NPR: Some Muslims in U.S. Quietly Engage in Polygamy

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Although polygamy is illegal in the U.S. and most mosques try to discourage plural marriages, some Muslim men in America have quietly married multiple wives.

No one knows how many Muslims in the U.S. live in polygamous families. But according to academics researching the issue, estimates range from 50,000 to 100,000 people.

You can see some of the women involved in polygamous marriages in the lobby of Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit women's center in New York City. It bursts with color as a dozen women in bright African dresses and head wraps gather for a weekly noon meeting for West African immigrants. The women come each week to this support group where they discuss hard issues, such as domestic abuse, medical problems, immigration hurdles and polygamy.

Read or listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

8 Comments
Posted May 28, 2008 at 6:33 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Katherine wrote:

I’ve been investigating how common polygamy is in Egypt.  According to official statistics, it’s only about 3%, but anecdotal evidence is that it’s much more common, especially in the lower classes.  And here, as with the women in this story, first wives almost universally abhor the idea.  Second wives usually don’t like it, but don’t have other alternatives.  In Egypt, men lie to the imams, or find a way to intercept the required legal notice sent to the first wife, so often the first wife doesn’t know about it.  As the woman in this piece says, the relationship of the husband to plural wives simply can’t be equal.  He ends up with a favorite, or more likely he never has a genuine family relationship, Western-style, with any of them. This habit, along with the ancient African practice of FGM, is destructive to family life and the love between parents and children.  It cripples society.

May 28, 7:31 am | [comment link]
2. Br. Michael wrote:

As may be, but it is coming.  If gender is no longer a reason to pervent marrage then the number of people you marry can’t be either.  A number becomes arbitrary and irrational just as gender has become and there is no longer a rational basis at law to discriminate.

May 28, 8:49 am | [comment link]
3. Undergroundpewster wrote:

It should be a simple thing to make the new Marriage Rite not only gender neutral but to also address the need to include plurality. No doubt the BCP of the future will allow for spouse/partner/other to be asked if they accept wife#?/husband#?/lover#? into the household. Then the whole lot of them can be blessed by changing “this man” and “this woman” to “these men and these women.”
This might also be a great opportunity for jewelers, wedding planners, caterers, and photographers to cash in and stimulate our economy.

May 28, 9:51 am | [comment link]
4. nwlayman wrote:

The Diocese of Olympia’s clergy directory has listed clergy names followed by “Spouse/Partner” for several years now.  It isn’t hard at all (and why indeed should it be?) to include additional lines beyond one after that heading.  Word processing has made all kinds of theology easier.

May 28, 12:28 pm | [comment link]
5. Didymus wrote:

At least polygamy has the weight of thousands of years of cultural and legal precedents, and also has the advantage of only an implied inhibition in the Bible.  Further, God describes Himself as having two wives in Israel and Judah within the Old Testament.  Certain other forms of marriage that have been advanced have none of these behind it.

May 28, 1:43 pm | [comment link]
6. Irenaeus wrote:

The next “equality” issue?

May 28, 10:39 pm | [comment link]
7. Alice Linsley wrote:

This is kingdom building. Read this:
http://college-ethics.blogspot.com/2008/05/polygamy-spreading-silently.html

May 29, 10:51 am | [comment link]
8. Alice Linsley wrote:

Didymus, please cite the verse to which you refer here: “God describes Himself as having two wives in Israel and Judah within the Old Testament.” (Note that these 2 realms are on a north-south axis.)

May 29, 10:55 am | [comment link]
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