Polygamy and shariah, revisited


Mitt Romney made news recently for his family having historical ties to the practice of polygamy. Described by liberal pundits as “the ultimate Mormon oddity”, the truth is that the Mormon church officially repudiated polygamy in 1890. It was, in fact, a requirement for the admission of Utah to the Union.

Polygamy is an affront to the principle of equality between the sexes. You would think that this would be an issue that is championed as a women’s issue. Sadly, it gets little attention from international organizations, even on International Women’s Day.

The practice is common in the Muslim world, and is becoming common practice in Europe, as well:

“the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported statements from Norway’s Directorate of Immigration (UDI) that there are an increasing number of men with multiple wives in Norway. “The reason is married men travel to countries where polygamy is legal and then add a wife.” Though polygamy is illegal in Norway, “this is something that Norwegian authorities cannot prevent,” said UDI spokesman Karl Erik Sjøholt. …The Islamic Cultural Center Norway (ICCN), an immigrant organisation subsidised by the Norwegian state, advises Muslims in Norway to take several wives because polygamy “is advantageous and ought to be practiced where conditions lend themselves to such practice.”

Some time ago, a blog we used to visit regularly, pointed to a reprint of an article at The American Muslim that encouraged the development of sharia law in America by using the model of Tribal Courts, as practiced by American Indians.

I recommend that as a first step, supporting organizations dealing with Islamic family law be established immediately. A professional association of Muslims in the law field (of whatever specialty) is a must. A law school students’ support group should be formed, and Muslim youth should be encouraged to enter this field. A second step would be to establish institutes in the U.S. which can supplement legal education with courses in Islamic family law. At the same time, pressure should be put on law schools to include courses in Shariah taught by Muslims.

This is not assimilation. This is not acceptance of American Civil Law. This is unacceptable. Inasmuch as the political left has resisted the logical step of protecting the institution of marriage through the amendment process, is there any other remedy that has legal and historical precedent? There is. And it goes back to that “ultimate Mormon oddity.” Joshua Trevino at Brussels Journal laid out the case in an excellent post from last year.

The precedent is the 1887 Edmunds-Tucker Act, which effectively disestablished the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints until that entity gave up its doctrine of polygamy. The Mormons were effectively declared an organized-crime outfit: their properties were confiscated, and their leaders were driven underground. It took three years, but in 1890 they abandoned polygamy, Utah became a state, and the Mormons … have been good, patriotic, and peaceful Americans ever since. One, Mitt Romney, even has a shot at being President shortly. They were forced to join the civilized world by the United States government, which cared more for the norms of American culture than the values of the Mormon faith – and rightly so. Looking back, it is difficult to deny that this vigorous action – in which no American was killed, deported, put into camps, or hunted down – was to the ultimate benefit of the country and the Mormons.

If we could act with that degree of sanity, self-preservation, and humanity in 1887-1890, why not now? If we cannot, it is not because Muslims now – or any other immigrant community now – are worse than Mormons then: it is because we have lost the self-confidence to do it.

Reprinted by request: 03/08/2007

3 Responses

  1. “I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.”
    (Audacity of Hope, page 261, Barack Hussein Obama)

  2. If he means “upwind”, I might agree.

  3. Interesting stuff. I knew about the Edmunds-Tucker Act, but wasn’t aware it was so close to organized crime. Also, I had never thought of the parallel between the two situations as you present them here.

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