The Princess and the Mirage


It seemed almost like a movie in the making; the story of a princess who gave up a lifestyle of royalty for a man she fell in love with. Indeed the seemingly real-life fairy tale of Princess Meriam Al-Khalifa's marriage to a U.S. marine spawned international media coverage, an appearance on America's highest rated television talk show "Oprah" and a battle between Hollywood's giants for the rights to tell their story.

   The American network NBC triumphed, making the recent television film, "The Princess and the Marine" as part of its bid to win the February television rating war.

The heavily promoted film told the story of how this Bahraini princess fell in love with U.S. Marine Jason Johnson after meeting him at a shopping mall. It told how she continued to see him, despite her parents' wishes and how the two fled the country with the princess disguised as a U.S. Marine. And just like the true-life story, the movie demonstrated that the couple's troubles began shortly after their arrival on U.S. soil.

Immigration officials in Chicago detained the princess and attempted to send her home, but after pleading for political asylum, Meriam was allowed to stay pending the outcome of an immigration hearing.

The couple eloped in a small Las Vegas ceremony and the two moved in with Jason's open-armed parents. Johnson was demoted in rank for his part in helping the princess leave Bahrain.

Now in real life, the Princess and the Marine, with the assistance of a Los Angeles agent and an attorney, have taken their case to the public. Their hope is that they will garner enough political pressure to force an immigration judge to rule on her behalf.

Unfortunately this tale of a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, as their agent revealed in a recent interview, will be told again and again, ad nauseam, through a book deal and on a lecture tour, making one wonder if Princess Meriam Barbie dolls aren't far behind.

But regardless of how many times this story is told, the true victims in this media blitz are America's Muslim community.

It has thus far served in the best interest of the Bahraini princess, her new husband and everyone associated with them to depict Islam in the most negative light possible. The couple's attorney has already paraded out Jean Sasson, author of a series of nonfiction bestsellers, which depicts the "absolute male authority" of Saudi Arabia. This self-described expert on Muslim women has capitalized on the Western fascination with real and/or imagined sex slaves and harems in the Muslim Middle East. Sasson has already made a public appearance with the couple and has vowed to testify in Meriam's behalf in an upcoming immigration hearing.

And each time the story has been told, it has both direct and indirect false messages that Islam is a religion in which women are "oppressed".

But in all the press coverage and television appearances, few have truly focused on some troubling questions about the couple's story. For example, no one has focused on the fact that Princess Meriam began "dating" the marine at the young age of 17, an act considered to be illegal even in some U.S. states. And no attention has been given to the GI's insensitivity to the country's religious and cultural mores and his lack of respect to Meriam's parents whom he knew did not approve of their relationship. Instead, Islam, and the nation of Bahrain are subjected to Western value judgments. This was no more apparent then during the Princess' appearance on the Oprah show, when the daytime diva of talk gave her audience yet another dose of self-righteousness by proclaiming, "Isn't America the best place for girls?"

But what Oprah and others have failed to note is that the United States is not necessarily the best place for teen-aged girls. It is a country plagued with teen pregnancy, sexual diseases, eating disorders, suicides and drug and alcohol addictions. If only someone diverted Oprah to this Report done by CNN earlier last year. The report starts by an appalling statistical revelation, which states that: "More than once a minute, 78 times an hour, 1,871 times a day, girls and women in America are raped.."

Unfortunately that true story doesn't bring in high television ratings, and it doesn't sell millions of books. 

Update: When I decided to incorporate this article into my website a year ago, I wished I had some sources who could keep track of the developments on this drama ( I prefer to call it this way). Those marriages are seldom seen to succeed, that have all the ingredients of media gossip and seem to be fairy tales straight out of M&B. When a visitor to my website (Thanks Liz!) provided me with this update, I wasn't surprised, though Sorry for the people who suffered in this whole episode, especially the young princess's parents.

October 23, 2001, 02:10 PM

- A Bahraini princess, whose elopement with a US Marine in 1999 once caused tension between the US and Bahrain, is heading home because of a marriage gone sour and family fears about her safety, the Los Angeles Times reported on September 29.

Meriam Al Khalifa Johnson, who swept out of Bahrain hiding under a baseball cap and flashing fake Marine identification, flew to Washington on Thursday to catch a flight back home to the Middle East, the newspaper said. The couple inspired a television movie, "Romeo and Juliet set against Desert Storm," and a foreign-relations tempest when the Bahraini government asked the United States to send the princess back. 

The newspaper reported that Al Khalifa Johnson told her husband, Jason Johnson, to get a job, while the ex-Marine, reduced in rank for forging a fake identification for Meriam, wanted to attend college.

Source:  Marriage on rocks, Bahraini princess who fled to wed Marine goes home - The Seattle Times

And Finally (update) :

Wednesday, December 1, 2004: 

   "Curtain falls on Romeo-Juliet tale: Ex-Marine and Bahraini princess file for divorce." Source: The Associated Press

And is the case most of the times, in the western press reports, the blue eyed Romeo isn't to be blamed at all. He loved her with all his heart but she wasn't worthy of it. CBS News reports: "Johnson said Meriam Al-Khalifa plunged into Las Vegas nightlife, partying with her friends and ignoring him." There are also charges by Romeo that Juliets family (Al-Khalifa's family) had paid $500,000 to assassinate his wife and those kind of tensions had led to the destruction of his family life.

Didn't we hear the same stuff from this press which never held Jemima responsible for an iota of wrongdoings when Imran Khan divorced her? So much for integrity of journalism and unbiased reports.

When I first published this column on my website around 3 years ago, I wasn't too sure whether this episode will reach this culmination so soon, but surely, it isn't  a big surprise either. I just hope and pray, the princess comes out to be a lot more mature and wise after going through the blunder she did and humiliation and heartaches she brought for everyone within her family and community for a mirage that was not destined to last.





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