Westerners welcome harems

The Washington Times | Daniel Pipes | Dec. 7, 2008

A Scottish judge recently bent the law to benefit a polygamous household.

The case involved a Muslim male who drove 64 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone – usually grounds for an automatic loss of one’s driving license. The defendant’s lawyer explained his client’s need to speed: “He has one wife in Motherwell and another in Glasgow and sleeps with one one night and stays with the other the next on an alternate basis. Without his driving license he would be unable to do this on a regular basis.” 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 polygyny (one man married to more than one woman). Estimates find 2,000 or more British polygamous men, 14,000-20,000 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 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 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. (For fuller details, see my blog, “Harems Accepted in the West.”) 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.

— 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 pounds ($140) a week in social benefits, and each multiculturally named “additional spouse” receives 33.65 pounds. The Treasury states. “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: 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.

. . . more

Comments

  1. I find it interesting that polygamy is almost always defended on religious grounds. In Great Britain, it’s the Muslims. In America, it’s the old-school Mormons. Personally, I think the mainstream LDS only jettisoned the practice out of necessity and that they reworked their theology accordingly. I also find it interesting that polygamy almost always involves one man and multiple women. We men are such chauvinists, aren’t we?

    While I couldn’t imagine having more than one spouse, I’m not sure I could find a good legal reason why it should be denied unless coercion was involved. In fact, it would seem that if we claim to respect freedom of religion, we should permit it for those who believe it’s necessary for obtaining salvation or whatever.

    Still … what a mess. Can you imagine having to buy five anniversary rings?

  2. James K: You ask what legal reason exists to ban polygamy. But you allude to one answer to your own question in the first paragraph when you write:

    I also find it interesting that polygamy almost always involves one man and multiple women. We men are such chauvinists, aren’t we?

    You allude to the possibility that polygamy may work to the disadvantage of women. How about other reasons, like polygamy, where practiced, can lead to a shortage of unmarried women for young men who are ready to marry. This often results in young men being isolated from the community. Also, where practiced, it is common to see old men marrying very young women, or even girls.

    Yes, banning polygamy for these reasons would be justified on nothing more than a system of morality. Of course, all laws are based on value judgments. If you try to isolate morality from law, you will have no more reason to ban bestiality than you will to ban polygamy.

  3. thinking mom says:

    Quote from above “…Also, where practiced, it is common to see old men marrying very young women, or even girls.”

    And in a polygamous sect recently raided in the United States, the old men commonly drove off the young men [also noted by D. George above] so they could marry girls who could easily be their daughters—even grand daughters!!!

    As a woman, I can’t imagine sharing my husband with anyone else. What a sad day for women!!! Surely, we have here the decline of womens’ rights also!

  4. James K

    D. George and thinking mom do an able job summarizing the negative societal consequences of polygamy.

    It was hard-won wisdom that led societies to discourage things like homosexuality and polygamy. Much mischief comes from intellectuals who might have talent in some narrow area and therefore believe that they are competant to rearrange societal mores. But just as no one is smart enough to plan how an ecomony should operate,no one is smart enough to understand the subtleties of human psychology and the effects they create when magnified by the actions of millions of people. Thomas Sowell has written compellingly about this.

    Most intellectuals could not foresee the devastation caused by the rise of the fatherless black family. But common sense born of wisdom could. No doubt intellectuals can’t see problems with gay marriage or polygamy either, but common people with common sense do.

  5. D George writes: “where [polygamy is] practiced, it is common to see old men marrying very young women”

    We have that problem now, anyhow. His name’s Donald Trump.

    Seriously, I don’t want to waste too much time appearing to defend a practice I don’t agree with or have any personal interest in, but I think we need to clarify a few things about theoretically allowing polygamy:

    a) one can allow polygamy while still retaining a minimum age for the participants (such as 18).
    b) the “playing field” for singles is going to be competitive whether polygamy is permitted or not. Some people are just not going to find spouses, no matter how big the pool is. I also know plenty of young, attractive people who seem to be unable to find enduring relationships. Part of the problem is the nature of our culture with its high expectations for people in too many aspects of life, whether it’s career, personal appearance or whatever, coupled with the difficulty in working out a life and career for oneself.
    c) The dynamics of a multi-parent family are vastly different than a single-parent one. In fact, one of the biggest negative aspects of the polygamous family is not the lack of discipline but its excess, perhaps due to the religious fundamentalist beliefs of the parents.

    However, you are correct in one sense. Polygamy as practiced almost always seems to involve predatory, controlling behavior on the part of the men. It’s not that adults couldn’t live in a harmonious polygamous household if they so attempted to, it’s just that in most of the cases reported (and the ones I have read), it seems to involve psychological (and occasionally physical) abuse.

    Perhaps these are sufficient reasons, at least for the time being, to keep the practice banned and re-assess in the future should contrary evidence be presented to allow the practice.

  6. Christopher says:

    So this guy had TWO lawns to mow, and TWO women telling him to do it?? That’s nuts.

  7. James K, you seem to have come around:

    “Perhaps these are sufficient reasons, at least for the time being, to keep the practice banned and re-assess in the future should contrary evidence be presented to allow the practice.”

    Yes. Now please note that these reasons are all moral reasons. But, I thought you had a problem with legislating for reasons other than “legal reasons,” as mentioned in the first post. This is my whole point. All law is based on moral reasoning. There is no such thing as a “legal reason” in isolation from an opinion of what is right and what is wrong.

    A couple of other thoughts:

    “We have that problem now, anyhow. His name’s Donald Trump.”

    Yes, but this is the exception, not the rule. Just because this happens rarely in the current system, doesn’t mean that it becomes an invalid reason to legislate against polygamy.

    “b) the ‘playing field’ for singles is going to be competitive whether polygamy is permitted or not.”

    This and the immediately following details are true enough, and I believe they are symptoms of societal breakdown. But just imagine how much more difficult it would be if polygamy were practiced in any significant sense.