almost-failed, never-even-nearly-cohesive state, whose frontier peoples share a remarkable anti-establishment similarity to Afghanistan's warlord provinces. And any aid given to any government of Pakistan for any reason could arguably not benefit any of the people of Pakistan for the same reasons as for the aid we give the kleptocratic Afghan rulers.

As for the Muslim angle, essentially, they must first decide for themselves whether to treat women as equals to men, anyplace, if ever. And until they do, they may expect to earn the criticism of the cultures that strive to do so in law, fact, and mind. I suppose the same thing goes for respecting Hindus, whom they once invaded and conquered, and to whom their Prophet did not accord even the same ideological respect as to the other children of Abraham.

Anonymous

Posted Jun 8 2011

Having come from Indo Pak Muslim family, this is no accident. Muslims marry 3-4 wives, may be even more in Saudi Arabia. They are used to the male domination...

NS

Anonymous

Posted Jun 8 2011

fag

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