standard (source) :
Experts – including a woman once involved in a polygamous marriage – have called for a website designed to help Muslimmen find ‘second wives’ to be shut down.
The site, which apparently has more than 25,000 British members and 100,000 users worldwide, has been criticised for promoting a “dangerous and controlling practice”.
Aisha Ali-Khan, 37, of Bradford, who was once in a polygamous marriage, has issued a warning to women to “make sure they know what they’re getting into”.
“Growing up in Bradford, I was very aware of polygamy as a relatively common practice. I know there are some people who it seems to work for but there are many for whom it just I think it just doesn’t.
“It’s incredibly common for an older man to meet an attractive woman, entice her into his world – and often without even telling her he has another wife. That why it is so important that they know what they’re getting into.
“I knew of one girl who got married only to find out many months later that her husband had another secret wife in Pakistan.
“I had a horrendous experience and I probably would have done things differently if I knew then what I know now.
“The owner believes he is providing a valuable service but he is in fact contributing to the potential misery of thousands of women while in the pursuit of profit.
“From my own experiences, polygamy is not fair on the first wife or the second wife; there are no winners in this situation apart from the men.
“Websites like ‘secondwife’ legitimise polygamy, and directly contravene the law of the land. It should be taken down immediately.”
Azad Chaiwala, the founder of secondwife.com, of Sunderland, claims he was responding to a “gap in the market” by setting up the online polygamy site.
Polygamy, the practice of having more than one spouse, is illegal in the UK and carries a possible prison sentence of up to seven years.
Polygamous marriages are only recognised in the UK if the ceremony took place in a country where the practice is recognised.
While there are no official figures, it has been estimated that there may be as many as 20,000 polygamous marriages in the British Muslim community.
One testimonial on the website read: “I like how privacy is the main focus of the site. I feel comfortable as all my pictures are private and users need authorisation before seeing them.”
Another says: “Really pleased at how respectful the members were on this website. They take polygamy seriously! I would happily recommend this to anyone seeking a polygamous relationship.”
Henna Rai, director of the Women Against Radicalisation Network, says the website should be shut down because it risks legitimising extremist ideology.
She said: “The owners of this website need to do the responsible thing and take the website down immediately. I think it is disgusting to think that a man is actually profiting from this.
“If they don’t shut it down, they will be part horrific cycle of mistreatment, imprisonment and degradation of Muslim women.
“This is nothing more than another example of men using inaccurate readings of the Quran to promote their own sense of entitlement and self-interest.
“Because there is, of course, no legal framework for dealing with polygamy in the UK, women take part in private Islamic ceremonies, in which no witnesses are required, and find themselves trapped without any legal rights.
“They are used and abused by their new husbands, often becoming a dirty secret from the state, and forced to live in separate accommodation and even different towns to their husband.
“Many of the women who get involved in polygamous marriages have no idea what they have let themselves in for.”
She went on to say it was important that the British public appreciate that many in the British Muslim community are working to eradicate extremist ideology and that they should not “tar all Muslims with the same brush”.
“This monster of radicalism all comes from the same place and we are all fighting it together.”
Gina Khan, of One Law For All, herself a victim of a polygamous marriage, told the Mail: “The website is disgusting. It’s a medieval practice for Muslim men who want to commit adultery and they are using religion [to justify it]. It’s an abusive practice.”
A spokesman for secondwife.com said: “These criticisms are ill-informed. Second wives often don’t have any legal standing but, in the Islamic community, this is not so different from the first wife.
“The women who enter into these relationships have often chosen to do so. Often people who talk about the abuse of second wives haven’t actually spoken to those women who are choosing this way of life.
“If a man wanted to abuse a woman, he would have a secret affair. It doesn’t make sense to publicly marry a woman in front of their community just to simply lock her away and abuse her.
“Unfortunately, abuse does exist but it exists across all types of relationship.”