Friday, June 01, 2012

Polygamy in British Muslim Community "Rife"

According to this BBC article, polygamy is far more prevalent in Britain than most Muslims over there are willing to admit. Dr. Zabina Shahian, a 40-something GP, was "devastated" after she discovered (through detective work) that her husband still had a wife and three kids in Pakistan. She's now doing her best to help other Brit Muslim women who are dealing with the same issue, though many in the community are not looking kindly upon her efforts.

"When I go down to my parents I get all the neighbours looking at me.

"As a Muslim woman I'm supposed to keep a low profile. I feel like I've committed a crime here although I'm the victim.

"You're supposed to keep your mouth shut and you're supposed to just carry on. It is impregnated into our culture."

Her 54-year-old husband, former conservative party politician Pervez Choudhry, claimed that he had no clue his Pakistani marriage would be valid in England. It's doubtful that an educated man would have no idea that if you don't divorce your spouse you are still legally bound to that person regardless of where you wind up living.

Though most women don't have the means to do anything about a suspected bigamist husband, Shahian did. She hired a detective and spent two years and a bundle of money to track down information on Choudhry's second family. They discovered that his first wife was the result of an "arranged" marriage in 1986.

Her case against Choudhry, however, is not the norm, since polygamy in the UK usually goes unpunished.

This is because they are able to avoid having their second or third marriages registered in the UK by having a Nikah ceremony instead - an Islamic non-registered marriage contract not recognised under British law.

For a Nikah wedding to be recognised in the UK, the marriage needs to have an accompanying civil ceremony.

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, director of think tank The Muslim Institute, said men could exploit the "cruel loophole" of the Nikah, allowing them to have more than one wife under Islamic law but not having to register the marriage in the UK, which means the woman would have no spousal rights if the marriage were to fail.

"They dump their first wife and simply go to Pakistan, Bangladesh or wherever and marry again," he said.

Leading family solicitor Annemarie Hutchinson, who represents Muslim women, said no official statistics were available but that Dr Shahian joined thousands of Muslim women in the UK who were victims of polygamous marriages.

"There are lots and lots of second marriages and second wives - it's rife."

But in cases where prosecution would be possible, she said there would be no case "unless the first or second wife pushes for it".

"It's bigamy but the police won't prosecute because there would be thousands of cases," she said.

Siddiqui says that polygamy

" so widely spread they don't blame men having a second wife or a third or fourth wife. They accept this is their lot."

It's hard to believe that it's so prevalent in a Western, non-Muslim country- then again, we are talking about Britain that does allow Shariah law.

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