The New York Times has a follow-up story with some nuance, She Thought She’d Married a Rich Chinese Farmer. She Hadn’t.
Now there is coverage of Muslim girls going to China. The model is the same as the Christian girls, rural Chinese men who aren’t as wealthy as they present themselves, go through nominal conversions or affirmations of faith, and take the women back. Here for me is the interesting part:
Then, after a four-hour drive past fields of wheat and corn, they arrived at Dongzhang village in Shandong Province, where she saw her husband’s duck farm. It was not the sprawling operation of a wealthy man that she had envisioned, but a modest family farm where he lived with his parents and two brothers.
The New York Times was unable to independently verify Mr. Zhang’s income. But on a recent visit to the Zhang family home, a Times’ reporter found a newly built housing compound with multiple bedrooms and shiny tile floors.
Outside the family home, Mr. Zhang’s mother, who is in her 60s, recalled being puzzled by Ms. Kanwal’s reactions.
“She is religious, so when she came here I went out of my way not to give her any pork,” she said, as a small guard dog barked nearby. “I stir-fried chicken and made egg omelets for her. But no matter what I served her, she just refused to eat.”
Some of the more sordid stories of prostitution are likely true. And, it seems from the story above that some of the girls who moved to China are pregnant, and reasonably happy where they are. But many of the stories are grayer and not so clear.
The mother-in-law above seems well-meaning, after a fashion, but one can see the perspective of a young Muslim girl from Pakistan, encountering a world filled with pork, dogs, and without the washing facilities she was used to. Additionally, the reporters seem to agree that the farmer was prosperous, if not necessarily wealthy. With no real linguistic common ground, it’s pretty easy to imagine that wires could get crossed her. The huge cultural chasm, where most Chinese do not take religion that seriously, is probably almost impossible for a Pakistani girl from a non-cosmopolitan background to fathom.
Right now these stories are exotic. But if more and more girls stay and settled down in China, that will result in positive word of mouth. The precedent with other Asian countries is tragic and horrible stories will continue. But that may not be the whole, or the main, story.