HASSAN: Polygamy harms Muslim women and Canada should not tolerate it

More on polygamy following the CBC investigation (A man ‘cannot do that to a woman’: Why polygamy in Canadian Muslim community could be another #MeToo moment):

Will Canadian Muslim women soon have their own #MeToo movement?

A headline for a CBC Fifth Estate online story reads: “A man cannot do that to a woman: why polygamy in Canadian Muslim community could be another #MeToo moment.” The story involved a woman called Zaib, whose last name was withheld for her own safety.

Many of the left-wing activists within #MeToo who point to alleged harassment from years ago now display little interest in the woes of Muslim women marginalized in their own communities. But the soul-destroying practice of polygamy must nonetheless be brought into the open in the hopes that someone of influence cares enough to do something about it.

Zaib said she “went into shock mode” when her husband broke the news that he had taken a second wife.

“I started getting the symptoms of anxiety, depression and crying spells” she told the CBC’s Fifth Estate. Her husband offered the pathetic consolation that he had no intention of abandoning her or their three children and would continue to provide for her.

She was so depressed she had to take time off work. She believes that other Muslim women face similar predicaments, but stay quiet, and that if they also spoke out, something might be done to help eliminate polygamy in Canada. She believes the law should insist that a man can never do such a thing to a woman.

Polygamy is a sensitive topic in Islam, an issue on which the sacred word most clearly conflicts with modernity.

The Islamic provision is to treat all wives with respect and equality and if a husband can’t ensure that, then only take one wife. However, conditions for equality, respect and dignity all become meaningless in an institution that is inherently unjust, disrespects women and creates unfair dominance by males.

The very fact that a man seeks another wife shows disrespect from the outset. It tells her she alone is not good enough for him. Any suggestion that such a system can ever deliver marital equality is clearly absurd.

That is why some scholars of the Quran suggest polygamy is in effect not allowed. Others see such interpretations as convenient modern manipulations of ancient mores and practices. Who can deny the written word of the Quran? Hence the continuation of the practice of polygamy.

Some Muslim men have contracted polygamous unions outside Canada. In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that polygamy is unconstitutional and reasonably decided that the damage polygamy does to both women and children is more important than maintaining religious and cultural freedom. An enlightened judgment.

Even Imam Hamid Slimi of Toronto, who by all standards would be considered mainstream Muslim, told CBC that “the way polygamy is practiced today is unfair to women.”

That is progress, but it’s still too conciliatory, because polygamy must never be deemed an acceptable practice. The social circumstances that occasioned the Islamic provision for polygamy in the seventh century have been irrelevant for a millennium.

Canada needs to do more to monitor cases of polygamous unions that occur even here under the immigration guise of “other relationships.”

Remember the Shafia family? The first of the two wives was brought in as an aunt of the children.

Of course, Canadian law cannot stop men from remarrying abroad, but on home soil it must treat such unions as illegal, profoundly hurtful and utterly disrespectful to women.

Canada cannot tolerate this.

Source: HASSAN: Polygamy harms Muslim women and Canada should not tolerate it

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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