WESTERNERS WELCOME HAREMS
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
Sympathetic to the polygamist's plight, the judge permitted him to retain his license.
Monogamy, this ruling suggests, long a foundation of Western civilization, is silently eroding under the challenge of Islamic law. Should current trends continue, polygamy could soon be commonplace.
Since the 1950s, Muslim populations have grown in Western Europe and North America via immigration and conversion; with their presence has grown the Islamic form of polygamy (one man married to more than one woman). Estimates find 2,000 or more British polygamous men, 14,000 or 15,000-20,000 harems in Italy, 30,000 harems in France, and 50,000-100,000 polygamists in the United States.
Some imams openly acknowledge conducting polygamous marriage ceremonies: Khalil Chami reports that he is asked almost weekly to conduct such ceremonies in Sydney. Aly Hindy reports having "blessed" more than 30 such nuptials in Toronto.
Social acceptance is also growing. Academics justify it, while politicians blithely meet with polygamists or declare that Westerners should "find a way to live with it" and journalists describe polygamy with empathy, sympathy, and compassion. Islamists argue polygamy's virtues and call for its official recognition.
Polygamy has made key legal advances in 2008. At least six Western jurisdictions now permit harems, on the condition that these were contracted in jurisdictions where polygamy is legal, including India and Muslim-majority countries from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia to Morocco.
The United Kingdom: Bigamy is punishable by up to seven years in jail, but the law recognizes harems already formed in polygamy-tolerant countries. The Department of Work and Pensions pays couples up to £92.80 (US$140) a week in social benefits, and each multiculturally-named "additional spouse" receives £33.65. The Treasury states that "Where a man and a woman are married under a law which permits polygamy, and either of them has an additional spouse, the Tax Credits (Polygamous Marriages) Regulations 2003 allow them to claim tax credits as a polygamous unit." Additionally, harems may be eligible for additional housing benefits to reflect their need for larger properties.
The Netherlands: The Dutch Justice Minister, Ernst Hirsch Ballin, has announced that polygamous Muslim marriages should not be dealt with through the legal system, but via dialogue.
Belgium: The Constitutional Court took steps to ease the reunification of harems formed outside the country.
Italy: A court in Bologna allowed a Muslim male immigrant to bring the mothers of his two children into the country on the grounds that the polygamous marriages had been legally contracted.
Australia: The Australian newspaper reports:
Ontario, Canada: Canadian law calls for polygamy to be punished by a prison term, but the Ontario Family Law Act accepts "a marriage that is actually or potentially polygamous, if it was celebrated in a jurisdiction whose system of law recognizes it as valid."
Thus, for the cost of two airplane tickets, Muslims potentially can evade Western laws. (One wonders when Mormons will also wake to this gambit.) Rare countries (such as Ireland) still reject harems; generally, as David Rusin of Islamist Watch notes, "governments tend to look the other way as the conjugal mores of Seventh-Century Arabia … take root in our backyards."
At a time when Western marriage norms are already under challenge, Muslims are testing legal loopholes and even seeking taxpayer support for multiple brides. This development has vast significance: just as the concept of one man, one woman marriage has shaped the West's economic, cultural and political development, the advance of Islamic law (Shari‘a) will profoundly change life as we know it.
© Daniel Pipes 2008
Originally Published in the Jerusalem Post, November 26, 2008
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes Mailing List, November 26, 2008
Article URL: http://www.danielpipes.org/article/6022
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Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
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