Polygamy in Islam … in America

Fascinating twopart series on NPR this week on Muslim polygamy in the U.S., among a small number of Muslim immigrants, but also African-American converts to Islam.

While various conservative nitwits have gotten the vapors, what I find interesting is the fact that, at the root, this issue, like so many others in the world, can be explained by simple economics.

Muslim polygamy was a response to the bloody times in which the religion took root. So many men died in war that the society had to adapt by embracing polygamy. In other words, it was not unlike today:

The single women at the mosque say polygamy is a fact of life. But it’s not their first choice.

“Every woman has a preference to be the sole wife,” says Aliya, echoing the sentiments of the others. Aliya is a 28-year-old single woman who is finishing up a master’s degree. She says that South Philadelphia in the 21st century is a little like Arabia in the 7th century. There is a dearth of men to marry.

“We’re dealing with brothers who are incarcerated — that is, unavailable,” she says. “And then unfortunately, you have the AIDS and HIV crisis, where HIV has struck the African-American community disproportionately to others. So when you look at it that way, there is a shortage.”

Of course, this is all anecdotal stuff. The actual number of muslim polygamists in the U.S. is vanishingly small. But it’s funny how society adapts.