You are on page 1of 14

Religions in Global Politics

The Political Legitimacy of Polygamy: Cultural Feminism & 21st Century Islam

Religions in Global Politics

Introduction

The Idea of what constitutes a legal marriage is an idea, which has been called into question by political leaders in the most recent years1, and remains politically relevant today. With recent developments in the 21st century, such as the coming into force of legislation purporting Human Rights, legal systems globally have had to adapt and accustom their systems in accordance with the developments of a modern society. Furthermore, with the legality of the marriage between same-sex couples currently emerging within the UKs governance, it is plausible to ask where does, and should the legitimacy of other minority forms of marriage, i.e. Polygamy stand on a global scale?

This literary and socio-political commentary calls to challenge the view that orthodox practices are inconsequential to the political landscape by evidencing how politically linked they are within the context of Religious Movements. Polygamy is made politically relevant due to the fact that its heart often lies at the centre of the Islamic revival. It evidences a largely ignored dimension of the mass autonomous engagement in the pursuit of demure piety. I wish to evidence how polygamy cannot be solely reduced to issues of Islam and its deemed turbulent relationship with gender, by revealing its multifaceted picture2 that is how it is intersected with identity politics informed by postcoloniality, modernityand globalisation.3 Many Muslims in the 21st century today have toyed with the provocative idea of Reformism4, revealing how modernity does not require one singular type of identity, by dewesternising through participation of fundamentalist practices such as Polygamy. Polygamy is also Socio-political because of its conflicting relationship with feminism as depicted by western-dominant literature. But when the two concepts are assimilated through the portrayal of polygamy as a feministic venture, by recuperating the lost5 narratives of educated 21st century Muslim women who are often written out of hegemonic feminist narratives6 with their autonomous adherence to the patriarchal norms at the core of such movements, key assumptions within feminist theory about freedom, agency, and authority are parochialised. However, the proposal of the existence of cultural feministic solidarity, in place of mutual exclusivity, finds the tensions between the once contrasting ideologies, appear to ease.

I will also reveal how it is this very in depth analysis, free from a schemata of any hegemonic literary, that problematises the Western Huntington Thought, and other predominant reading of religion in international relations as the ultimate threat to international order, by negating the negative notions concerning Islam itself. Opening up the doctrines of Islam to reveal its permeability and adaptive spirit.

The Guardian. MPs vote in favour of gay marriage. Available from, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2013/feb/05/gaymarriage-debate-politics-live-blog [Accessed 5th February 2013]
2

S. V. Wichelen, (2009) 'Polygamy Talk and the Politics of Feminism: Contestations over Masculinity in a New Muslim Indonesia' , Journal of International Women's Studies, 11(1), pp. 173-187. 3 Ibid. 4 S. Huntington, (1996) The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order, London, Simon & Schuster, ch 3. 5 S. Mahmood, (2005) Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and The Feminist Subject, Princeton University Press, pg 154 6 Ibid.

Religions in Global Politics In doing this I hope to initiate a discussion on the existence and nature of polygamy in the new millennium, and provoke thought on behalf of this critique, for the plausible implications for future foreign policy which encourage the West to be alive to the many jurisprudences and movements, because proper reading into Islamic Law subordinates secularliberal ideologies by highlighting the existence of a women-centric reading into Islam, and the provocation for the legitimacy of a women-centric application of polygamy law. Furthermore, through this application the role of women in society is accentuated because they are most critical in the reform, and for the facilitation of advocacy of womens rights in general. Finally, in writing this commentary I wish to indicate that the existence of Islam in the 21st century is not so oxymoronic, and hope that this thought may offer reparations to the turbulent relationship between Islam and the West.

A limited case against Polygamy: Western Ideology

The term Polygamy relates to the practice of a man having more than one wife. In many African countries, polygamy is held deeply under customary laws that predate European colonialism and Christian missionaries7, which has lead many western scholars to damn the practice of it as barbaric and primitive. Stating that the practisers of polygamous ways, even in biblical texts always resulted in catastrophic endings, with the shamed portrayal of King Solomon being one example, (1 Kings 11:1-6). However this argument is limited since it fails to appreciate the way in which polygamy was practiced here, was against God, (Leviticus 19:29, Do not degrade your daughter). In the Middle East and most Muslim countries, Polygamy is legal and is practiced under the Islamic law which allows for a man to marry up to four wives under the condition that he can provide for all four of them fairly and equally, (Quran 4:3)8. Others have classed polygamy synonymous with other crimes and evils of the state:- child brides, welfare fraud, subjugation, incest, isolation and deprivation, however again it must be noted that any oppression occurring in any marriage under Islam is contrary to its laws, and these are the kinds of illegality an objective evaluation of the system of polygamy would seek to address, preventing and protecting women against all forms of polygamy abuse. Furthermore, the main undesirable consequence of women engaging in polygamous marriages abroad within polygamous nations has been noted to be illiteracy, which is often detrimental for the womans future, with her security dependent on her husbands favour towards her. This is why the aim of educating the western world on structures of polygamy is so dear, as enlightenment would mean the west could offer assistance in the form of recognition of polygamous structures, even if only in the form of customary laws, so that educated women who make the decision to enter into a polygamous marriage in the 21st century can co-exist in society, autonomously pious with protection from the law of their state, in

A.K. Wing, (2001) Polygamy from Southern Africa to Black Britannia to Black America: Global Critical Race Feminism as Legal Reform for the Twenty-first Century Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues (11), pp. 811
8

The Qur'an (2002), Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation, Asir Media

Religions in Global Politics the stance of oppression, but also that the west could socially progress since the extension of womens rights is the basic principle of9 progression.

The western thought against polygamy often rides on the backbone of western feminist literature which condemns the practice as wrongful oppressive actions occurring under the smoke screen of religious freedom10, however this view is very limited, since it largely ignores the dimension of the Islamic revival whereby autonomous engagement in the pursuit of demure piety is the motive for many women in the 21st century to practice some fundamental practices. A refusal to accept religious or even cultural reasonings for entering into polygamous marriage is undesirable, as an all or nothing approach alienates and is unhelpful for women who choose the route and then are subsequently in need of protection. The West must tread carefully in negating the practice because many women may feel they have to deny their right to religious freedom, because of the nature in which it is received, before their constitutional rights can be respected. If the dominant western thought against polygamy is continued to be accepted, ignorant of knowledge nor understanding of the practice, and womens reasons for entering into it, there will also be little room for the advocacy for the rights of Muslim women in the 21st century who embark on the route. It is important not make the mistake of Huntington and gloss over intricacies 11, of great significance.

The Hypocrisy of the West

With a considerable amount of the arguments against Polygamy evident amongst Western dominant literature, damning it an oppressive practice, it is then hypocritical that western ideology can be found to exacerbate the struggle of the Muslim Feminist in the 21st century through the emphasis that some fundamental practices Muslims engage in, are mutually exclusive with the idea of feminism. The Muslim Feminist of the 21st century can be seen to struggle at the hands of western ideology in two ways; firstly, due to the dominating nature of feminist terminology. Feminist literature often classes the practice of polygamy as a form of subordination, so the Muslim feminist would have to ask herself if she was first and foremost concerned with her religion before her gender, a Muslim before she was a Woman, whether religious discrimination through the unacceptance of polygamy, was more pressing to her, than gender discrimination, and inability to be accepted as a feminist, because the implications are great. For it is a decision of either alienating Muslim practices, including her Muslim brothers if she is first and foremost a Feminist, with wishes to be accepted in the modern world, or alienating westernised females, if she is are first and foremost a Muslim who willingly enters into a polygamous relationship. Moreover, considering the domineering influence feminist jargon has had on literature, she may even find herself

Polygamy Stop. Campaign Against Polygamy And Women Oppression International. Available from, http://www.polygamystop.org/faq.html [Accessed 29th April 2013] 10 Religious Tolerance. U.S. laws and Senate hearings on polygamy, Available from, http://www.religioustolerance.org/polylaw.htm [Accessed 26th February 2013] 11 S. Huntington, OpCit.
9

Religions in Global Politics alienating her family members who were opposed to stringent forms of religious devotion due to their wishes to adhere to modernity and feel like a liberated westerner.12 The West, through the refusal to engage with such movements classing them as either subaltern feminists orfundamental others13, exacerbates the already existent struggle for Muslim women to advocate for reforming polygamous laws. Furthermore, the proposal of a solution that eradicates Islam, in stressing that secularism through the rejection of polygamy, is the only way to right these inequities14, is undesirable and has been responsible for the increased the miscommunication between the two groups for a long time.15

The second struggle included the struggle to co-exist after migrating to the west, due to the unhelpful nature of the jurisprudence. When Muslims move to Non-Muslim states their situations become more strained, by legislation criminalising their conduct rather than facilitating for a legitimate way for its existence to operate. Ideally, Polygamy should become easier to practice on western foreign soil, which has been hailed as more civilised and rights-aware. However in reality the situation can become more strained as the female looks to the judicial system of the host state to support her in her modern-polygamous life, however the legal system doesnt recognise her laws. Ideally the legal system of the west should aim to help her maintain financial independence, to allow her to utilise contraception for family planning, and to permit her to pursue an education. The French government have been helpful in this aspect by encouraging literacy in that the wife who was most educated, and fluent in French, would normally receive the monthly social security pension for the family16, however other western governments have done little more to provide assistance for independence. Azizah al-Hibri understood the dilemma of expatriates from Muslim countries, who migrated to the west, who would struggle for identity feeling they owed something to their origins, whilst also wanting to introduce progress into their society, while at the same time protecting their deep-seated spiritual beliefs and cultural identities."17

Subordination of Poststructuralist debates: Polygamy and Feminism can coincide?

In pursuance of the legitimacy of Polygamy, one may come across the barrier of the opposing, dominant, negative thought of the west that Polygamy is an uncivilised practice limited to a patriarchal ideology which objectifies women18 and subjects them to a masculinist system of representation, reducing their human rights, and therefore cannot coincide with feminism. However through in depth analysis and appreciation of womens narratives one can challenge the distance between the practice of polygamy and feminism, as many motives, appeared to be feministic in nature. In

12 13

Ibid. S. Mahmood, OpCit. pg 154 14 M. Alexandre pg 13 15 Ibid. 16 M. Alexandre, OpCit. pg 8 17 Azizah Y. al-Hibri, Islam, Law and Custom: Redefining Muslim Women's Rights 12 Am. U. J. Int'l L. & Pol'y 1, 1-2 (1997) [hereinafter al-Hibri, Islam, Law and Custom]. 18 S. Bordo, (1993) Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body, The University of California, pg 28

Religions in Global Politics detailing a few, I wish to unsettle the key assumptions at the center of secular-liberal ideologies which such movements are often held account to.

Firstly, when feminists chose examples to oppose polygamy, they largely ignored the stories of the Islamic revival which involved autonomous choices to engage with polygamy, like that of the young educated women pursuing University educations in Turkey, who chose to adopt seemingly fundamentalist Islamist traditions19, showing polygamy was not just forced upon women of ignorant and barbarous nations. For many Islamic women the desire for autonomy and equal rights is often coexistent with their commitment to Islam. The aforementioned traditional feminist view assumes that all Muslim women would be willing to rid themselves of Islam once they are exposed to secular ethics20, however as Hedley Bull noted, many young Muslims who are even western nationals, often choose radical Islam traditions as a defence mechanism to western liberation, for fear of annihilation of their long standing traditions.21

Another aspect, which appeared feminist-like was the controlling motives of women opting for polygamy to utilise the available protection of women. From the Quran we see that Quarama"22, a man's guardianship of women arises out of an obligation to take care of them, and they are expected to use their resources to support women. Malcolm X, a reformed Muslim, reinforced this in his speech during the period of segregation in America where black women need the protection of men most, where he stated Allah says: Men are the protectors and maintainers of women23, and it is very well that Muslim women take pride in that. Perhaps a way the west could understand this notion could be through the analogy to chivalry. Coming from a family who grew up amongst the Hausa (Muslim) Tribe in Nigeria, my mother advised me on occasions that she believed some of the best marriages to be arranged into in Nigeria are the HausaMuslim marriages, because although the non-Hausa males in the village who tended to come from poorer backgrounds didnt practice polygamy. This was seen as a sign that they lacked the resources to look after, and adorn their wives. Alhaji (Name given to Great Hausa Husbands who have pilgrimed to Mecca) needed to be very rich, to ensure the beautification of their wives, and have a strong ethos of protection over her as a wife was seen as a reflection of the capabilities of a Man. Which can be assimilated with the Idea of Chivalry, Western Women may relate to, According to Justice Aftab Hussain, who proclaimed, "Islam placed the woman on a high pedestal. This thought almost acts as a subversion of the social order24 predominantly known to feminist theory, as the omnisexual Muslim woman utilises and fashions the male as a tent-pole man25 to fund the needs and desires of her and her fellow women, and opting to utilise this in the form of a polygamous structure shouldnt deny one from attributing to themselves the title of a Feminist in the 21st century. As there is also an autonomous decision that takes place on the part of the female, in choosing to be involved in the chivalrous action of Polygamy here, which means it cannot be attributed to benevolent sexism26 as most radical outdated Feminists would believe. Moreover, in this context, an assessment of the value of
19 20

N. Gole, (1996)The Forbidden Modern: Civilization and Veiling, University of Michigan Press, pg 176 M. Alexandre, OpCit. pg 13 21 H. Bull, (1984) The Revolt Against the West, The Expansion of International Society, Oxford, pp. 214-228. 22 The Qur'an, OpCit. (Q.4:34) 23 Malcolm X Advice to (Muslim) Women. Available from, http://en.islamtoday.net/artshow-264-3151.htm [Accessed 21st February 2013] 24 F.A. Sabbah, (1984), Woman in the Muslim Unconscious, Pergamon Press, pg 34 25 Ibid. pg 44 26 The Telegraph. Chivalry is actually 'benevolent sexism', feminists conclude, Available from,

Religions in Global Politics monogamy compared to polygamy is irrelevant, as western negativity attributed to Polygamy on that basis is virtually ethnocentric. But even if the comparison took place, it highly unlikely polygamy would have anything to learn from the 40 percent higher divorce rate of monogamous marriages27, and with the Western culture's inundation of choice devaluing relationships based on lifetime commitments28, even though polygamy is not legal in the west, de facto forms of polygamy virtually exist29, in the forms of repeated divorce and remarriagetantamount to polygamy in phases.30

Polygamy was also tool used by women who needed camaraderie in poverty stricken areas, firstly, in order to gain economical stability, because polygamy allows for the creation of a large number of workers that make familial duties more efficient and economical, and allows for the remarriage of widows31, for whom, prior to Islam would have been taken as property with the inheritance left by the deceased. For when Muhammad created the laws he was concerned with insuring that women were not abandoned to poverty and wanted to remedy the situation.32 Secondly, the camaraderie shared in the form of deep bonds33 within polygamous structures, sustained the women in Kabul, Afghanistan, in their repression during rise of the Taliban.

In conclusion the narratives of Muslim womens views on Polygamy reveal there is much more behind their reasoning to engage with it, and it does not necessarily equate with a diminishment of their rights and privileges. It is evident Cultural Feminism canserve as a good paradigm for understanding the motivations, realities, and desires of women living in polygamous unions34, and negating the argument that Polygamy reveals the oppressive nature of Islam, and diminishes female liberation, since contexts of narratives have revealed the existence of educated women opting for polygamy, and logical decision-making. The real question, if any should be - in the wake of Islamic reform movements how do we ensure the law protects them?

The Spirit of Islam: a new lense for the West.

In challenging the negative reasoning attributed to female motives in engaging with fundamental islamist practices, I also hope to go further in challenging the negative notions concerning Islam itself that tarnish the beauty behind many Muslim practices, and are relevant and crucial to the current state of the relationship between the Middle East and The West.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/8575363/Chivalry-is-actually-benevolent-sexism-feminists-conclude.html [Accessed 15th March 2013] 27 O. Akamnonu, (2010) The Trial of Monogamy: Phased Polygamy In God's Own Country, Xlibris, Corp. Publisher, pg 13 28 B. Schwartz, (2005) The Paradox of Choice: Why less is more, HarperCollins Publisher 29 A.K. Wing, OpCit. 30 O. Akamnonu, OpCit. pg 15 31 World Focus. Is polygamy good for women? Available from, http://worldfocus.org/blog/2009/11/02/is-polygamy-good-forth women/8100/ [Accessed 9 March 2013] 32 Abdulah Ahmed An-Na'im, (1990) Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights and International Law 21 Syracuse University Press, pp. 19-20 33 K. Hosseini, (2007) A Thousand Splendid Suns, ATSS Publications, pg 416 34 M. Alexandre, OpCit. pg 2

Religions in Global Politics Opening doors into spaces of beauty within Islamic piety indeed shatters many stereotypes that dominate the thinking of the west. The Feminist point of view denied women of female experience. Through the example of the feature of Haya - Shyness or Modesty of women in Islam, the Muslim female makes an autonomous decision to persevere with internal motives in bringing about this shyness through the wearing of the Burkha, which challenges the familiar ways in which liberal and poststructuralist feminist debates conceptualise subordination and change, believing that a woman was Shy, and needed to be liberated, which is why she wore a Burkha. Thus, feminist scholarship negated and distorted a womens own experience of their corporeality and subjectivity35, and ignored other modalities of agency whose meaning and effect are not captured within the logic of subversion and resignification of hegemonic terms of discourse.36 There are often complex webs of meanings attributed to practices37which feminist theory is completely ignorant of, hence the danger of feminist scholarships large domain. Many times in history, the portrayal western feminist theory has attributed to scenarios have been extremely limiting, for example though feminist assumption led to the heralding of the abolishment of the widow burning in colonial India38 as a key step forward for the emancipation of women in India, thorough analysis of the practice revealed that the women who were burned were marginal to the debate and that the controversy was actually over definitions of Hindu tradition, the place of ritual in religious worship, and the civilizing missions of colonialism and evangelism, and the proper role of the colonial state.39

Challenging the normative liberal account of politics by redressing the profound inability within current feminist political thought to envision valuable forms of human flourishing outside the bounds of a liberal progressive imaginary40, which purports negativity upon Islam is important, since the dangers of internalising these political imaginaries is dire, both to intellectual progression, and to the social progression of the relationship between the Middle East and the West.

The role of Islamic Jurisprudence in the formulation of reform proposals

The common denominator to be found at the heart of this essay is that there exist a want, a need, and a choice for polygamy, and in the wake of Islamic reform movements how do we ensure the legal systems respect and protect these women? In order to construct an Islamic law reform that takes into account the constitutional rights of all its citizens, the rigid application of texts must give way to understanding the circumstances that generated these texts and a development of systems that are more suited to the circumstances of the current times, by addressing the great disparity between the ideals set by the Prophet Muhammad, and the actual application of polygamy, and heeding the possibility of a womencentric application of polygamy law.

35 36

S. Mahmood, OpCit. pg 158 Ibid. pg 153 37 N. Gole OpCit. pg 176 38 L. Mani, (1998) Contentious Traditions: The Debate on "Sati" in Colonial India, University of California Press 39 ibid. 40 S. Mahmood, OpCit. pg 155

Religions in Global Politics Islamic law is not far from having the ability to be merged with the 21st century. Equal rights for women and the Islamic faith are not necessarily mutually exclusive if the allocation of rights is based on the spirit of Islam.41 Islam is not as alien to the rights of women as often unquestionably accepted. However, in order to show this, Islamic law must be reconciled with the spirit of Islam through reinforcement of the proper reading into Islam texts. For example, The jurisprudential rule that each Islamic verse should be read in relation to the others is instrumental, because those in opposition of polygamy have stipulated there exists contradictions in the Quran that negate its doctrines. While on the one hand, verse Q.4:3 seems to present polygamy as being conditioned on one's ability to establish justice among cowives, on the other hand, Q.4:129 states: "you will never be able to be fair and just between women (co-*20 wives), even if it is your ardent desire."42 However, if these texts had been read in relation to Q.4:129 which continues on to say: "But do not turn away completely [from one of your wives] so as to leave her [as it were] hanging in the air. God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful43, the reader would have realised Muhammad was challenging Islamic society to at least evaluate the system objectively. Thus, we see that this verse is more of an acceptance of man's weakness and a recommendation that he do his best to look after his wives, rather than a condemnation of the system of polygamy.

In addressing fears that a reform would bring a loss of legitimacy of Islamic law, without departing from the foundations of Islam one can use techniques such as reasoning by analogy (Qiyas) and applying the use of judgment (Ijtihdad) to insure the protection of women and advance the goal of equality espoused in the Qur'an.

Furthermore, within Islamic law concern for women is always paramount, as the Quran often advised alternatives for polygamy stating, "and if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if your fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one."44 The laws within Islam even empower women through training in dawa (which is being taught at institutions in the west, and which has begun to be popular amongst 21st century Islamist thinkers), which provides women with the substantial authority from which to speak and challenge her husband on issues of proper Islamic conduct. Economical protection is also facilitated for too, since the Qur'an also requires that a woman's income may only be used by her.45

Fair analysis of Islamic law evidences that the oppressive looking application of Sharia law is but an application not the law, and that the ambivalence stems from the invalid patriarchal interpretations of Islam. Application of the law became deviated from the spirit of change and progress which Islam was initially built upon. There is a great need to educate the West on true Islamic jurisprudence whilst simultaneously expelling invalid patriarchal interpretations to help Muslim Feminists have legitimacy in the identities they so wish to attribute to themselves, and they so rightly should. Some countries have refused to accept this plausibility for reform, with Tunisia and Morocco using Ijtihad to abolish polygamy. However, it would be desirable for the UK or the US to set an example of their understandings of the

41 42

M. Alexandre, OpCit. pg 2 The Quran, OpCit. 43 Ibid. 44 Ibid. 45 Azizah Y. al-Hibri, OpCit.

Religions in Global Politics beauties within Islam, and refute the irrefutable presumption that the essential condition for polygamy was incapable of fulfilment46, which may also produce desirable effects of repairing the relationship between the west and the rest of the world. Pakistan has found ways to ensure it stays aware of the happenings of polygamy with the Muslim Family Law Ordinance Act 1961 requiring a man who desires a second marriage, while already married, to obtain the written permission of an arbitration council and possibly the consent of the existing wife as well. While past reform efforts are noteworthy, all Muslim states must be challenged to operate a full reform where the interests of women are completely protected and furthered. But, for the west, Muslim women should be able to benefit from the same growing opportunities that are offered to men and other groups who have enjoyed the liberal enlightenment (same sex couples) through the advent of progress and changing times.

Role of Women in the reform: The possibility for agency of womens rights

It is the wise that recognise that even if polygamous arrangements are against the majoritys sentiments, the provocation for the recognition of Polygamy, with a women-centric application offers the possibility for agency advocating for the much needed womens rights in Islamic polygamous structures. It is also important to allow Muslim women themselves to advocate the reform, as this allows for potential coalition building between Muslim and NonMuslim women. Here, Cross-Cultural Feminism can be invoked in the form of female solidarity47, as in the same way camaraderie amongst wives in a polygamous structure acted as protection48, there should be camaraderie amongst Feminists as a whole, inclusive of Muslim Feminists and their practices, because there should be equal feminist protection of those who make the legitimate choice for polygamy and since women in polygamous unions, remaining true to Islam and advocating for more rights is a difficult balancing act49, that would be made easier with both groups addressing the mutual enemy, that is exacerbation of the 21st century Muslim womans struggle. In addressing the feministic struggle to advocate for Women in Islam, it must be noted that there are two struggles; firstly the Struggle of Western feminists, since legal scholars will have to take care not to project a western-based analysis onto unique Islamic settings. With the second being to aid the reduction of the plight of Muslim Feminists, concerning the level of legitimacy attributed to Muslim Feminists. Western Scholar must ensure they do not exclude nor alienate these women from choice; the choice take control of ones destiny in a way that would attribute to themselves the ways of Islam through the practice of Polygamy, but still freely attribute to oneself the identity of being a female activist.

Moreover there are other benefits to be gained from the dialogue between Muslim and Non-Muslim women, because the proposal for the legitimacy of a women-centric application of polygamy law would be strengthened. 21st century Women around the world, now transcend their geographical boundaries in search of solutions to their respective problems, as can be seen from the diverse work of activist Azra Nomani who encapsulates the immense possibilities contained in international feminist coalition when she describes the support she has gained from Nigerian, British, Mali
46 47

M. Alexandre, OpCit. pg 12 A. Walker, (2004) The Color Purple, Phoenix 48 K. Hosseini, OpCit. pg 244 49 M. Alexandre, OpCit. pg. 2

Religions in Global Politics and French Women in her pursuits of challenging customs such as mandatory veiling, forced early marriages, and clitorectomies that deny women rights.50 Western females who are privileged enough to have the platform to advocate for change, should help to catalyse the reform, like the action of Mary Jo Lakeland, co-founder of Feminist Issues, who utilised her established position on the political stage to help translate and publish, Muslim-Scholar Fatna Sabbahs work allowing the unconscious veiled image of Muslim women, to become visible.51 Furthermore, the plausibility of a wake of advocacy in favour of the minorities who are pro-polygamy being championed by a western female, can be suggested, by analogies made with the emergence of the rights to same-sex marriage in the UK. For it were The Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, who made the final plea to MPs and the public to support the Governments Marriage (Same-sex couples) bill.52

Conclusion: Uniting the West with Islam; a provocative Women-centric application of Polygamy Law

In conclusion it is clear that polygamous structures are not so far from the West as previous scholars thought, with lifestyles previously considered unusual, exotic or even deviantfinding their place in a more open and tolerant America,53 and with one of the things that makes Britain strong as a nationthe diversity of *its+ people andfaiths54. The provocation for a women-centric application of polygamy law however, stands far more optimistically for the UK since it has had a richer and enduring tradition of tolerance55, than its counterpart. Furthermore, with 2.7 million Muslims56now living in the UK, the imminence of these movements and provocative proposals are great. With even the role of the American legislators adapting to changes57, as recent bills passed have shown sensitivity towards religious practices of different groups, even going so far as to suggest the protection of religious liberties. In addition, with the new development of many UK citizens opting to utilise Sharia law to settle disputes in the UK through the existence of an estimated 85 Sharia councils operating in the country58, it is clear that other provocative proposals are burning, and when a western country hosts a diverse society, their citizens religious revivals alongside their struggles are not to be ignored. With advantages of the systems use being; low cost since no lawyers are needed and a Scholar merely mediates, it is an expanding solution which even Non-Muslims have turned to. Desirably, the UK have heeded the
50

The Washington Post, A Gender Jihad For Islam's Future, Available from, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2005/11/04/AR2005110402306.html [Accessed 6th November 2012] 51 F.A. Sabbah, OpCit. 52 Pink News. Maria Miller: Voting for same-sex marriage will promote stability, responsibility and pride Available from, http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/02/04/maria-miller-voting-for-same-sex-marriage-will-promote-stability-responsibility-andth pride/ [Accessed 4 February 2013]
53

Religious Tolerance. U.S. laws and Senate hearings on polygamy, Available from, http://www.religioustolerance.org/polylaw.htm [Accessed 26th February 2013]
54 55

Pink News. OpCit. Ibid. 56 Office for National Statistics. Religion in England and Wales 2011. Available from, http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011census/key-statistics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/rpt-religion.html [Accessed 20th February 2013] 57 Law Library; U.S. Library of Congress, (2000) Religious Liberty: The legal framework in selected OSCE countries Washington, pg 159 58 BBC. Growing use of Sharia by UK Muslims, Available from, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16522447 [Accessed 16th January 2013]

Religions in Global Politics recognition of such practices, rather than an approach of dismissal, with possibilities of parliament contemplating a Bill to regulate the service emerging.59 The action of the UK is most desirable since through recognition it can protect women who may not receive an equitable treatment under Sharia in divorce settlements, whilst still maintaining a solid Muslim-feminist jurisprudential basis which *will show+ that Islamin fact demands these rights for them.60 The UKs action suggests the need to find a common enemy in the diminishment of female rights by the hypocrisy of ill leaders within the practice riding on deviant patriarchal interpretations of Islam61, and highlights the importance of embracing changes and not desiring to be ignorant of them, as this is the only way they can be regulated.

The Opening up of a world western thought would not have many see, is important. The provocative proposal for the acceptance of the legitimacy of women-centric polygamy, due to the changing dynamics of modernisation, and implementation of reformism occurring within the 21st cent Muslim society, encourages states to embrace the minority, as, for a response with the interests of the state in mind, this is the only way it can ensure the operation of such systems, justly. Growing understanding and acceptance of these practices may hopefully isolate, and dispel the fear62 which led to misplaced suspicion towards Muslims and fear of terrorism that relegated each side to their respective corners. Debate for the recognition of systems like polygamy can in fact allow for the necessary dialogue to take place for the reparation of the relationship between the Middle East and The West. It is through these specters63 that this article aims to understand the position of polygamy and how the facilitation for fundamental religious practices such as this can highlight the fact that it is not always good to be overly heightened to the awareness of ethnic differences between Muslims and Westerners, but to instead find a mutual enemy in the misuses of Islamic law, in which to combat, which can be seen through the recent action of the UK.

The discussion of the legitimacy of polygamy also brings reparation to two groups damned as conflicting; Muslims females and Feminists. Through the plight of the 21st century Muslim feminist, literature can shake the woman western ideology had us see, the woman who was forced into early polygamous marriage, and is constantly living in fear and believes she has no choice but to endure a life of subordination. Through this commentary I would want the reader to also meet the woman the limitations of the previous view would not allow; the educated 21st cent Muslim female who, despite living in a world that constantly beckonedto behave in unpious ways64, makes an autonomous decision to enter into a polygamous marriage, and also wishes to maintain her desires to educate herself and attain financial independence. It is only the recognition of polygamy even only within customary law, and the acceptance of polygamous marriages performed elsewhere, with the shedding of ignorance concerning polygamy that will allow the struggles of the two women described above and many others around the world to become of heightened relevance, and if one can hope, to even be addressed. By presenting the western public, assailed with media images of war-

59 60

Ibid. Azizah Y. al-Hibri, (1997) Islam, Law and Custom: Redefining Muslim Women's Rights, American University International Law Review 12(1), pp. 1-44. 61 M. Alexandre, OpCit. pg 2 62 M. Ingrave, (2002) The text of Blairs speech to Christian and Muslim academics , The Road Ahead: A Christian-Muslim Dialogue, London, Church House Publishing, pg 14 63 S.V. Wichelen, OpCit. 64 S. Mahmood. OpCit. pg 156

Religions in Global Politics torn65 Islam, with the truths about a struggle that taps Islamic theology, thinking and history to reclaim rights granted to women by Islam at its birth but erased by manmade rules and tribal traditions masquerading as divine law66, misapplication, which had until now permitted and fuelled westernised propaganda which rejects polygamy and isolates even its victims, (not just the woman held in subordination by that is, but also the Muslim woman who makes an autonomous choice and is denied the significance of which is elided when she chooses a life of piety and enters a polygamous marriage willingly), condemning Islam a form of organized crime67, will be prohibited. In concluding, Muslim feminists in the 21st century should take advantage of this momentum concerning the debates of what constitutes a marriage and it is for the leaders of the world who have a moral and ethical obligation to listen to the voices of these unrepresented women who are speaking about the promotion of the protection of women who choose polygamy, and to ease their struggle by facilitating judicial debate and consideration of a women-centric application of polygamy law, even if that choice is contrary to the mainstream anti-polygamy sentiment.

65 66

K. Hosseini, OpCit. pg 414 M. Alexandre, OpCit. pg 13 67 The Senate Judiciary Committee. (2008) Hearings into polygamy: Crimes Associated with Polygamy: The Need for a Coordinated State and Federal Response.

Religions in Global Politics

Bibliography

S. V. Wichelen, (2009) 'Polygamy Talk and the Politics of Feminism: Contestations over Masculinity in a New Muslim Indonesia', Journal of International Women's Studies, 11(1), pp. 173-187. S. Huntington, (1996) The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order, London, Simon & Schuster, ch 3. S. Mahmood, (2005) Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and The Feminist Subject, Princeton University Press, A.K. Wing, (2001) Polygamy from Southern Africa to Black Britannia to Black America: Global Critical Race Feminism as Legal Reform for the Twenty-first Century Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues (11), pp. 811

The Qur'an (2002), Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation, Asir Media Azizah Y. al-Hibri, Islam, Law and Custom: Redefining Muslim Women's Rights 12 Am. U. J. Int'l L. & Pol'y 1, 1-2 (1997) [hereinafter al-Hibri, Islam, Law and Custom]. S. Bordo, (1993) Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body, The University of California, N. Gole, (1996)The Forbidden Modern: Civilization and Veiling, University of Michigan Press, H. Bull, (1984) The Revolt Against the West, The Expansion of International Society, Oxford, pp. 214-228. F.A. Sabbah, (1984), Woman in the Muslim Unconscious, Pergamon Press O. Akamnonu, (2010) The Trial of Monogamy: Phased Polygamy In God's Own Country, Xlibris, Corp. Publisher B. Schwartz, (2005) The Paradox of Choice: Why less is more, HarperCollins Publisher Abdulah Ahmed An-Na'im, (1990) Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights and International Law 21 Syracuse University Press, pp. 19-20 K. Hosseini, (2007) A Thousand Splendid Suns, ATSS Publications, L. Mani, (1998) Contentious Traditions: The Debate on "Sati" in Colonial India, University of California Press A. Walker, (2004) The Color Purple, Phoenix Law Library; U.S. Library of Congress, (2000) Religious Liberty: The legal framework in selected OSCE countries Washington Azizah Y. al-Hibri, (1997) Islam, Law and Custom: Redefining Muslim Women's Rights, American University International Law Review 12(1), pp. 1-44. M. Ingrave, (2002) The text of Blairs speech to Christian and Muslim academics , The Road Ahead: A Christian-Muslim Dialogue, London, Church House Publishing, The Senate Judiciary Committee. (2008) Hearings into polygamy: Crimes Associated with Polygamy: The Need for a Coordinated State and Federal Response.