There is an unexpected rise in polygamy among Muslims in Britain, reports The Australian newspaper (Sept. 27).
Using figures from the Islamic Sharia Council, the BBC Asian Bureau reported that for the first time, polygamy is now among the top ten reasons for divorce, as wives decide that they can no longer tolerate competing with one another. Out of 700 applications for divorce in 2010, 43 cited polygamy as the reason.
Polygamy is illegal in Britain, but Muslim men can take a second, third or even a fourth wife under Sharia law in a ceremony known as the nikah. There are three main reasons for the growth in polygamy: the increasing number of young Muslim men who want to practice a more orthodox or conservative form of the religion (these marriages have the lowest rate of success); when a first marriage fails and the husband does not want to have an extra-marital affair, he will marry a second woman he is attracted to; and a small group of men whose parents live in the country of origin and marry a women from the community there to help look after them.
Because these marriages are not recognized in Britain, there is a growing concern that wives in polygamous marriages are unaware that they have no legal rights. The Muslim Council of Britain advises all those who marry only under Sharia law to have a contract in place setting out who is entitled to what.