The BBC seem to be having a go at campaigning for the acceptance of polygamy in this country…for Muslims….that is legal recognition of multiple wives. …despite the catalogue of misery created by polygamy that the BBC paradoxically perhaps, exposes. Polygamy already exists not just in Islamic society but in secular Britain…the recent case of Mick Philpotts being one such prominent example….of course such relationships have no legal standing…the second partner being essentially a ‘mistress’ without any rights.
The latest examination of this by the BBC was this programme by Jemima Khan (Timed out on the iPlayer now) which she has also had published in the New Statesman…provided in full at the end of this post.
We heard that the modern lifestyle fits in with polygamy, though that was then contradicted. It is often imposed upon women without permission of the first wife and that it is often done to reinforce Islamic identity.
We are told it was introduced by God in the Koran to protect widows and orphans…wives must be treated equally and fairly…but that it really amounts to religiously sanctioned mistresses….who have no legal rights.
One Muslim man stated that British laws are irrelevant as God’s law is above Man’s.
Baroness Cox, who is against Polygamy, states that we cannot condone suffering of women in polygamous relationships…the law must come first and that Muslim women are being betrayed by Britain which is not battling against these cultural impositions….we must have one law for all.
At the end we heard from Islamic law consultant, Khola Hasan: “Britain is refusing to accept that polygamy takes place,” she says. “It’s a reality and I think the British legal system is going to have to open its eyes and accept that it’s a reality in Britain. “Polygamy is not going to go away.”
She believes that “Forcing mosques to register all nikahs, and thereby banning polygamy, will only make Muslims feel more persecuted. “The Muslim community in Britain already feels victimised.”
She argues that, rather than banning polygamy, which she views as a “solution to many complex and difficult situations”, the practice should in fact be recognised by British law.
That sums up why it is so important that the BBC et al examine Islam, its beliefs, values and intentions as it becomes ever more dominant in this country….as Muslims run a parallel legal and social system alongside the British one ‘underground’ how many more times will such an attitude be expressed…it’s happening already, accept it…or else you will have an alienated, victimised Muslim community…ready to do what?
The BBC’s description of that is also telling…Islamic law consultant, Khola Hasan, wants the English legal system to recognise the existence of polygamy (though she does not wish the law to be changed to accommodate the practice.)
It’s quite clear from her words Hasan does want British law to be changed to accomodate Islamic laws….the BBC are once again playing down the problems being created by Islam in this country.
Although Jemima Khan’s report is not available another older one is, from the Asian Network, asking ‘What’s wrong With Polygamy?’
Both this report and Khan’s are curious things…both highlighting the fact that polygamy leads to a lot of unhappiness for women, and is the cause of many divorces by first wives…and yet the programmes both seem to support the legal recognition of polygamous marriage.
We are told that the number of unhappy women in unhappy marriages is huge…and growing as polygamy rises.
But what are the reasons for Muslim men to enter into a polygamous marriage?…there are three main reasons:
1. They are radicals/extremists or just the orthodox who use it to reinforce their Islamic identity.
2. Those forced into an unhappy first marriage but who cannot divorce the first wife due to social pressure.
3. Men with parents abroad looking for someone to look after them…looking for a servant in essence.
Hardly good reasons to turn over the laws of the land to accommodate polygamy are they?
A heartwarming tale:
Still, we are told in both reports that polygamy (10:13 in this one) ‘came about as a result of a battle in which many Muslims were killed resulting in several orphans being left and it was suggested by God almighty that if you marry an orphan you can safeguard their wealth and property…so go ahead and marry them.’ (referencing the Koran, Sura 4.3)
The presenter himself goes onto tell us that: ‘It’s clear that polygamy came about due to the circumstances at the time.’
That demonstrates another problem with the BBC….it allows Muslim propaganda without question.
Polygamy wasn’t ‘suggested’ by God to the Muslims…it was rife throughout many cultures long before that, the Arabs taking many more than 4 wives.
Therefore it was not designed to protect widows and orphans as in the heartwarming tale spun by Muslims and the BBC…and in fact the Koran does not say ‘marry the orphans’…it just says look after them and their property until they reach a certain age.
Muhammed had 9 wives….one was a slave girl and the other a young girl of 9 years.. not an orphan.
He also married the wife of his adopted son who divorced her so that Muhammed could take her for himself….now this was frowned upon by Arab society…no problem…Muhammed invented a verse for his new scripture which made his actions acceptable…..
‘While Muhammad was sitting next to his wife Aisha, he suddenly went into one of his prophetic swoons. When he had recovered, he said, “Who will go and congratulate Zaynab and say that the Lord has joined her to me in marriage?” Thus we find in sura 33.2—33.7:
The most natural and immediate reaction to the preceding account must surely be that of the Prophet’s own wife, Aisha, who is said to have remarked wittily on this occasion, “Truly your God seems to have been very quick in fulfilling your prayers.” ‘
Note that…even his own wife doubts that God is really speaking to him.
Here Muhammed again invents yet another verse so that he can indulge himself with another woman…in this case his slave Mary…he was caught by his wife in the act and this upset the whole Harem until God intervened to smooth things over:
‘Harmony returned again to the harem. The sura concerned is 66.1: O Prophet! Why have you forbidden yourself that which God has made lawful unto you [i.e., Mary], out of desire to please your wives, for God is forgiving and merciful? Verily God has sanctioned the revocation of your oaths; . . The Prophet had entrusted a secret to one of his wives but she repeated it and God revealed it to him. … If he divorces you, God will give him in your stead wives more submissive unto God, believers, pious, repentant, devout, fasting; both Women married previously, and virgins. ‘
So it is quite clear that widows and orphans were not the reason for polygamy being part of the Koran…it was a previous cultural practice by the Arabs and was a convenient way to accommodate Muhammed’s own desires.
In other words the BBC is misleading us and making polygamy out to be some Muslim grand design, humane and equitable in intention, when the truth is far from that….it is clearly mostly intended to allow men to take many wives for their own reasons.
The BBC is also saying that Hasan does not want a change in the law…when she plainly does….she wants us to change british law to accommodate Muslim law…..the thin end of the wedge and the BBC knows that…hence it played it down.
The BBC seems to be suggesting that because these polygamous ‘marriages’ are so often damaging they need recognition in law to give rights and protection to the additonal ‘wives’.
Really? They know such marriages are illegal, they know what they are entering into, so why should they have any more rights than a ‘mistress’ who becomes the third person in a non-Muslim marriage….is this once again the BBC pressing for special dispensation and laws for Muslms only?
Surely if the BBC were to look at polygamy it should have examined the full spectrum of examples across society…from the infamous Philpotts to Mormons or whoever else indulges in such practices….why just Muslims?
I think the BBC is out of its depth with this and demonstrates why ‘campaigning’ for anything is unwise for the BBC.
In this report from 2012 the BBC, illustrating the confusion, is more pragmatic and reports without any seeming underlying aim…certainly it is not promoting polygamy or the extension of legal rights to Muslims for it:
What kind of woman is willing to share her husband?
Jemima Khan investigates why more and more Muslim women in Britain are choosing to become “co-wives”. For many divorced, widowed or older women, could polygamy be a practical answer to their problems?
By Jemima Khan Published 23 April 2013
Farzana is a senior nurse, 36, attractive,selfpossessed and articulate. “I have begun to consider polygamy,” she tells me at a matchmaking event in central London for divorced and widowed Muslims interested in marrying again. “When you think about love in an Islamic way, then co-wife idea makes sense.”
According to Mizan Raja, who set up the Islamic Circles community network and
presides over the east London Muslim matrimonial scene, women are increasingly
electing to become “co-wives” – in other words, to become a man’s second or
third wife. As I reported last year in the New Statesman, Raja gets five to ten
requests every week from women who are “comfortable with the notion of a
part-time man”. He explained: “Career women don’t want a full-time husband. They
don’t have time.” So couples live separately, a husband visiting his wives on a
A dapper City boy listening to Raja whispered to me: “Actually, that’s not
right. In late twenties a girl is considered past it, so this arrangement is the
best she can get.”
If you’re divorced, widowed or over 30 and Muslim, finding a husband in this
country can be a challenge. Does polygamy, or more specifically polygyny (a man
taking more than one wife, as opposed to a woman taking more than one husband),
as sanctioned by the Quran, offer a possible solution?
Aisha (not her real name), a divorced single mother with two children, recently
chose to become a second wife. She was introduced to her husband by a friend.
She says that at first she was hesitant. “I was like, ‘No, I can’t do it. I’m
too jealous as a person. I wouldn’t be able to do it.’ But the more that time
went on and I started thinking about it, especially more maturely, I saw the
beauty of it.”
They agreed on the terms of the marriage by email, covering details such as “how
many days he’d spend with me and how many days he’d spend with his other wife,
and money and living arrangements”. They then met twice, liked each other, set a
date and were married. Her husband now spends three days with Aisha and her two
children from her previous marriage and then three days with his other family,
unless one of them is ill, in which case he stays to help but has to make up the
missed time to his other wife.
She confesses that “if he was to stay all the time I’d love it”, but says that
having time off “is definitely beneficial in some ways as well”. She has “more
freedom” to see her friends and her family, and it is a relief “not having a man
in your face half the time, when you are cranky, and he can go somewhere else
and you can manage the kids on your own”.
As a divorcee, bringing up children on her own for three years before
remarrying, she built up an independent life for herself: “It’s hard to let your
goals go for a man all over again.” Although she concedes they have had a “few
teething problems” and that it took his first wife “some time to come to terms
with it”, now, she says, they “have come to an understanding . . . We are
finding our feet.” Both sets of children are aware of the new situation and have
accepted it. In fact, she says that her husband’s daughter from his first
marriage “can’t wait to meet second Mummy” and her own son, who now has a father
figure and “role model” that he was previously lacking, is “really happy with
it”. They have yet to experience “a big family get-together”, but Aisha says she
is “hopeful that will happen soon . . . I’ve spoken to her [the first wife] a
couple of times. She seems really lovely. I would really like for us to become
good friends . . . for there to be that kind of bond of sisterhood between us.”
The main obstacle to happiness, according to Aisha, “is the sense of ownership”
and jealousy. “But that’s something that you’ve just got to use your wisdom to
get past . . . It’s more important for me to have a father for my children . . .
to have a helping hand when I need it.” She insists that problems arise only
when the husband does not treat both wives equally, as explicitly mandated in
the Quran, or when the wives are not mature enough to rationalise and accept the
Anecdotal evidence, in the absence of the statistical kind, suggests that
polygamy is on the rise in Britain. And according to a poll conducted over a
week by Singlemuslim.com, 33 per cent of men and 9 per cent of women would
choose to be part of a polygamous marriage. Because such marriages take place
through an unregistered marriage contract, they do not constitute bigamy, a
criminal offence in the UK.
The reasons for polygamy are complex. Aisha says that, from her point of view,
“Single mums don’t have the pick of the bunch . . . [Polygamy] is there so we
can still have the benefits of marriage, so we don’t have to be left on the
shelf, so our children can still have role models, father figures, and so we can
still have that emotional stability, financial stability and security.”
The stigma of divorce, as well as later marriages and the importing of foreign
brides (15,500 women were admitted to the UK in 2011 as wives of British men,
according to Home Office figures), have all exacerbated the problem for Muslim
women looking for a husband.
Aisha tells me that her husband saw polygamy as his religious duty. “A lot of
people think it’s just about sex but . . . sex goes out the window after a
while. If you don’t want your husband marrying someone else, what would happen
to these single mums, then, and these divorcees? Is it fair that they just stay
on the shelf? We should be looking after our community. Islam is all about
community and society and we should look after our brothers and our sisters
equally, otherwise it’s every man for themselves.”
Kalsoom Bashir, the project manager of the Muslim women’s rights organisation
Inspire, and Khola Hasan of the Islamic Sharia Council in Leyton, east London,
both believe that forced marriage is another reason for polygamy. British men
are forced into marriages, often with cousins imported from “back home” with
whom they have nothing in common. “For a man who has been in the difficult
situation of being forced into a marriage, and the numbers are huge in Britain,
absolutely huge . . . for many of them, polygamy is a good way of being happy
and keeping the family happy,” Hasan explains.
The Quran instructs Muslim men to “marry women of your choice two or three or
four”, but warns that “if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly
[with them] then only one or [your concubines]. That is more fitting so that you
do not deviate from the right course.” The Prophet Muhammad said, “Whosoever has
two wives and he inclines towards one to the exclusion of the other, he will
come on the Day of Judgement with his body dropping or bending down.”
In other words, “It is mission impossible,” according to Mufti Barkatulla, a
senior imam and sharia council judge in Leyton. He firmly believes that there is
no place for polygamy in modern Britain. “There are a number of cases we have
come across and there is hardly a case where a man can balance all the duties
required in a polygamous situation . . . In today’s industrial society, it is
impossible to observe the conditions laid down by the scriptures.” Polygamy, he
points out, predates Islam and was permitted in Islam in the context of war to
offer protection to war orphans and widows. Many of the Prophet’s 11 wives were
Sara (not her real name) is a 40-year-old Muslim convert. She accepted the
practice of polygamy as part of her religion and when she fell in love with a
married man, she was the one who suggested that she become his second wife. “I
was busy and studying. I felt I could cope with not having someone around all
the time,” she tells me.
In reality, though, Sara now says, their marriage was more like a religiously
sanctioned affair. “Because of the social taboos against [polygamy], it had to
be secret from the community and I couldn’t have any children . . . because then
it will be known that he has a second wife.” Although she met her husband’s
first wife, going on holiday with her once and even offering to babysit her
children, the first wife never fully accepted the situation. “I really had this
idea that we somehow would eventually find some way of getting on . . . I was
imagining it would be like these stories I have heard of where it works, so I
thought it would just be a matter of time and we were destined to be together.”
Eventually, after six years, Sara sought a divorce.
In his 25 years presiding over thousands of divorce cases at the Islamic Sharia
Council, Mufti Barkatulla has heard many similar stories. Between 2010 and 2011,
43 out of the 700 applications for divorce to Leyton’s sharia council cited
polygamy as the main reason.
Mufti Barkatulla and Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, the former director of the Muslim
Institute, devised a Muslim marriage contract – in effect, a religiously
sanctioned prenup, to be signed at the time of the nikah, or religious ceremony
– that sought to address the imbalance in Muslim marriages, giving women equal
rights to divorce, allowing them to feel safe from rape or abuse, and preventing
husbands from taking a second wife. It also states that the nikah must happen in
conjunction with a civil ceremony, for extra protection.
He tells me the story of a woman whose husband “had agreed to a civil ceremony
but because dates and everything were not agreed the husband kept on delaying
it”. One day when she got home, she found a notice on the door: “Everything is
over. Collect your things from my sister’s house.” The woman told him that she
felt as though she had been “on trial” but eventually was discarded.
An estimated 70-75 per cent of Muslim marriages in the UK are not registered
under the Marriage Act, unlike Christian and Jewish marriages, which are
registered automatically. Mosques have the legal right to register to conduct
civil weddings, but only about one in ten have chosen to do so. A nikah or
Muslim marriage can be performed anywhere, even using proxies or on Skype. When
a marriage is not registered and the relationship breaks down, the unregistered
wife has no rights to spousal or child support and can even be left homeless,
denied her due share. In the event of the husband’s death, the registered wife
and her children will inherit and the unregistered wife and children will not.
If Muslim marriages are unregistered, and take place outside of the jurisdiction
of this country, there is no automatic recourse to justice through the British
courts. Instead, an aggrieved party must go to an unregulated sharia council for
mediation. The crossbencher Baroness (Caroline) Cox is concerned by this clash
between sharia and civil law. “There is now operating in this country a kind of
parallel quasi-legal system and that goes against the fundamental principle of
liberal democracy of one law for all.” Of polygamy, she says: “To have more than
one wife is not acceptable in the UK and people . . . must accept the laws of
the land they choose to live in.” In 2011, she introduced the Arbitration and
Mediation Services (Equality) Bill, which had its second reading in the House of
Lords last October and “would make it illegal for any person or contacts to be
established which would operate as a kind of alternative legal system. Anyone
purporting to operate in that way in a judicial capacity would actually be
committing a criminal offence that could [be punished with] a prison sentence
for this alternative legal system.” The bill will be re-tabled in the next
Khola Hasan of Leyton’s sharia council believes that forcing mosques to register
all nikahs, and thereby banning polygamy, will only make Muslims feel more
persecuted. “The Muslim community in Britain already feels victimised,” she
says, and it will inevitably force the practice underground, leaving women more
vulnerable. She argues that, rather than banning polygamy, which she views as a
“solution to many complex and difficult situations”, the practice should in fact
be recognised by British law.
According to the Singlemuslim.com poll, 61 per cent of Muslim men and 28 per
cent of Muslim women agree with Hasan that British law should be changed to
permit polygamy. “Britain is refusing to accept that polygamy takes place,” she
says. “It’s a reality and I think the British legal system is going to have to
open its eyes and accept that it’s a reality in Britain.
“Polygamy is not going to go away.”