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

A man ‘cannot do that to a woman’: Why polygamy in Canadian Muslim community could be another #MeToo moment

Good investigative reporting and alarming that some Canadian imams will perform marriage ceremonies with second wives:

Zaib’s life began to unravel with an unexpected phone call from her husband in early 2018.

He told her he had married a second wife, an announcement that took the Toronto woman by surprise.

“I went into shock mode. I was in a state of denial, saying no, no, this can’t be happening. I started getting the symptoms of anxiety, depression and crying spells,” Zaib told CBC’s The Fifth Estate.

Zaib, whose last name CBC has agreed to withhold, said she got so sick her doctor recommended an extended leave of absence from work.

Zaib and other Canadian Muslim women in a similar predicament believe this could be their own #MeToo moment, an opportunity to speak out and demand an end to the practice of polygamy in Canada’s Muslim community.

“All the other women are quiet, not saying anything. Maybe if I say a thing or two, that will bring attention to this issue because this is the law and men are breaking it right, left and centre and nobody’s saying anything to them,” said Zaib.

She feels there should be accountability on the part of men.

“A man should know he cannot do that to a woman — you use her and then decide you’re going to have another fresh woman and you just leave her on the side like that.”

Determination to move on

Zaib’s husband tried to reassure her that he had no intention of abandoning her or their three adult children. Zaib said he told her: “I am going to still provide for you, take care of you and the kids. You can continue living the way you’re living and it’s just going to be one extended family.”

As the weeks went by, Zaib said she became increasingly convinced that her 26-year marriage was over. She was 19 when her parents arranged her marriage to her husband, who is 20 years her senior.

Looking back at her marriage, Zaib said she was happy. “Whatever was my destiny I got it.”

Zaib was born in Pakistan and her husband was born in India, but after their marriage in Saudi Arabia, they moved to Canada in the mid-1990s.

Zaib, who speaks multiple languages, found work as a translator in Toronto. But as employment opportunities for her husband dried up in Canada, he went to the United States in search of work and was away from the family for weeks at a time.

After she spent two months trying to figure out what to do with her life, Zaib’s husband returned to Toronto for a scheduled visit.

Realizing that Zaib was unwilling to accept his decision, he suggested they seek the counsel of their local imam. Zaib said the imam listened to both of them, but then told her husband that although Islamic law allowed polygamy, plural marriages are banned in Canada.

CBC reached out to Zaib’s husband, who is not being named to protect his wife’s identity, but did not receive a response.

In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court upheld the section of the Criminal Code that prohibits polygamy as constitutional and ruled that the harm against women and children from polygamy far outweighs concerns over protecting religious freedom.

‘Unfair to women’

The Canadian Council of Imams, which represents the majority of imams in Canada, has declared that polygamous marriages, permitted according to the Qur’an, are nevertheless not valid because they are a violation of Canadian law.

The majority of Muslim jurists say a Muslim man is permitted to take up to four wives, but only if he can treat them all fairly and with justice.

In some Middle Eastern countries, polygamy is regulated and the second, third or fourth wife, has legal rights. But that’s not the case in Canada, says Imam Hamid Slimi of the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, Ont.

“The way polygamy is practised today is unfair to women,” Slimi said.

Imam Hamid Slimi of the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, Ont., has preached openly against the practice of polygamy in Canada. (CBC)

In a recent sermon at his centre, Slimi told his congregation that polygamy “was permitted for a certain time and within a certain context in the past, hundreds of years ago, but here in Canada, it’s not allowed and 95 or 99 per cent of women don’t agree with this and I am talking about Muslim women.”

Although Slimi was head of the Canadian Council of Imams for more than a decade and has preached openly against the practice of polygamy in Canada, he admits that it continues.

It continues in part because an imam is not required to solemnize a marriage in the Islamic faith. Anyone with a basic requisite knowledge of the Qur’an and the prophetic traditions can officiate a nikah — or marriage — ceremony.

But Slimi insists that all nikahs or marriages, whether conducted by an imam or not, should be registered with the authorities to ensure that they comply with the law.

Zaib’s not alone

Over the last several months, a team at the The Fifth Estate talked to nearly a dozen women from the Greater Toronto Area, which has an extremely diverse population of more than half a million Muslims.

According to Statistics Canada, there are more than one million Muslims in Canada, but when it comes to polygamous marriages in the community, it is impossible to quantify because these marriages are most likely never registered.

The women The Fifth Estate spoke with are or were wives of Sunni imams and prominent community leaders and all share a common story to that of Zaib.

“I thought this doesn’t happen in Canada. It’s illegal and maybe there are some consequences, but to my surprise, when I went into the situation, I have a friend, I spoke with her and found out she’s getting a divorce because her husband [has] a second wife,” said Zaib.

The first wives who shared their story with CBC did so on condition that their identities not be revealed to protect themselves and their children from a potential backlash within the Muslim community.

When we were married, my husband told me his religious teacher said it was permissible for a man to lie to his wife about taking a second wife if the intention is to keep her happy and to keep the peace. – Alima

After 18 years of marriage and three children, Alima, not her real name, demanded her husband grant her a divorce after he confessed last summer that he had done a nikah to another woman. At the time, Alima found out the second wife was pregnant with her husband’s child.

“When we were married,” Alima said, “my husband told me his religious teacher said it was permissible for a man to lie to his wife about taking a second wife if the intention is to keep her happy and to keep the peace.”

After their divorce, Alima said, “I had to work on keeping my faith, otherwise, I may have lost it completely.”

Another woman, Kareema, a friend of Alima, is also struggling to keep her faith having experienced a similar ordeal. Kareema, not her real name, converted to Islam and got married to her husband in Toronto in 2000. After giving birth to the youngest of three children in 2016, Kareema said, her husband began having an affair.

“A prominent imam in Toronto advised him to marry (nikah) the woman to avoid commiting the sin of adultery,” said Kareema. “Instead of correcting the wrong that my husband was doing, the imam compounded it with another wrong.”

Kareema said she confronted the second wife and when her husband found out, he assaulted her. “It took two years for me to leave him.”

Kareema said the #MeToo movement has awakened her and Alima and although they wish to speak up, they remain afraid for their safety and the security of their children.

According to court records obtained by the The Fifth Estate, another prominent Toronto imam attacked his wife and sent her to hospital after she confronted him on his “secret nikah” to another woman. After years of marriage and two children, her marriage to him recently ended in a divorce.

‘I see nothing wrong with it’

Issa is a convert to Islam and a chef in Toronto who says he is open to the idea of taking a second wife, although he is well aware it is an offence punishable in Canada with up to a maximum of five years in prison.

“I see nothing wrong with it. It’s part of our religion. That’s why I am open to it and I accept it.”

Issa, who asked to be identified by his Muslim name, said when he married his wife in an Islamic ceremony, they agreed not to register their marriage, a legal requirement in Canada.

Issa mistakenly believes that when he eventually takes a second wife he cannot be accused of breaking the law since none of his marriages would be registered with the authorities.

When asked what his wife thinks of his decision, he said, “My wife’s a woman, so you know, most of the times women don’t like it, but she accepts it. She understands that this is our religion. This is what Allah has allowed for us, so she definitely accepts it.”

Finding second wives

It is not that difficult for men like Issa to find second wives. Several Muslim matrimonial websites have sprung up worldwide catering to men seeking polygamous relationships and to women who are open to such arrangements.

A producer with The Fifth Estate registered himself on two websites and was soon communicating with women who were interested in being a second wife.

One of the women who expressed an interest in a polygamous marriage was Haleemah, a Toronto-area resident and a convert to Islam.

Haleemah is single and divorced with two adult children. She said she would accept a polygamous marriage but with conditions.

“I have had Muslims ask me in the past, ‘Would you like to be a second wife?’ and I would say if I was in a polygamist marriage and the first wife was accepting of this, I would welcome her and help her in any way I can because I’ve been through raising a family,” she said.

Asked whether the illegality of polygamy was a concern for her, she said while she was aware it was illegal, “in some situations, I think some imams are willing to help.”

Some imans known to help men find second wives

Many of the women who told The Fifth Estate their husbands had taken second wives pointed out a number of imams in Ontario who are known to assist Muslim women like Haleemah in finding husbands who are already married, and who help match men like Issa to aspiring second wives.

The Fifth Estate wanted to put the rumours that were circulating in Toronto about some imams to the test and sent a married Muslim man undercover.

Of the six imams who were approached, two declined to perform a nikah ceremony for a married man. Two congratulated the undercover for his decision to take a second wife and recommended other Ontario imams whom they said would perform the nikah.

Two imams agreed to perform the nikah ceremony for the married undercover. One said it would cost $450 and suggested three locations in Toronto where the ceremony could take place.

The second imam, Aly Hindy, serves as the imam at the Salaheddin mosque in the east end of Toronto. He charges a standard fee of $200 for a nikah ceremony, regardless of whether it is a first, second or third marriage. He offered to supply the two male witnesses required by Islamic law.

After showing the undercover a copy of the marriage certificate he would receive, Hindy provided his own interpretation of Canadian law.

“We have no problem with the government because we are not going to register. If you register, then it is illegal, because you are already married.”

‘Let them sue me’

In an interview with The Fifth Estate, CBC’s Habiba Nosheen showed Hindy the undercover video of him agreeing to conduct a second marriage for a man who was already married and asked him for his reaction.

“So? Sue me. Let them sue me. We follow the law because we’re not registering a second marriage,” he said.

When asked to explain why he endorses the practice of polygamy in violation of Canadian law, he insisted the law should be changed.

When pressed for an explanation, Hindy described it as a “garbage law,” and said “eventually we’re going to recognize that there’s not enough men for each woman.”

“Many women will not be able to get married because there are not enough men because men die in wars, children die early and there are more boys than girls. Plus you also lose some number of men to homosexual marriages.”

Nosheen suggested the law will not change because people chose not to respect it, to which Hindy said, “OK, the law cannot be enforced.”

Enforcing the law

Toronto lawyer Sabha Hazai, who sits on the board of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women,  is spearheading a project aimed at educating Muslim women on their legal rights when getting married. She said the current law lacks teeth.

“It’s up to the lawmakers and it’s up to the courts now. How do they want to address polygamy? Are they going to start looking at enforcing the law? Are there going to be criminal prosecutions?

“Are there going to be convictions? Can you call the police and say: ‘My husband’s in a second marriage, please charge him for it?’ ”

The law has never been tested in respect to the practice of polygamy among Canadian Muslims.

When asked for his reaction to imams who perform polygamous marriages, Slimi was unequivocal.

“What upsets me is if we want to be part of Canada and call ourselves Canadian Muslims, we have to be part of this society.”

Polygamy, he said, “was permissible and it’s permissible in other countries, but it’s illegal here. The issue is not because I have a choice, I don’t have a choice.”

For women like Zaib, there is no compromise on the issue of polygamy in Canada.

“I’m going to be living the rest of my life with a burden and I know myself, I thought the best way, just let him go live his life and I’ll figure out my own life.”

Source: A man ‘cannot do that to a woman’: Why polygamy in Canadian Muslim community could be another #MeToo moment

Polygamy should never be linked with religious freedom: Dueck

Good commentary by Lorna Dueck and how religious freedom is balanced against other rights and harm to vulnerable groups (women, children):

This matters to far more than a hidden-away community in southern British Columbia. Polygamy is actively practised across Canada by religious minorities. It’s not a private crime, but because of its hidden nature, we have little idea of the victimization of women and girls in polygamy. The fact that it takes escape or a hearing before a judge for us to find out the realities of polygamy should have us on alert to letting this crime pass under religious freedom accommodation.

The 2011 B.C. legal challenge that upheld Canada’s polygamy law put on record a scientific study led by University of British Columbia professor Joseph Henrich that detailed how polygamy increases sexual abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, higher infant and child mortality rates and intra-household conflict. It found polygamy decreased women’s rights because, in polygynous societies, women are seen as a commodity to be attained. The heartbreaking testimony of freedom lost under the lie of religion was summed up for me in an earlier interview I did with polygamy victim Irene Spencer.

“I looked around me and I had been threatened all my life that I would go directly to hell if I didn’t live polygamy and all of a sudden I woke up and realized that I already was in hell; they couldn’t send me any place any darker or further, I was in despair and hopelessness. And around me I saw many women that had nervous breakdowns. I have nine nieces and nephews and one first cousin that have committed suicide and when you see the despair and the heartache, and I myself succumbed to a nervous breakdown and reached the lowest point in my life…” Ms. Spencer said in that interview. Ms. Spencer went on to escape being one of nine wives and wrote her story in Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife. She passed away earlier this year, but not before following Canada’s debate on whether reasonable accommodation in the Canadian Constitution should be interpreted to allow religious people to hold more than one wife.

“It’s abuse when young girls are told who they have to marry and they marry men old enough to be their fathers or their grandfathers. And it’s abuse when mothers and daughters are married to the same man. And it’s abuse when these children have no education. They run the boys out of town so the older men can marry the younger women,” Ms. Spencer said.

If polygamy is an expression allowed because of the religious freedom we cherish, one has to ask, how can the social harm of polygamy be considered reasonably justified? The short answer is: It can’t. As part of religious freedom laws in Canada there are limits based on the notion of reasonable accommodation as it relates to public interest. Doing no harm to the vulnerable should always trump religious freedom. Normally I find myself fighting for religious freedom, but when freedoms start to hurt others, that’s when we reach for the greater good of love moving through law to protect those who need it most.

Source: Polygamy should never be linked with religious freedom – The Globe and Mail

U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear ‘Sister Wives’ polygamy appeal

Reality tv meets the justice system, but on a technicality:

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it won’t hear an appeal from the family on TV’s “Sister Wives” challenging Utah’s law banning polygamy.

The decision ends the family’s long legal fight to overturn a seldom used and unique provision of Utah’s law that the Browns and other polygamous families contend has a chilling effect by sending law-abiding plural families into hiding because of fear of prosecution.

The provision bars married people from living with a second purported “spiritual spouse” even if the man is legally married to just one woman, making it stricter than anti-bigamy laws in other states.

The reality TLC cable channel TV show follows the lives of Kody Brown, his four wives and all their children. When it debuted in 2010, it was considered ground-breaking by offering viewers a glimpse into how a plural family navigates the unique complexities of the arrangement.

Utah prosecutors say they generally leave polygamists alone but that they need the ban to pursue polygamists for other crimes such as underage marriage and sexual assault. Only 10 people were charged with violating the law between 2001 and 2011, prosecutors say.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office declined comment on the Supreme Court’s denial of the case, which the justices issued without comment.

The saga between the Browns and Utah officials began in September 2010 when the first episode aired of the TLC show, “Sister Wives.” A county prosecutor opened an investigation, leading the Browns to leave their longtime of Lehi, Utah, in 2011, to settle in Las Vegas where they still live today.

That same year, the Browns filed a lawsuit calling the opening of the investigation government abuse. The case was closed without filing any charges.

In 2013, the Browns scored a key legal victory when a federal judge in Utah ruled the law violated polygamists’ right to privacy and religious freedom.

But an appeals court in Denver decided last year that the Browns could not sue because they were not charged under the Utah law. It did not consider the constitutional issues. That ruling will now stand.

The Brown’s attorney, Jonathan Turley, said in a statement posted on his blog that he and the family are disappointed but not surprised because the high court is on a pace to hear less than 1 per cent of the 7,500 appeals it is likely to receive this term.

Turley emphasized that an appeals court ruling was not made based on the merits of the Browns’ assertion that Utah’s law violates their rights of speech and religion.

“Our victory in Salt Lake City will remain as a cautionary decision for legislators who wish to marginalize or sanction this community in the future,” Turley said. “It has been a long road for all of us and it is not the end of the road. Plural and unconventional families will continue to strive for equal status and treatment under the law.”

Kody Brown is legally married to Robyn Brown, but says he is “spiritually married” to three other women. They live together in a plural relationship and belong to a religious group that believes in polygamy as a core religious practice. Their show continues to air on TLC.

Source: U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear ‘Sister Wives’ polygamy appeal – Macleans.ca

Feds brace for backlash against new immigration rules (against polygamy, forced marriages)

Apart from the silly and pandering name (Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act), and whether in its application it will make much of a difference, or provide effective new powers, hard to disagree with the overall intent and principles behind the Bill.

After all, the case mentioned by Alexander, the Shafia murders (Shafia jury finds all guilty of 1st-degree murder), were successfully prosecuted under existing laws:

The bill would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, making permanent residents or temporary residents inadmissible if they practice polygamy in Canada.

The bill would also amend the Civil Marriage Act to ban marriage for anyone under the age of 16.

It also changes the Criminal Code to impose a maximum five-year prison term on anyone who “celebrates, aids or participates” in a marriage rite or ceremony knowing that one of the persons is being married against their will, or is not of legal age.

Alexander noted the case of an Afghan immigrant accused of stabbing his wife to death last year, apparently because he felt dishonoured by her independence.

He cited another case in which an Afghan-Canadian man, his second wife and their son were convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of his three teenaged daughters and his first wife — also because he felt they were bringing dishonour on the family by dating or dressing in ways he found offensive.

“Honour-based killings are nothing more than murders,” Alexander said.“We will be working through this bill to make sure that such killings are considered the murders that we know them to be. There is absolutely no room for ambiguity.”

But I don’t buy the argument that countries like the UAE are likely to protest. Most immigrants from the Gulf are guest workers, not citizens, and given their own restrictions and the bad publicity, unlikely to be an issue.

Better reporting on how these measures would be implemented and enforced would be more useful.

Feds brace for backlash against new immigration rules.

More substantive reporting here:

But some immigration lawyers are questioning the need for the new legislation, saying they are aware of few cases of polygamy among immigrants to Canada and don’t see early and forced marriage as a pervasive concern.

Immigration lawyer Joel Sandaluk said the polygamy portion of the bill was particularly puzzling because the practice is already illegal in Canada. He said the legislation seems to be aimed at individuals who were married in another country before arriving in Canada, but added that he believes their numbers are relatively few.

After practising immigration law in Canada for 15 years, he said he’s never come across the issue. “It’s just something that’s completely outside of my experience as an immigration lawyer,” he said.

Mr. Sandaluk said he also wasn’t aware of a particular concern with the ability to prosecute forced marriages, and pointed to the language of the announcement and the term “barbaric cultural practices” as evidence that the government is targeting a specific subset of the population.

“What the government I think is doing is sending a political message with this legislation,” he said. “And I think this is better considered posturing rather than policy.”

Experts question use of bill banning immigrants in polygamous marriages

How to immigrate to Canada if you’re a polygamist

While there is a policy rationale for the allowing people to “regularize” their marriage, and I can imagine the complex policy and legal discussions that led to this policy, I tend to be with Gillis on this.

… sharp eyes will notice a contradiction between these guidelines and longstanding immigration policy in Canada. Polygamy is considered a crime in Canada. Criminality is supposed to exclude you from eligibility for residency. As Kurland put it in an email to me this morning: “Who lets the CIC choose the sections of Canada’s Criminal Code to ignore?”

Evidently, the policy recognizes the legality of polygamy in some countries, such as Jordan, Iraq and Syria, allowing for people to adjust their living arrangements so they comply with Canadian law. Our flexibility is this regard is remarkable: children from marriages other than the applicant’s first, for instance, can come along as dependents to Canada, provided the other parent confirms they were not abducted.

Depending on your outlook, I guess this all makes us either sophisticated, cosmopolitan and nuanced—or credulous to a fault.

How to immigrate to Canada if you’re a polygamist – Canada, Charlie Gillis, News & Politics – Macleans.ca.