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Polygamy, that’s more a Mid East Islam thing

by Brad A. Greenberg

July 24, 2007 | 10:38 pm


I met Andrea Useem two years ago at the Religion Newswriters Association conference in Miami. (Disclosure: She is an official God Blog groupie). A Muslim living outside Washington, Useem has a Master’s in theology from Harvard Divinity and is an insightful freelance religion writer.

She has a good piece today on Slate.com about why American Muslims aren’t pushing to legalize polygamy—a practice that even in the States is more common than I would have expected.

So, you’re happily married to the Muslim man of your dreams when, suddenly, he drops the p-bomb: polygamy. For Aneesa Azeez, a 23-year-old Muslim convert and college graduate, her husband’s announcement of his intention to marry a second wife devastated her. “I am shocked, hurt, angry and confused, all in one,” she wrote in a letter to him.

Seems like a recipe for divorce, right? Polygamy is illegal, after all. But Azeez didn’t play that card with her husband, 15 years her senior. Under the law that mattered to her—classical Islamic law—she accepted her husband’s right to take up to four wives, as allowed by the Quran, as long as he could treat them equally. ...

Azeez, who works from her home in upstate New York as a newspaper copy editor, could be a poster child in the movement to legalize polygamy—the Muslim equivalent of the poignantly normal gay and lesbian couples lining up outside San Francisco’s City Hall in 2004. But she won’t be marching in the streets, calling for the legalization of polygamy, as some Protestant and ex-Mormon polygamists have been doing. For the tiny minority of American Muslims who engage in polygamy, its illegality is close to irrelevant. And for mainstream American Muslims, who are dealing with enough negative publicity as it is, let alone the fact that polygamy gives many of them the heebie-jeebies, the legal status quo suits them just fine.


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