I feel like I've discussed this thoroughly over at my Gender and Islam blog in the post "The Qur'an on Marriage: Can Muslim Women Marry Jewish and Christian Men?" but it looks as though I might not have been as clear as I would've liked -- or feel like I have. Either that or people don't have the time (or just aren't interested) to read the whole post and think they know the issue well enough to be able to make a point ... a point that I've actually already addressed in the long post they aren't interested in reading. So, I decided to just go ahead and show that such debates really get no where when you have them with people who're more interested in whether you're a Muslim or not by disagreeing with them or with the consensus. And this is how the circular debate goes as far as I understand it.
PERSPECTIVE 1 (P1): Muslims generally believe that women are not allowed to marry Christian or Jewish men (People of the Book) but that Muslim men can marry Jewish and Christian women.
PERSPECTIVE 2 (P2): Yes. That's correct. Because the Qur'an forbids women to marry disbelievers.
P1: Not quite. The Qur'an forbids BOTH women and men from marrying the disbelievers.
P1: So... but the Qur'an permits men to marry Christian and Jewish men, while never forbidding the same to women.
P2: Yes, it forbids it because it says they can't marry disbelievers.
P1: But the Qur'an doesn't deem the Christians/Jewish disbelievers exactly. For example, it permits us to eat their foods and marry their women. It just never says that women CANNOT marry their men while it makes it clear that men can.
P2: That's because they're disbelievers, and marriage to disbelievers isn't permissible.
P1: ... it's not permissible just to women or to men, either?
P2: To both.
P1: No. The People of the Book in that context are not included among the disbelievers; it is the mushrik/polytheists that verse refers to. And, yes, the Christians may be considered polytheists because of their belief in the Trinity, but the Qur'an still permits marriage with them, clearly for men but not necessarily forbidding it for women.
P2: The Qur'an forbids marriage to ALL disbelievers, and Christians and Jews are considered disbelievers by the Qur'an.
P1: ... Then why does it permit marriage with Christians/Jews if they are disbelievers?
P2: Because God felt like making such an exception for men. It's prohibited for women but permitted for men.
P1: But it's "NOT" prohibited for women; it never states that women can't marry Jewish and Christian men.
P2: Yes, it does. It states clearly that women can't marry disbelievers.