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Friday, Oct 31 , 2014 ( Muharram, 1436)

Updated:10:00 PM GMT

Australia in Muslim Polygamy Debate

By OnIslam & News Agencies ,
10891
"We, as a society, should say okay well if this woman has willfully chosen to enter into this relationship," Trad said. (photo through Google)
SYDNEY — The issue of polygamy is stirring a heated debate in Australia with the government insisting that polygamy shall remain forbidden and Muslim leaders arguing that polygamous marriages exist and should be recognized to accommodate people and protect their rights.

"There is absolutely no way that the Government will be recognizing polygamist relationships," federal Attorney-General Robert McLelland said on Wednesday, June 25, reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

"They are unlawful and they will remain as such."

The affirmation came after calls from senior figures in Australia's Muslim community for the government to change the laws and allow polygamous marriages.

Keysar Trad, president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said it is time Australia recognize polygamy if that is the will of the woman.

"We, as a society, should say okay well if this woman has willfully chosen to enter into this relationship, make a lifelong commitment to this person, to be married. It shouldn't matter," Trad told ABC.

"If it was a business and the business had four partners, we'd recognize that. But why don't we recognize it when it comes to consensual relationships among adults?"

Sheikh Khalil Chami, of the Islamic Welfare Centre in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba, also called for legalizing polygamous marriages.

"Why not change the law?" he asked.

Islam sees polygamy as a realistic answer to some social woes like adulterous affairs and lamentable living conditions of a widow or a divorced woman.

A Muslim man who seeks a second or a third wife should, however, make sure that he would treat them all on an equal footing, even in terms of compassion.

The Noble Qur'an says that though polygamy is lawful it is very hard for a man to guarantee such fairness.

Open Door

Australian officials insist that polygamy can not be permitted for both legal and cultural reasons.

"That's based on a long tradition," McLelland, the attorney-general, said.

"It's based on the culture of our community and polygamous relationships are entirely inconsistent with that culture and indeed with the law."

But Muslim leaders argue that by allowing polygamous marriage, the government would accommodate and protect the rights of Muslims who choose such marriage.

Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.5 percent of its 20-million population.

Trad gave a personal example saying that he once proposed to another woman with the consent of his wife.

"I certainly would not have entertained the thought of having a relationship without a religious marriage.

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

Shiekh Chami noted that though it is not legalized, polygamy does exist.

Chami added that he declines conducting polygamous marriages among members of the Muslim community almost weekly, but other sheikhs would agree to conduct such marriages because it is lawful in Islam.

Chami believes that by recognizing polygamy, the government might make a proper boundary for such marriage.

"We can start something... open the door.

"I think, if it has been allowed in a way, everyone will have control over this thing."

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