Thursday, October 8, 2009

Recent Speech on the issue of polygamy

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious the Most Merciful

Speech delivered at the Sydney Opera House, Saturday 3 October 09 as part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas which was sponsored by:
The Sydney Opera House and the St. James Ethics Centre

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for choosing to join me this afternoon. It is an honour for me to be part of this inaugural festival, even if I am speaking on a topic that is seen by some as controversial; not only because of the topic itself, but also because the topic is associated to a religion that is regularly maligned by politicians and media.

A special feature of the religion of Islam is that it is a natural faith. We believe Islam is in perfect harmony with the pure unadulterated nature of humanity. As such, the various teachings in Islam address the natural dispositions of real human beings, dispositions which had been instilled in us by our Creator, God the Almighty.

Simply explained, Islam gently invites humanity to believe in one God and in Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him as God’s final messenger.

Through this final messenger, God sent to us His final message of guidance and Grace to humanity.

As the Holy Qur`an tells prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him: Say, I am no bringer of a new-fangled message (46:9). The Qur’an is a continuation of God’s grace which we witnessed in the missions of Noah, Abraham, Moses and Christ, peace be upon them all. Islam is also a conclusion and a criterion over what remains of the earlier messages.

I was born and raised in a polygynous household for the first dozen years of my life. I experienced firsthand what it is like to have two mothers. I know people who have lived through similar experiences.

From time to time, the topic comes up, the topic rarely fails to inspire the imagination; drawing either praise or derision, it is rare to receive a reaction of indifference.

To set the record straight Islam did not introduce, encourage or promote polygyny.

Like all faiths, Islam promotes fidelity, openness and honesty in all aspects of life and especially in relationships. The family unit is crucial in Islam because it is a subset of community, which is a subset of society and therefore the nation as a whole.

The Old Testament details many accounts of polygamy, for example, Moses himself married two women: Zipporah, daughter of Jethro (Exodus 2:21), and an Ethiopian woman. (Num. 12:1) In the case of the latter marriage, the book of numbers tells us that God is critical of both Miriam and Aaron for their criticism of this union.

Polygamy was practised before Moses by Abraham and Jacob and after Moses by many others.

For example Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 kings 11:3). David had a multitude of wives (2 Samuel 5:13). Other biblical polygamists included Gideon, Elkanah, Saul, Rehoboam and countless others.
For the details, see Judge. 8:30; I Sam. 1:2; II Sam. 12:8; 21:8
In (2 Sam. 12:8), God is quoted as giving David “thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom”. God does not give you sin, God gives you goodness.

The Great Theosophist Mrs. Annie Besant in her essay on the life and teachings of Muhammad (Adyar pamphlet 162 published in 1932) says: (Annie Wood Besant Clapham, London October 1 1847 – September 20 1933 in Adyar, India) was a prominent Theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self rule.):
... “I pointed out to them (she is referring to a previous speech) that monogamy with a blended mass of prostitution was a hypocrisy and more degrading than a limited polygamy. Naturally a statement like that gives offence, but it has to be made, because it must be remembered that the law of Islam in relation to women was until lately, when parts of it have been imitated in England, the most just law, as far as women are concerned, to be found in the world. Dealing with property, dealing with rights of succession and so on, dealing with cases of divorce, it was far beyond the law of the West, in the respect which was paid to the rights of women. Those things are forgotten while people are hypnotised by the words Monogamy and Polygamy, and do not look at what lies behind it in the West — the frightful degradation of thousands of women who are thrown into the streets when their first protectors, weary of them, no longer give them any assistance.


3). Note the liberality and inclusiveness of Islam. It is declared in Europe that Islam sanctions polygamy, and leads to the degradation of woman. When Muhammad began his teaching, Arabia was plunged in the grossest licentiousness and sensual degradation; no union between the sexes was recognised; profligacy was found on every side; and so the Prophet began by narrowing down the limits within which there might be connection; so he limited the number of wives to four, but made a provision which would gradually lead [Page 25] to a close union; for he declared: "Take a second wife only if she could be loved and cherished as the first".

It is so very easy to try to pick holes in another man's faith, but what Westerner shall dare to speak against the limited polygamy of the East, so long as there is prostitution in the West? There is no monogamy as yet in the world save here and there among the purer-living men. It is not monogamy when there is one legal wife, and mistresses out of sight. In thus speaking, I do not speak to attack, but to strive that men may give justice to each other.

I often think that woman is more free in Islam than in Christianity. Woman is more protected by Islam than by the faith which preaches monogamy. In AI Quran the law about woman is juster and more liberal. It is only twenty years (bear in mind that she wrote this in 1932) that Christian England has recognised the right of women to property, while Islam has allowed this right from all times. Says AI Quran: "Be ye kind to your wives; be just to them; if there is a quarrel, seek a reconciliation before divorce". The period of divorce is intentionally prolonged so that the parties may come to a better understanding in the interval. Muhammadan law in its relation to women, is a pattern to European law. Look back to the history of Islam, and you will find that women have often taken leading places — on the throne, in the battle-field, in politics, in literature, poetry, etc. [Page 26]

The noted mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell says: in his 1929 book (marriage and morals p 154 paperback Rutledge edition 1985) that human beings are not by nature monogamous, he adds: at page 154 of the 1985 edition:
“In this connection there is one respect in which our existing moral code might be altered with advantage. There are in England some two million more women than men and these are condemned by law and custom to remain childless, which is undoubtedly to many of them a great deprivation. If custom tolerated the unmarried mother, and made her economic situation tolerable, it cannot be doubted that a great many of the women at present condemned to celibacy would have children. Strict monogamy is based upon the assumption that the numbers of the sexes will be approximately equal. Where this is not the case, it involves considerable cruelty to those whom arithmetic compels to remain single. And where there is reason to desire an increase in the birth-rate, this cruelty may be publicly as well as privately undesirable.”

Moving to the New Testament, we find emphasis on celibacy, There is more than one verse in the new testament that promotes celibacy, to be an eunuch (Matt 19:12) or make oneself a eunuch. Tertullian tells us that for example St. Paul was castrated.

The great church father St. Augustine (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430), like other Church fathers, preferred “continence” (celibacy) and monogamous marriage if one cannot be continent. This echoed his master’s instruction preferring for one to become an eunuch only to marry if one would otherwise burn with passion (1 Cor 7:9). However, in his treatise “on the good of marriage” St. Augustine acknowledges polygamy as a means of populating the earth which he deemed no longer needed in his time, but he added in section 20 of this treatise that polygamy was valid and was not contrary to the nature of marriage.

It was Roman Emperor Constantine (27 February c. 272[2] – 22 May 337) who in the fourth century AD empowered or popularised Christianity to a status of an official religion. However, it was not until the year 534 AD that Emperor Justinian (AD 483 – 13 or 14 November 565) banned all forms of sex except for sex within a monogamous heterosexual marriage.

Ironically Emperor Justinian himself maintained a mistress during the reign of his predecessor Justin. He is believed to have influenced Justin to repeal the law banning senators from marrying courtesans and actors so that he can eventually marry his mistress.

Shortly after the death of his wife Euphemia (523/4 AD), Justinian married his long term mistress, the courtesan, Theodora (525 AD) (born c. 497 ce died June 28, 548, Constantinople). History records that the two plundered their people and Theodora’s strength of will saved him from rebels in 532 AD. Encyclopaedia Britannica says that it was Theodora’s influence that led to the passage of most of the laws that are attributed to Justinian.

The Justinian or Theodoran monogamy provisions passed in 534 AD are perhaps the first of their kind anywhere in the world. Human society outside the Roman Empire continued to practice various types of familial relations. Polygyny (a union of one man and more than one woman) was practiced in most parts of the world. The other form of polygamy known as Polyandry which is a union of a woman to more than one man was practiced in parts of India, in Tibet and to a lesser degree in some other places.

Theodora may have been motivated to promote such a law because of the exploitation she was bound to have witnessed whilst a courtesan and mistress. However, despite this law, Roman society continued to be known for its non monogamous sexual infidelities.

In essence, the new ban on polygamy merely maintained a facade, or drove the exploitation of women underground.

Justinian claimed to have been influenced by St. Augustine to ban non monogamous relations. This must have been a very narrow reading of St. Augustine’s on the Good of marriage which I have already shown maintains the legality of polygamy under Christian doctrine.

More than a millennium later, John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674), goes much further than St. Augustine in his 'Treatise on Christian Doctrine'. Milton cites a number of biblical verses in support of the practice of polygamy, after citing these verses, he states:
“In the definition which I have given, I have not said, in compliance with the common opinion, of one man with one woman, lest I should by implication charge the holy patriarchs and pillars of our faith, Abraham, and the others who had more than one wife at the same time, with habitual fornication and adultery; and lest I should be forced to exclude from the sanctuary of God as spurious, the holy offspring which sprang from them, yea, the whole of the sons of Israel, for whom the sanctuary itself was made. For it is said, Deut. xxiii.2. "a bastard shall not enter into the congregation of Jehovah, even to his tenth generation." Either therefore polygamy is a true marriage, or all children born in that [B226] state are spurious; which would include the whole race of Jacob, the twelve holy tribes chosen by God. But as such an assertion would be absurd in the extreme, not to say impious, and as it is the height of injustice, as well as an example of most dangerous tendency in religion, to account as sin what is not such in reality; it appears to me, that, so far from the question respecting the lawfulness of polygamy being trivial, it is of the highest importance that it should be decided.”
And in arriving at the decision, Milton proceeds in his treatise to debunk the misinterpretations of a variety of verses that apologists claimed to prohibit polygamy, after debunking the opposing arguments, Milton says:
“Lastly, I argue as follows from Heb. xiii.4. Polygamy is either marriage, or fornication, or adultery; the apostle [C147] recognizes no fourth state. Reverence for so many patriarchs who were polygamists will, I trust, deter any one from considering it as fornication or adultery; for "whoremongers and adulterers God will judge;" whereas the patriarchs were the objects of his especial favor, as he himself testifies. If then polygamy be marriage properly so called, it is also lawful and honorable, according to the same apostle: "marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled."

The debate on polygamy and Islam is not born today, I was first quoted on the topic in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2001, the ABC resurrected the topic again last year, and being a slow media week, it received a great deal of media attention. One of my interviews on the topic was on radio 2ue with Mike Carlton, at the conclusion of the interview, Carlton in his inimitable style declared that as a Judeo-Christian nation, we marry one person for life. After a pause, he added: we just have lots of affairs on the side.

This delusion of monogamy and clandestine relations may have worked in the past, however, according to professor Aaron Ben-Zeev of the University of Haifa, “proclaimed monogamy and clandestine adultery” are no longer working for modern society. Whilst Ben-Zeev is correct in his diagnosis of the problem, he goes wrong is in his concluding suggestion that cohabitation and serial monogamy may serve as means to remove the boredom from a marital relation. Such suggestions are well and truly put to rest by the findings of Bettina Arndt to which I will refer later. Arndt’s work shows that it is usually the woman’s libido that suffers but not the man’s. Ben Zeev’s conclusion is also disproved by the child custody orders in the UK which show 95% of cases were without divorce, meaning, to cohabitating couples. It is also disproved by the Bristol Community Family Trust whose 2006 paper titled “conflation of marriage and cohabitation in government statistics”, showed that unmarried couples run 5.5 times the risk of family breakdown compared to married couples and run 3 times the risk of poverty to those who are married. Also, in a 1993 paper, the Australian Institute for family studies shows that remarriages have a higher rate of divorce than first marriages. The rate of these divorces increased to 60% in 2009.

Therefore, whilst Ben-Zeev has diagnosed the problems associated with monogamy and clandestine adultery, he is still to identify a workable solution.

The prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, was born in 570 AD, five years after the death of Justinian and 22 years after the death of Theodora. He received his mission from God in the year 610 when he was forty years of age.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, was instructed by God through verses to become part of the holy Qur’an to institute a limit on plural relations and to place stringent regulations on polygyny.

Prior to these revelations, relations spanned all ends of the spectrum, from unrestricted polygamy to strict monogamy and everything in between. The Islamic teachings as they usually do, prescribed a middle path which implies monogamy as a norm, but permits polygyny in cases where the man is confident that he will do justice to his wives.

Hence the verse: If you fear that you cannot do justice to the orphans, then marry what appeals to you of women, two, three or four, however, if you fear that you cannot treat them equally, then only one ... (4:3)

This verse restricts the limit to four. Muslims who had more than four wives at that time were required to divorce some to bring their number down to four.

Other restrictions that Islam placed were that sisters could not be co-wives and the same would apply to aunts, mother in law etc. This meant that a man would not be allowed to marry a lady and her sister nor a lady and her aunt. Further, physical intimacy in polygyny as in monogamy is private between two people only, so the husband in a polygynous relation can only be physically intimate with one wife at a time.

The most stringent restriction that came with polygyny is the requirement to treat wives equally and provide for them to the same standard of luxury that the male enjoys himself.

As I have illustrated the Qur`an stresses: if you fear that you cannot treat them equally, then only one.

The Hadith also comes in with a very strong warning, that those who favour one wife over another will come on the day of judgement falling on one side, meaning, that they will have torment in this life and torment in the next because of their favouritism.

These restrictions have led some people to believe that Islam made it impossible for people to enter into polygynous relations. The counter to their argument is the fact that the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, his devout companions and devout and upstanding Muslims throughout history have entered into such relations and have endeavoured to maintain such relations within the rules stipulated by the faith.

This does not preclude aberrations. Indeed, there are polygynous relations that go terribly wrong just like there are monogamous relations that go terribly wrong.

Some in modern society argue that polygynous unions are not equal, they cite polyandry as a possible equaliser.

Neither Islam, nor any of the three monotheistic faiths has ever condoned polyandry, There are many reasons for this. Some are medical, some relate to paternity. Others pertain to the sexual proclivities of the different genders.

Sex therapist Bettina Arndt, promoting her latest book, The Sex Diaries, outlined the loss of libido amongst women and the merits of women saying ‘‘yes’’ more often to the sexual advances of their husbands. If Arndt’s research is reflective of a greater portion of the population, a monogamous relationship leads to reduced interest in sex among women and a perpetual state of conjugal frustration amongst men.

If men in monogamous relations are not satiated, then by its very nature, polyandry creates an overwhelming burden for a woman in long term relationships.

The question of equality can be answered very easily by knowing the rules and conditions that pertain to a valid union under Islam.

For a marital or de facto union to be valid under Islam, the following conditions must be met:
A – The most important condition is consent of all parties, especially the woman.
B – If the woman has never been married, then the consent of her guardian is also required.
C – The groom must offer a dowry to the bride of a value that she stipulates, the dowry can be negotiated with the bride, but it must be a value to which she is agreeable. The dowry is hers to keep and use at her discretion.
D – The union must be proclaimed to at least two rational adult witnesses.

God praises these unions by outlining:
Amongst His signs is that he created for you, of your own kind, spouses, with whom to find tranquillity, and He made between you love and compassion. In that indeed, are signs for people who think. (Al Rum 30:21)

He also says: Your women are like raiment for you and you are like raiment for them (2:187).

An Islamic union between a male and a female creates love and compassion between the parties and makes each of the parties a source of tranquillity for the other and makes each like raiment to embrace and provide support, love and warmth for one another.

I am trying as much as possible to use the term union because modern society is more flexible with this term than it is with the term “marriage”. Because the secular in Australian law has to a large degree taken marriage away from God to try and make it a secular institution. In doing so, it has taken away all the rights and responsibilities of spouses towards one another as I will explain shortly. It suffices to say that we need to be careful when defining the difference between marriage and divorce under the secular law as distinct from religious guidance.

A Muslim marital type of union must be conducted under the rules of Islam, it cannot be conducted by a secular celebrant, it has to be conducted by a Muslim celebrant. Similarly, separations must also adhere to the requirements of the Islamic faith, this is why we hear about the establishment of Sharia tribunals in the UK for Muslims and why there are calls for the Family Court in Australia to consider the need to ensure that women are not disadvantaged when they are given a secular divorce that is isolated from the religious requirements.

A Muslim union does not require a celebrant to be recognised under a secular system, it merely requires an individual who can apply the requirements that I have stipulated. This is significant because a secular celebrant, or under the secular law for marriage, we have a union of two people which carries no rights or obligations towards each other.

A secular marriage does not compel the parties to live together or be faithful to each other or to fulfil each other’s needs for intimacy. It is only the social conventions that are the remnants of religious marriages that create any semblance of rights and obligations between husbands and wives in modern society.

This is perhaps why, that whilst the number of secular marriages have increased to 65% of all marriages in Australia, the number of divorces for 2008 were approximately 40% of all marriages.

This is perhaps why 77% of people marrying were already living with each other and why the rate of marriage dropped from 7 per 1000 in 89, when our population was 16,806,730 to 5.3 per 1000 in 2001 and hovered around that rate till now (5.5) where our population is presently estimated by the ABS at 21,779,000. Whilst marriages in this period dropped, the divorce rate has remained fairly steady moving between 2.5 and 2.9 and 2.2 per 1000.

Whilst marriages today mean very little in terms of commitment of the wedded parties towards one another, divorce or separation brings with it a great deal of emotional and financial trauma.

Why does a commitment of marriage that has no clauses require such a complicated separation is an issue that has been plaguing our society for some time! To address this issue, young people have turned to very brief loveless relations that entail little more than gratification and conclude as soon as the gratification is over. There are no rights, no entitlements, often they don’t remember each other’s names, and they don’t need to unless the experience leads to a new life entering this world.

This phenomenon is spreading more widely in modern society and seems to favour males more than females. Studies in Australia reveal that the pool of eligible males shrinks dramatically for women in their thirties. The male continues to be able to select from a pool of younger one night stands whereas the females end up facing far greater competition once they reach that age.

Interestingly, this problem also meets another problem that affects women a few years into their relationships.

Nietzche, in Twilight of the Idols (London, Penguin 2003, first published in 1889) at page 106 states: “Marriage as an institution already includes in itself the affirmation of the largest, the most enduring form of organizaiotn: if society as a whole cannot stand security for itself to the most distant generations, then marriage has really no meaning. – Modern marriage has lost its meaning – consequently it is being abolished.”

Before I move on, I am addressing phenomena that are widespread and are salient, this does not mean that every person, or every relationship falls into these categories, there are exceptions to everything, especially when it comes to the behaviour of human beings, we can be very creative and we tend to morph and contort in all directions in our efforts to reach our goals. Some of us work within an ethical framework and some of us will not always do so.

Australia’s leading contributor in the area of amorous relationships is Bettina Arndt, Arndt has been a courageous advocate for successful families and she has braved some criticism for her pioneering work in the field of relationships and intimacy in relationships.

Arndt’s most recent works are very important and relevant for our topic. In her recent “The Sex Diaries”, Arndt explores 98 relationships showing that in the majority of cases (and I paraphrase), women lose their libidos a few years into the relationship. Usually, when they feel most safe and are confident that they love their partner and their partner loves them, somehow, those brief moments of physical intimacy are no longer welcome.

In an article she wrote for the Canberra Times, Arndt who also backs up her findings with the research of Professor Rosemary Basson says that women should say yes more often, because the mood or the desire can come with the interest or the stimulation proffered by the partner.

The general rule is in fact quite ironic, the man who must play an active role and have the energy to engage in intimacy retains the libido, whilst the woman who is able to be very passive during intimacy loses her libido.

We should be grateful to the women’s liberation movement which moved society to the standard of civility where a man has to wait for an invitation. It is this very development that has brought to the modern world the discovery of the difference in libidos and backed this with empirical research. It has also given impetus to the debate on the validity of polygynous relations.

Writing on the paradoxes of polygamy for the psychology today blog, environmental psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa proves that polygamy is mostly to the advantage of women because it allows more of them to choose the most desirable male.

Dr. Charles Mercier, a physician for mental diseases says in his Conduct and its Disorders Biologically Considered, (p. 292-3): "Woman is by nature monogamist; man has in him the element of polygamist."

So what does a fellow with an active libido do in a monogamous society?

He loves his wife and does not wish to leave her, what options remain open for him?

Well, consistently almost two thirds of males surveyed admit to having an affair, many admit to having flings and as we know, brothels continue to operate and are legal in modern society and their acceptability is increasing. Street prostitution is also widespread in modern society.

The drive exists and is strong and modern society has no method of dealing with it other than to continue the Roman facade of one wife but the vicious cycle of frequenting prostitutes and having affairs on the side.

We as a modern society are not willing to acknowledge that the difference in libido exists so that men are compelled by this innate drive to support more than one woman in a matrimonial capacity, not all men, but those with the commensurate means and libido.

Our Roman heritage though is about maintaining the facade of monogamy against a male nature that is polygynous. In that sense, this very word facade has a very significant yet ignominious meaning in Arabic. The Facade that means to the English reader, a face or a front that does not always reflect what lies behind it in fact means in the Arabic language: Corruption.

Interestingly, this word appears 11 times in the holy Qur`an, nine of these are a warning against Facade or corruption, the tenth speaks of the increase of corruption under pharaonic rule. The most telling and distinct reference appears in the Sura (or chapter) titled The Romans. This is the chapter that speaks of the spiritual linkage between Muslims and Christians and starts off by prophesying that Muslims would in a few years celebrate the victory of the Christian Romans against the Persians who were at that time of the Magian faith.

It is interesting that the verse that proclaims tranquillity in a marital relationship is in this same chapter that also condemns the Facade that had become manifest.

The appearance of the word facade, at the forty-first verse of this chapter states that Facade has become salient, or conspicuous, or clearly manifest in the land and the sea through what the hands of the people have earned, in order to show them some of the result of what they did lest they change.

The predecessor of modern society, the Greco-Roman heritage had experienced many advances in that period before Europe went through its dark ages. At the same time of these advances, it also experienced corruption that is manifest and that continues to manifest itself to this very day.

This corruption strikes at the very core of human relationships, in particular the enforced myth of monogamy.

We are forced to maintain a facade that works for part of the population and compels approximately two thirds of males to the corruption of affairs and the knowledge of prostitutes.

I do not contend for polygyny to be a solution for all males, but removing it from our criminal codes will allow men and women to become honest about their natural urges.

In a society that does not criminalise polygyny, a male facing the dilemma of his beloved wife experiencing a reduced libido can openly talk to his wife about bringing a female friend into his life to take up some of his time and energy in a loving commitment. In many cases, it is this discussion itself that revives the intimacy or the libido. This discussion also allows the husband to be open when he speaks to another woman. His integrity will demand in such a situation that he says: yes I am married and I love my wife and I will marry again a woman whose mind is open to entering such a relationship. The new woman does not enter this relationship with any expectation that he would leave his loving wife and she would not want him to leave his wife. She knew what she was getting into and she and his wife can determine the level of interaction they will have with each other.

Yes, there may be jealousy, this jealousy is addressed by the requirement to treat co-wives equally and meet their needs.

Because a key ingredient of a valid marriage is consent, polygyny, as Satoshi Kanazawa (ibid) says: provides a choice for women. Polygyny does not give advantage to the man. A man cannot compel a woman into such a relationship and he cannot hide under the excuse of having to leave his wife before he can make a commitment to the second woman.

Polygyny is about changing many of those irresponsible secret relationships into a responsible open commitment that is proclaimed to the rest of society. This is a commitment that does not carry a stigma for the women for any of the potential children from the relationship. It removes the pressure from the woman to hide her relationship which would have otherwise been an affair. It allows her to raise her head with dignity and proclaim that she is married and her husband can visit her without looking over his shoulder worrying who might see him or catch him. Polygyny negates the need for the facade or the charade and encourages honesty and openness.

Decriminalising polygyny will not lead to an increase, but to a marked decrease in the incidence of plural relations as clearly evident in countries where it is legal.

Australian legislators have chosen to maintain the Justinian facade. Section 94 of the Marriage Act 1971 (federal) stipulates a penalty of 5 years for bigamy, whilst Section 92 of the Crimes Act 1900 No 40 (NSW) stipulates a penalty of 7 years, unless the partner has been absent for five years and the bigamist had reasonable ground to suspect that the partner to whom he or she was married was not living. Section 6 of the Family Law Act 1975 on the other hand recognises polygamous marriages that are conducted overseas.

A recent report about a non-Muslim polygynous marriage in South Africa highlighted the fact that the South African president had three wives. Polygyny, at worst, is criminalised for 20% of the world population (until recently where some populous nations started to also discourage the practice), yet this 20% with its high incidence of clandestine relations is refusing to recognise familial unions that are considered kosher by four fifths of the world population. Interestingly, this magical figure of four fifth reflects the number of women reverting to Islam as compared to men.

Polygamy already exists in modern society, it exists in a clandestine irresponsible manner through mistresses and prostitution. It is time to drop the facade and decriminalise a natural institution that has benefited men and women throughout history and one that as I have outlined, creates an advantage for women over the present monogamous relations.

Polygamy is about making man responsible for his libido.

With this ladies and gentlemen, I commend to you: the Islamic restrictions on polygyny and other Islamic values are good for Australia.

Video of the speech is at this link, (please note that they spelled the name wrong):

Keysar Trad
Islamic Friendship Association of Australia Inc.

polygamy, polygyny

Trad: My humble contribution to the polygamy debate

Wednesday, 7 October 2009 /

The Polygamy debate last year produced results. Thanks to Crikey, the ABC, Seven’s Sunrise, 2UE and a number of online publishers, the federal attorney general introduced laws to give some rights to spurned mistresses.

I feel honoured and privileged to have been chosen to make my humble contribution to that debate. I am delighted that I have offered a service to women in Australia.

This year, the Sydney Opera House and the St. James Ethics Centre got together and decided to host the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. I was invited to resuscitate my argument from last year.

Again, I saw this as an opportunity to serve the women of Australia.

I did not create the debate, it came to me, I do not like generating controversy, however, if it comes to me, I will address it forthrightly with outright conviction in the wisdom of my Creator Whose work I am honoured to do. Some unjustly view my faith in the wisdom of God as controversial.

We are still some way from finished with the debate on plural unions. Whilst we managed to get some rights for the mistress last year, we still need to take away the stigma from her and all the women who exceed the gender ratio. This ratio is not only determined by raw population numbers, one must also deduct from the male population the disproportionate number of male prisoners and any disproportionate number of males to females who pursue same gender unions.

Sometimes, it breaks my heart to be proved right as was the case with the British headlines yesterday about a successful doctor allegedly poisoning his mistress to bring about an abortion. Part of my argument to decriminalise polygamy includes the right of the second woman to bear children and the right of the child of such a relationship to live life without stigma. The second woman should not be treated as a mistress, she should be able to expect to be treated as a proper partner or spouse.

Yes, the Justinian facade that I previously mentioned has also influenced non-Greco/Roman societies with more countries frowning on the open plural relationships.

In modern society monogamy is regularly breached. Clandestine adultery is widespread. Therefore, decriminalising polygamy and removing its social social stigma will further guarantee the rights of women.

In this debate, some have theorised that in order to make such laws equal, they would like me to recognise polyandry.

The reality of decriminalising plural unions would produce a law that is non-discriminatory by nature. The secular system would be able to acknowledge both forms of polygamy. It would remain then up to the various religious traditions to decide which to bless for their own adherents. Plural secular marriages can go in whichever direction they choose, those people who do not follow my religious tradition are not obliged to live by its rules.

To dissuade from the eventuality of polyandry though, I offer the following rationalisations:
The gender ratio pool (excluding societies that practice the horrors of gender-selective ab-rtion). Without even having to point at statistics, it is elementary knowledge that a disproportionate number of women are exploited through pr-stitution and p-rnography. Allowing these women the option to enter an open rather than a secret union with an attached man will save many of them from this form of exploitation.

Relationships are not just about intimacy, they carry emotions as well as various forms of support. We see the impost of the commitment more clearly if we temporarily put the brief climactic conclusion aside. When we do so, it becomes salient that polygyny creates more responsibilities for the male and gives advantage to the woman.
The paternity is more clearly discernable.

The question of support is easily addressed in such situation. As a general rule that can be fine-tuned, the non polygamous person in the relationship will have rights similar to those that exist today whereas the polygamist is limited to a share of what he or she had brought into the union. The polygamous person in a polygynous union is the male; it is the female in a polyandrous union. This suggestion would eliminate or reduce the risk of prospecting.

The polygamy debate that comes to me from time to time is another opportunity to promote honesty, openness and frank discussion in relationships. Without it, all we do is perpetuate suspicions and the ignorance is bliss myth that everything is hunky-dory.

Article courtesy of

Why should polygamy be a crime?

Why should polygamy be a crime?
Courtesy Fairfax media (Sydney Morning Herald)
October 3, 2009 - 6:18AM

In a liberal society such as Australia, it should not be a crime to have more than one wife, argues Keysar Trad.

IN JUNE last year, Triple J's current affairs program Hack ran an item on plural relationships. The ABC's youth broadcaster interviewed me about polygyny, a form of polygamous marriage in which a man has more than one wife at the same time. A bisexual couple were also interviewed.

To my surprise, I was reported on the ABC's respected current affairs program AM the next morning. Without speaking to me again and after seeking comments from the Attorney-General's office, AM ran the line: “Undeterred Keysar Trad says he's hoping to find another wife to join his family. To do so, he says, would be to honour his first wife.”

No such comment had aired on Hack. The media then spent more than a week mocking the practice of a husband having two or more wives simultaneously. No one took issue with the bisexual relationship, which involved one man and his female partner, who also had a relationship with another woman.

At the end of an interview on 2UE, Mike Carlton declared that, as a Judeo-Christian nation, we marry one person for life. After a pause, he added that we just have lots of affairs on the side.
In Western society, the “other woman” in an affair is stigmatised. She faces significant pressure to keep the relationship secret to protect her man because modern society frowns on plural heterosexual relations. If she fell pregnant, society – including her partner – could place great pressure on her to have an abortion.

The mistress in an affair should have rights. She needs to be protected if she decides to end the relationship because the man refuses to live up to her expectations and leave his wife.

The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, must have been paying attention. A few months later, he introduced legislation granting rights to the second woman so that she could also share the assets of her married lover.

The problem of deception, however, does not go away. Why in the liberal 21st century must we live a lie in relationships? And why do we continue to maintain a facade that monogamy is a perfect institution, when studies consistently reveal that most men admit to having affairs? Monogamy is great, but it is clearly not for everybody.

Islam openly acknowledges this fact of human nature and stipulates a regulatory framework for plural relations. But modern Western society, suspicious of all things Islamic, fails to recognise the qualities of Muslim marriage and family.

Legally enforceable monogamy was introduced by Emperor Justinian in the year 534. Justinian himself kept a courtesan as a mistress. He married her after the death of his wife, Euphemia, and only after he convinced Justin, his predecessor, to change the law so that senators could marry actresses and courtesans.

Justinian is said to have criminalised plural unions under the influence of St Augustine, though Augustine clearly stated in his treatise on marriage that having several wives is not “contrary to the nature of marriage”. Yet like other church fathers, Augustine preferred celibacy, or monogamous marriage if one could not be celibate.

Over the years, I have counselled adulterers from different faith backgrounds. I never tried to punish, hurt or expose them. I tried to guide them to mend their ways. I tried to help them understand that sex outside marriage was neither in their best interests nor in the best interests of society. If they were married, I did my best to ensure that their marriage remained safe and stable. Had they been in plural unions that conformed to the Islamic regulatory framework, such relationships would not have been adulterous, but divinely sanctioned unions.

Australian law has maintained the Justinian facade that a marriage is one man and one woman, and that every other relationship must be kept secret. Under Australian law, bigamy attracts penalties of up to seven years' imprisonment. On the other hand, polygamous marriages conducted overseas are recognised under family law for the purpose of property settlements.
When a couple marry in a Christian church, it indicates they want their marriage to be governed by the rules of that church. The same applies for unions conducted under Muslim rules. For a marriage to be valid under Islam, it requires the consent of both parties, at least two witnesses and a dowry paid by the groom to the bride as a gift for her to use as she pleases.

There is no requirement for such a union to be "legally" registered with a secular body that does not recognise the clauses in a Muslim union. Plural relations of this nature that take place in Australia are treated like de facto relationships and are not registered. This keeps them outside the ambit of the nation's criminal and marriage laws. Such unions are not considered adulterous because they follow the rules of an Islamic union. They are not secret and they carry no stigma under God.

This is not to say that people are actively encouraged to enter such unions. Islam stipulates very strict equality in the treatment of wives. If a man cannot treat his wives equally, the Koran says he should have only one. Monogamy is the norm in Muslim communities. However, men who are capable of supporting more than one partner equally are advised to be open, honest and accountable in their relationships and to treat their wives fairly.

Yes, polygyny may lead to jealousy. We are all human. But in a caring and sharing world where we become euphoric when we give to those in need, sponsor orphans and provide foster care, the ultimate in giving is for a woman to give a fraction of her husband's time and affection to another woman who is willing to share with her. It is a spiritually rewarding experience that allows women to grow while the husband toils to provide for more than one partner.

In most cases, the husband ends up providing separate accommodation. The women can agree to share dwellings – it's entirely up to them. Many men in Western society complain about their mother-in-law or a “nagging” wife. If his wife and in-laws were difficult, would he seek more of the same? The willingness of a man to take on another wife is in fact a form of praise to his first wife.

While Islam sanctions polygyny, it does not condone threesomes. Islam also does not permit polyandry, a form of relationship in which a wife takes more than one husband. There are many reasons for this. Some are medical, some relate to paternity. Others pertain to the sexual proclivities of the different genders. The sex therapist Bettina Arndt, promoting her book Sex Diaries, outlined the merits of women saying "yes" more often to sex with their husbands. If Arndt's research is reflective of a greater portion of the population, a monogamous relationship leads to reduced interest in sex among women and a perpetual state of conjugal frustration among men.

If men in monogamous relations are not satiated, by its very nature polyandry creates an overwhelming burden for a woman in long-term relationships.

Who someone marries first is an accident of history. If a man who has an affair had met his mistress before his wife, he may have married her. Why maintain the facade that is the Justinian doctrine of monogamy knowing it has failed as a social experiment?

A man can have multiple girlfriends. Why not formalise that into a commitment for life? Why should “bigamy” be a crime?

Keysar Trad is president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia. He will deliver a speech on why polygamy and other Islamic values are good for Australia at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Opera House today.

Article courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald, article first published (as far as I could find):
Sydney Morning Herald
The Age
The Times of Brisbane
The WA Times

older articles about the topic of polygamy

7 Jul 2008
Women Deserve Better
By Keysar Trad
· polygamy
· keysar trad
Keysar Trad explains why he wants to share the love

Two weeks ago, Triple J's Hack program offered my views on plural relations in light of the debate on this issue in the UK. I have since composed three articles backed by research. My approach to this debate has to the best of my ability been rational, reasoned and relied on fact and logic.

Rather than scientifically refuting the facts, the opposing views that I have read have on the main been emotive, retrograde and derisive of my person.

Ironically, Muslims in the West have consistently faced allegations of being irrationally traditionalist or blindly dogmatic. In the debate about the modern realities of relationships in the West, the naysayers have only produced personal attacks in their failed attempts to refute my argument.

Where is the clinically proven scientific reason that we tout?

Over the past week or so, all that I experienced from the opponents of my views are attempts at censorship through public derision and unrelated questions that offer nothing to the debate. In, a blogger commented on my "large belly and hips" and on my representative capacity, as if this somehow refutes or deals directly with any aspect of my argument.

Some of these published flights-of-fancy (by those who ask why my opinion is being discussed, while offering little of relevant credential for themselves) show a state of denial about modern social trends. By attempting to silence debate, they are depriving society of the opportunity to find solutions to its own pressing issues. Thus far, I have written three articles on the topic and thus far, little has been offered from the other side as a solution to our social realities other than "moral" indignation.

Man is not a monogamous specie and never has been (with the exception of Adam and Eve)! For those who believe in the Adam and Eve and Cain and Able story: who could have married Able's sister after Cain killed Able so that he could keep his own sister? This was the first killing that created an imbalance in the genders of our specie.

We have long romanticised the idea of monogamy, but this has not stopped people from infidelity or from seeking plural unions. Interestingly, even Mills and Boon now cater for different genres of relationships.

With a rich Roman history of prolific extra-marital sexual relations, sixth century Roman Emperor Justinian decided to criminalise all relations that were not monogamous male/female. This Roman influence repressed the emerging Christian and Western society through imposing an unnatural restriction that created a sense of guilt among men and women who were drawn to each other in a plural relationship.

It seems that the only eventual change to the Roman marriage tradition was the acceptance of the right to divorce. Today marriage does not bring with it a right to sex or to exclusivity. Today, this guilt only has an effect on the careers of politicians and some - but not all - public figures. It has little impact on anyone else.

A plethora of men and women in Western society have rejected the notion of monogamy through their actions. People are engaging in secret relations, we have legalised prostitution, we have a prevalence of pickups and "one-encounter" relationships. One research suggests that 60 per cent of men have had affairs and another suggests that 60 per cent have had flings and only 37 per cent have had long term affairs.

Many young people these days have no interest in the secular ideas of marriage, they are happy to gratify themselves with "loveless" diverse relations without commitment.

Love can only develop after getting to know a person and it increases with the sacrifices we make for each other. In today's encounters, the certainty of love may only come after numerous encounters over many years, if it comes at all. Love at first sight is a myth, there is only lust at first sight which is triggered by strong urges or captivating beauty.

Our contemporary human trends compel women to accept gratification as the only recompense for sex. Women are denied their right to a full commitment from the man under some unrealistic understanding of what equality of the sexes should mean when it comes to sexual relations. This notion of equality demands that everything should be equal even though only the woman can fall pregnant, only the woman can breastfeed, only the woman can go through morning pains and only the woman menstruates.

The wonderful physiological difference between men and women dictates that in order to treat women equally we males should take responsibility to compensate them for all they go through to maintain the human species. We men have to take responsibility for the needs of women when they are menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding. This will only partially compensate them for what they go through. The token maternity leave is not enough, particularly as these days there is strong debate for maternity leave to be shared with the man, the selfish man who will not even allow woman a full term of maternity leave!

In this debate, the projections of victimhood by some Muslims are an insult to Australian society and its open-mindedness and are a clear indication that "Muslims" who do so, whether they are part of an organisation or not, are milking victimisation to the last pitiful drop. The same can be said of the morally indignant "politicians" whose only fallback is on sixth century Justinian traditions, ignoring the secret relations of many of their peers and the relations of their own constituencies and perhaps even their own children.

Emotiveness aside, one wonders the relevance of such "political" views and the level of disconnect between these politicians and present social practices.

In this debate on plural relations, there has been much paraphrasing of my views. My interview with Triple J's more light-hearted Hack program was copied by the serious AM news program, with both adding their own twist about my "desire".

The prevalent media sales pitch is that we as a society need to remain in denial, thinking that our relationships are still what we pretended they were in the 1950s, ignoring the magnitude of the same-gender movement and ignoring the realities of the club scene and the fluidity of sexual activity throughout society.I recall an article recently where three prominent sporting figures were alleged to have engaged in fluid relations, the male was alleged to have cheated on his girlfriend while the female, after allegedly mating with this male in the very unromantic setting of a toilet cubicle was allegedly spotted kissing and dancing with another male shortly thereafter. Her story would not have been published if she had not been a sporting personality, because such fluid sexual activities are no longer taboo in our society.When I reflect on the club life, my mind is boggled trying to understand what would motivate young people on a working day to remain standing in a queue for hours outside a nightclub waiting for their turn to go in, and then waiting to find a willing short term flinger to talk to and then going through the process of convincing that person for an issueless mating ritual and then, several hours later, getting home late to get some rest before the next working day!

I come into this debate offering a natural solution, inviting openness and honesty in human relations and for those who choose to hear me out, I have a tried and tested solution that makes the men, in particular, accountable for their actions.
I have been asked to post “a right of reply” to Mr. Muehlenberg’s criticisms of my position on plural unions. In the interest of the broader issues, I will address the topic itself and not Mr. Muehlenberg’s views on it, people can draw their own conclusions. When dealing with these issues, I do not claim that I am presenting the opinion of anyone other than myself and the simple majority of members in my organisation, and perhaps those members of broader society who have called to offer their support and those who came to me in person at one of the biggest places of worship in Australia to do the same.

There are others who would prefer that I did not discuss the issue because they are not enjoying some of the comments seen from the backlash.

I will bat on because I think that our society deserves to objectively evaluate these matters. One thing that amuses me in moral debates is the indignation shown by some people as a means to prove a point. Quite often, we have found that those strongest in their indignation have their own skeletons tucked away. In a sense, we are saints sometimes and we are sinners at other times, very few of us have attained perfection and very few will honestly and openly draw courage from those instances in their lives where they faltered and express these experiences to give courage to others to overcome their own issues.

Examples of indignant responders who were later found to have their own serious skeletons in their closets were televangelists Jimmy Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and more recently US governor Spitzer and many others. The Washington Monthly recently ran an article on the potentiality of three adulterers running for president of the United States, we should not forget Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy and others not just in the US but all over the world.

The debate about polygamy was started by the media. I saw this as an area where my faith teachings provide solutions, so I provided my views and reflected on personal experience including my knowledge of the plight of many people in many relationships. I would like readers to refer to my other articles on the topic, one published by and another by This article should be read as a complementary article to the two already written.People in society engage in all sorts of relations for a variety of reasons. Quite often, consenting adults are enticed into relations because another person made very strong and overwhelming overtures. Sometimes people are able to fend off or resist overtures, other times or other people are not able to do the same.There are plenty of examples of this in everyday life. My concern is that our relationship laws are outdated and outmoded and have no appreciation of the realities of modern 21st century life.Are marriages in this country secular or religious or both? In an objective setting, contracts are governed by their own clauses. Partnerships, companies, organisations, all these operate under specific rules.

Relationships or unions between individuals operate within certain mores, some developed in the Western world, some developed in other societies. For a very long time, people have shown indifference to certain clauses in all contracts. In business, this is easy to prosecute, in marriage, the emotiveness invariably clouds the objectivity, the clauses become so fluid that now, only two things matter, that you enter or you leave a union, what goes on inside the union is not relevant unless it involves a criminal activity such as domestic violence.

Today, in our Western secular society, there is not even a requirement of fidelity in a marriage! There is a desire on the part of society that there would be fidelity in marriage, but this is not a legal clause, it is not enforceable, it has no bearing on property settlement or custody issues. In a sense, a modern marriage has lost much of its traditional meaning. What we have today is relationships.

Our politicians seem completely disinterested in properly addressing the diversity of these relationships and what rights and obligations they might entail. The nature of these relationships are no longer relevant for child-rearing purposes, they are not even relevant for welfare purposes. In fact, I am told that a person on welfare raising children on his/her own is entitled to more welfare than one who is attached to a partner. This person can enter into any relationship whilst receiving single parent benefits.

If a person had three partners and only one was recognised, under our welfare system, each partner can get a single parent rate for him/herself and the children with the exception of the first partner. So the argument that recognition of this relationship abuses welfare is a furphy, recognising these relationships in fact can have the potential of reducing welfare entitlements.

I entered into this debate because statistics indicate that 37% of attached males admit having long term affairs and 60 % of attached males admit to having extra-marital relations that would not be classified as long term affairs. The percentages are lower for females.Even though these relations are supposed to be taboo, such a high percentage of people admit to entering them when protected by anonymity.

Unfortunately, anonymity betrays the second woman in the relationship from very essential rights, the right of certainty, the right to bear children without pressure from the man to abort so that these children do not affect his social standing, and then there is the right of these children to love and support from both parents, this right is not attained fully in secret relationships.In an ideal world, no married person should proposition another person and no unattached person should knowingly proposition a married person. Unfortunately, this morality is only theoretically relevant these days, in practice, people, for a variety of factors will step outside these expectations.

I wish people would respect the norms and mores, something in the air stops, it would seem, 60% of attached males from being faithful. The exception to the rule I have outlined would be situations where there is a shortage of males because of war or work related deaths (which unfortunately occurs too often), in such situations, women deserve to also be accommodated.The system that showed understanding of this human nature saw fit to set strong regulations to make sure that people who wish to be honest about their urges can do so under a certain set of controls.Before rejecting outright my offer to help society, the naysayers should find another solution that those 60% will abide by!

My solution may make some of those 60% take responsibility for their behaviour. If I can make some of them feel a sense of accountability for the women they take to bed, then I have done a service to my sisters in humanity.Some plural relations have been terrible just like some monogamous relations have been terrible. It is not a convincing argument at all to bring me some horror stories from plural relations. We can find an equal if not a greater number of horror stories from monogamous relations. Not all relations of either category are perfect nor are they all a mess.

Similarly, not every person wants a plural relationship, but many of those who do, if socially permitted, will opt for the noble option of taking responsibility for their relations rather than just keeping them an open secret and living a life laden with guilt that inevitably makes them think less either of themselves or of their social systems. Hiding the human phenomenon or ignoring it promotes deceit and low self-esteem amongst those who practice it. Putting it into the open allows people the noble option of taking responsibility for their actions.

This is a debate amongst consenting adults, I am not involving government, regardless of reason or logic, governments only follow what they perceive to be public opinion, or what they can easily sell to public opinion. My appeal is directly to the public and so far, it would seem that the debate has generated plenty of interest. If we take the emotiveness and political aspirations out of it, I think we would progress further as a society. Keysar Trad

Polygamy and contemporary morals
By Keysar Trad - posted Friday, 27 June 2008
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The debate over the last couple of days on the issue of plural relationships has highlighted a number of very interesting paradigms.

First, if you are an Australian Muslim, make sure that you do not offer a faith-based solution for a social problem, this may hurt the cause, because the reaction is likely to be hysterical and some in the political establishment will have particularly interesting ways of looking at the matter.
Second, there are social practices which society is unwilling to address, people know they exist, some practice them, but overall, society lives in denial and blissful ignorance.

In February this year, the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Right Reverend Rowan Williams, suggested recognising aspects of Sharia to address problems that women face in the UK. He was lambasted all over the media, there was a hysterical frenzy because he had the audacity to suggest that the Divine teachings in Islam could, because some people believe in them, offer real solutions to these adherents.

Recently, there were several reports about the UK government considering the recognition of plural relationships, which for lack of a better idiom, are referred to as polygamy.

When we refer to polygamy, for the purposes of this article, we are not referring to a secular marriage, but to an amorous union among a group numbering more than two consenting adults.

The term polygamy covers both polygyny which is a union of one man with more than one woman and polyandry which is a union of one woman with more than one man. In essence, this term is gender neutral in that it does not give preference to one gender over another but includes relationships between one person of either gender and more than one of the other gender.

The UK government did not state that it would encourage the practice, rather, it said that it would grant official recognition to such marriages where they take place outside the country.

While most articles focused on the entitlement to welfare, little discussion has been accorded to a recent Sharia court decision in Malaysia to delay approval for such a marriage to a man unless he proved that he had the financial and physical ability to support such a relationship.

The Old Testament raises the issue of numerous historical figures who had supported more than one wife. Their polygamy is not criticised in the Bible nor does the Old Testament in any way restrict the practice. Some verses in the New Testament seem to present the celibate ideal of Saint Paul, glorifying a monastic tradition and only suggesting marriage if the person would otherwise burn with passion. There is also the statement of Christ describing divorce and remarriage for any reason other than infidelity as adultery. This discouragement of divorce is also seen as a monogamous restriction by some.

Googling the words "Christian polygamy" will reveal several Christian websites, not just Mormon Christians, who support polygamy through the Christian scriptures.

In practice many people support simultaneous amorous relationships with more than one partner. A number of websites on infidelity suggest varying percentages of men and women have engaged in extra-marital infidelity, one website suggesting that 45-55 per cent of married women and 50-60 per cent of married men have engaged in such relations with 37 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women admitting to having affairs.

Some Muslim scholars estimate that only 1 per cent of men in Muslim societies make a legally recognised commitment to more than one wife. This suggests that the religious teachings reduce the incidence of plural relationships.

The potential of the UK decision, despite the theatrical hypothesising of the media about welfare abuse, is that individuals may eventually be protected, the welfare system will be protected and children will be recognised and theoretically, be able to grow up in a loving relationship where both parents commit to their full responsibilities.

All forms of human relations can be abused and exploited, some monogamous relationships have been entered into with ulterior motives and it is quite likely that some plural relationships may be entered into with similar ulterior motives. However, most amorous relationships are entered into because one person develops love or succumbs to the desire for another person.

Decades ago women in all societies were warned not to engage in amorous relations unless there was the commitment of marriage in case they were just being exploited for sexual gratification. The father and the mother would guard their daughters like hawks.

The world has changed dramatically, parents are no longer involved to the same degree, and as many young people develop their own relationships an increasing number are exploring life with the same or different partners outside of marriage. Amorous relationships amongst consenting adults have continued to morph over the years and cover all different possibilities.

Most of our laws dealing with business, taxation and scientific advances are regularly reviewed. The marriage laws seem to have only changed from church laws where marriage was "till death do us part", to one where either party can apply for an annulment through secular courts.

The law has consistently only entertained the notion of monogamous marriage among couples of the opposite gender, but more recently we have started to debate whether this law should allow same-gender unions. This is to provide protection to a section of society. Discussion about other traditional forms of amorous unions among consenting adults continues to be a taboo and an affront to our sensibilities.

When we discuss the UK decision, we owe it to ourselves to put aside all emotive issues that may influence our analysis. If we don't, we could blind ourselves to real issues that affect ordinary people. Many of us are aware of individuals in our society who may put themselves in vulnerable positions and have an affair. We have legal brothels; we have a certain level of street prostitution. All these point to a real fact: that there are people in our society who enter into extra-marital relations.

What usually happens in those relations differs with the individuals, but generally, the person who is not the first partner has no certainty in the relationship, may never be able to have children for fear of the social stigma and if they do, these children themselves do not receive the same level of fatherly support, if they receive any.

This is not about any religion calling for privileges, the examples I have outlined are diverse and the secular outnumber the religious. They are real life examples. Some of the people who enter into them may attend their place of worship on Sunday or Friday and many may not.

In all these cases, the most vulnerable person is the second woman and the children. The poor little children are completely innocent and should not face any stigma because our society dictates that the love of their parents must remain secret.

The Islamic teachings came at a time where polygamy was prevalent. The Koran brought the restriction down to four and said: but if you fear that you cannot be just to them, then only one.
In a traditional society where sexual gratification is only permitted in marriage, this restriction placed a responsibility on males that if they choose to place themselves in an additional amorous situation, they must be certain of their ability to respect, honour, support and love these women equally. If they have any fear that they cannot, then, only one wife. This made monogamy the norm, and kept a safeguard for those who cannot be monogamous.

In a sense, the scriptures are applying psychology, that if a person finds himself in a situation that may lead to amorous overtures, this can only be progressed through a full commitment and responsibility. It makes the person think about it and in many cases, make a strategic retreat because of the stringent difficulties attached to the issue. Next time, this person is less likely to go in that direction. In the absence of this religious restriction, the aforementioned studies show large percentages of people embracing an extra-marital relationship.

To be honest with ourselves, we should introspect about the real nature of our own objections. Are we objecting to sex outside of marriage? If so, why do we condone brothels, de facto relations and boyfriend/girlfriend relations? Why do we condone the club life where a person is more likely to experience a different partner every day? We condone changing partners on a daily basis in the case of unattached club-goers, we generally turn a blind-eye to a person who has an affair, we are aware of partner-swapping bars, some dating sites openly advertise for singles and couples seeking other singles or couples but we scoff at any person who suggests a long term or permanent commitment to more than one partner?

In essence, we are saying, do it, but don't tell us about it. This is fine for many people had the law not intervened to criminalise "commitment" leaving without criticism uncommitted behaviour of the same nature.

From my perspective as a Muslim, I really do not wish to rock the boat. I am happy not to talk about the issue and not to disturb the status quo, because my experience is that you would rather hear about this issue from a secular perspective and seeing my bearded face discussing it is likely to polarise your views. Yet, as a responsible member of society, I believe that we cannot ignore the rights of women and children of philanderers. And as such, the original UK decision was a praiseworthy decision that more than anything, commences the process of safeguarding the rights of women who wish to leave such relationships and has less impact on those who wish to stay in them. That decision also protects the emotions and well-being of the children.

Today, the issue is not simply children born outside of wedlock, it is more of an issue of those children who may be ignored by a father who fears that acknowledging a "lovechild" would affect his standing or his first relationship. The rights of this child should be seen as greater and more significant than the mere "social standing" of the father who was happy to enjoy the relationship with the child's mother. The rights of the mother in this type of relationship should not be ignored just because she was wooed by an attached man. She should always be entitled to the respect of her peers.

I do respect that Sheik Khalil Chami, in his own personal capacity, has made a public appeal to the government on behalf of these women and children. Having seen the hysterical public reaction and the response of government, I will not be making any such appeal, I am hoping that some non-Islamic intellectuals will make a rational analysis of the issues involved without the polarising emotiveness that prevents us from comprehending and addressing our changed societal practices, even as a secular democracy.

Keysar Trad: UK is right to recognise polygamy
Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Keysar Trad, founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, writes:

Yesterday afternoon, the Australian media seemed abuzz with headlines about Muslims calling for the legalisation of polygamy. Articles ran on at least three Australian news websites of which I became personally aware, and by this morning, the international media had bought into the debate.

It seems that our taste for the exotic simmers always waiting for the opportunity to break through the surface. In this case, the issue is far less exciting than it has been made to appear.

Recently, the UK government gave formal recognition to a human practice that dates back to the Old Testament. The Old Testament tells us that historical greats like David had as many as 99 wives, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines and Rehoboam had 18 wives and three score concubines. These are only three of many people listed in the bible as providing marital support for numerous women.

The Islamic teachings restricted the permission of man to marry no more than four women provided that he has no fears about treating them equally. These same teachings say that God did not give any man two hearts, so if he finds himself in a situation where that heart inclines to more than one wife, then he should not allow it to incline completely to the exclusion of either partner. There are many rules and regulations that govern plural unions which some Muslim men and women say make it almost beyond the capacity of ordinary males.

Marriage being a union that requires consent, males can only enter into it when they find a willing woman. A man cannot pick and choose if the woman doesn’t.

In that sense, the moot point of the UK government giving formal recognition to women who make the decision to enter such relationships is welcome because it gives these women necessary protections to bring them on par with other women. I am NOT calling on the Australian government to do anything in relation to this matter, I know that people, Muslim and non-Muslims in this country are sick of hearing about what Muslims want and don’t want and I have no interest or intention to create controversy. Having said that, I believe that it is appropriate to congratulate the UK government for going beyond the hysteria and looking earnestly at the needs of those minority of women who enter such relationships.

Yes, I experienced polygamy firsthand with my father having two wives at the same time during my pre-teen years. This was a loving relationship that worked for the individuals concerned for numerous reasons that existed at the time. This was in another country and another environment altogether.

I talk about the issue from time to time to help people appreciate the importance of protecting their marriage. I talk about other personal experiences where I came close to considering a second relationship to show people that we can all get through these thoughts and inclinations and that what is important is holding on to and saving our existing marriage which should take priority over all other emotions.

In all, people grow through discussion of their thoughts, certainly this growth is most needed to protect existing family unions.