Australia: Polygamy should be allowed, says sheikh

Sydney, 24 June (AKI) - Members of Australia's Islamic community believe polygamous marriages should be recognised to protect the rights of women.

Sheikh Khalil Chami of the Islamic Welfare Centre in Sydney says polygamous marriages, although illegal, exist in Australia and should be recognised.

"It's a bit hard, very difficult, but unless we face it, how (do) we overcome it?" he told a Sydney radio programme.

"If you know there is law that will help you, there is community will help you. Why not? Why not change the law?"

Chami said he was asked almost weekly to conduct polygamous religious ceremonies.

While he declined to perform such ceremonies, he said other sheikhs did not.

"There are a lot of sheikhs here without any qualifications, without any place," he said.

"They'll conduct that marriage no problem at all."

Chami's comments were also published in The Australian, a national daily newspaper.

President of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, Keysar Trad, said recognising polygamous unions would help protect the rights of women in the relationship.

Trad once proposed to another woman with the consent of his wife, Hanefa, but the second marriage did not proceed.

"I certainly would not have entertained the thought of having a relationship without a religious marriage and I thought the relationship with that person was developing to the stage where we had become too friendly with each other," he said.

"Rather than entertain any thoughts of an affair I thought the only decent thing to do was to consider a proper commitment to that person.

"This idea of plural sexual relationships, it is not so much frowned upon by society as long as these people don't say we want a polygamous relationship."

Trad's mother was a third wife in a polygamous relationship outside Australia. Trad said the women had admiration and respect for each other.

"In a sense, it's a compliment to the original partner that if he didn't find marriage to be so good why would he go into it again," he said.

"In a sense, he's saying that his first wife has made life like heaven for him so he's willing to provide the same service, love and support to a second woman."

He said women were choosing to enter into these types of marriages.

Trad's wife said many people in polygamous marriages kept it a secret - not only because it was illegal, but because society did not accept it.

"Tell you the truth, the hardest part of it (is) the way the others perceive it, not what's happened between me and him," she said.


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