British Muslims reviving polygamy

The Australian - 26 September 2011 - From Rosemary Bennett

A GROWING number of young British Muslims are taking second or third wives in an unexpected revival of polygamy, according to religious leaders. The new wave of polygamy is revealed in a special report by the BBC Asian Network using findings from the Islamic Sharia Council.

The council, which provides legal advice and guidance to Muslims, said it was receiving an unprecedented number of inquiries about polygamous marriages.

Its most recent figures show that, for the first time, polygamy is now among the top ten reasons cited for divorce, as wives decide that they can no longer tolerate competing with one another.

Polygamy is illegal in Britain, but Muslim men can take a second, third or even a fourth wife under Sharia law in a religious ceremony known as the nikah.

These wives are not recognised by British law, but are considered legitimate within many Muslim communities. Khola Hasan, lecturer and adviser to the Islamic Sharia Council, said it was clear that polygamy among the younger generation was on the increase.

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"Out of 700 applications for divorce in 2010, 43 cited polygamy as the reason," she said.

Ms Hasan said her research uncovered three main reasons for the growth in polygamy. The first is the growing number of young Muslim men who want to practise a more orthodox and conservative form of the religion.

"Young men who have come into a more radical understanding of faith know it is illegal to marry more than once [under British law], but do it to spite the system," Ms Hasan said.

"These marriages have the lowest record of succeeding," she said.

The second and biggest group are men whose first marriage has failed. (...)