GTA's secret world of polygamy
As Toronto mother describes her ordeal, imam admits he has `blessed' over 30 unions
May 24, 2008 04:30 AM
It took a minute for the news to sink in. Then she called her husband of 14 years, demanding to know if what she had just been told was true – that while she spent a year in Egypt raising their four children in a more Islamic environment, he had used it as an opportunity to marry not just one, but two other women in Toronto.
"Yes, I'm married," he said, quashing all her dreams of their future together.
He told her he was married in a small ceremony 20 days earlier, officiated by Aly Hindy, a well-known Toronto imam, at his Scarborough mosque.
"Polygamy is happening in Toronto; it's not common, but it's happening," said Hindy, imam at Salahuddin Islamic Centre.[...]In the past five years, Hindy said he has officiated or "blessed" more than 30 polygamous marriages; the most recent was two months ago. Even some imams in the GTA have second wives, he added.
"This is in our religion and nobody can force us to do anything against our religion," he said. "If the laws of the country conflict with Islamic law, if one goes against the other, then I am going to follow Islamic law, simple as that."
Those who condone the practice rarely let their views be known, and those who practise it themselves tend to do so in secret, making it difficult to record how many such marriages have taken place in the GTA. Equally hard to determine is how many polygamous families have immigrated to the country, despite a 2005 report commissioned by the federal Status of Women that tried to find out the extent of polygamy and its implications.
Under the Criminal Code, polygamy was deemed a crime in 1892. Those who enter into reside in, or officiate a polygamous union can be charged with a criminal offence and face up to five years in prison.
But the last time polygamy was prosecuted in Canada was more than 60 years ago. Fundamentalist Mormons in Bountiful, in southeastern British Columbia, have managed to get away with openly practising polygamy, believed to be an integral and necessary part of their faith, since the 1940s with little legal recourse.
Polygamy has been in Canada for more than a hundred years, brought here and still practiced by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) out in Bountiful British Columbia. No legal action has been brought against them because it is well understood that polygamy as practiced by the FLDS will be supported by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. So the government feels that it is better to ignore them, marginalize them, and hope that they go away because the consequence of addressing their polygamous acts may result in the legal recognition of polygamy.
However, polygamy is also sanctioned in Islam. The influx of Muslims into Canada only compounds the numbers of those involved in polygamous unions and will push the need to address this issue more so than the FLDS because the FLDS are a small insular community that can easily be ignored. Not so with Muslims whose numbers far outweigh those of the FLDS sect and who have been practicing polygamy long before the settlement and foundation of Canada.
If Canada is truly committed to multiculturalism then who are we to deny Muslims the legal recognition of polygamy? We already changed the definition of marriage once to accommodate one vocal minority group - the gay and lesbian communities - so who are we to discriminate against those who want to redefine it again to include multiple spouses? If you believe in multiculturalism and support same sex marriage laws, both of which I think are mistakes, then you have no choice but to accept the legal recognition of marriage. Otherwise you're just a hypocrite.
If you are opposed to polygamy then its time to rethink the multicultural model.
Muslim immigration is bringing polygamy to Canada.