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.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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