7 Jul 2008
Women Deserve Better
By Keysar Trad
· 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 newmatilda.com, 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 Crikey.com.au and another by Onlineopinion.com. 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.