Egyptian-American Muslim Girl Gets Grilled on Polygamy By Hispanic Woman

“Hey, are you Egyptian?”  I was standing at a table on the side of the post office, filling out a shipping label, when a Hispanic woman walked up and asked the girl next to me that question.  I glanced over at the girl and saw she had Middle Eastern features and she was wearing a hijab (the head scarf, if you’re not familiar with the word).  Oddly enough, the woman had guessed right.  The girl replied that she was half Egyptian and was born in the US.

“You’re a Muslim right?”  At this point, I was considering moving to another part of the post office, because I was expecting this Hispanic woman to go nuts and start haranguing this girl for being a Muslim, which she obviously was, since she was wearing a hijab.  New York City has a reputation for being filled with lunatics and you really never know if you’re talking to one until it’s too late.  The girl looked a little hesitant, but again she answered yes.

‘Here it comes,’ I thought.  But, instead of what I was expecting, the Hispanic woman asked, “What do you think about marrying more than one woman?  If you were married to a man, would you be ok with him marrying a woman in another country?”

“No, I wouldn’t be ok with that.”

“Ok, because I know Muslims believe in marrying more than one wife.”

“Well, not all Muslims do that,” the girl replied.  “That’s mostly something that happened a long time ago, because it’s too hard to handle more than one wife, since the guy has to take care of them equally.  It’s a lot of trouble, but I wouldn’t do it myself.”

“Oh, well you’re mostly American since you were born here, but do you know if Egyptians do that?”  I imagine she was trying to fish for another answer, perhaps to justify the problem she was about to lay out to this girl.

“Well, yes, but I just don’t think it’s ok and I don’t think many people would do that.”

“My husband was here, and he married me, but then he went back to Egypt and he married another woman.  If you were the other woman and you knew the man was married, would you do that?  Would you marry a man that was already married?  What kind of woman does such a thing?”

The above conversation is paraphrased, of course.  I don’t remember exactly what they said to each other, but it went along those lines.  At that point, I stopped following the conversation completely because I was just about done with filling out my shipping label and sealing the envelope, but the Hispanic woman kept pressing this girl about why her husband, who had been deported, would find a new wife in Egypt instead of being faithful to her.  The girl told her it sounds like a personal problem.  She was probably trying to separate the issue from religion, before it devolved into something ugly.  She told the woman that if she wasn’t satisfied with the situation she should divorce her husband, but the Hispanic woman told her something about losing benefits.

Then I walked away to get my postage for my envelope.

I wonder if that happens often?  I doubt that girl expected to have a conversation quite as bizarre as that when she put on her hijab that morning and left her house.

4 thoughts on “Egyptian-American Muslim Girl Gets Grilled on Polygamy By Hispanic Woman

  1. Well, from what I understand, polygamy in Islam is something that's supposed to be for the wealthy, those that can afford to give multiple women gifts on special days and provide for them all equally and in comfort.

    As for me, one wife is more than enough.

  2. Talk about awkward! I once met a man who had two wives in Jerusalem, and you could sense the slight tension in the room.

    IMHO one wife is enough, as anniversaries and holidays (not to mention Valentines Day?!) would become quite expensive (if not stressful).

  3. Hi ed. From what I understand of the Qu'ran (and I admit my knowledge is very limited in that regard), it's best to have one wife, and multiple wives should only be taken to prevent them from being destitute and/or socially ostracized. Considering the social position women had in the 7th century Arabian peninsula, to me, that sounds noble. I think that the practice of polygamy, today, could still be relevant and beneficial, but it depends on the social circumstances of the geographic area where people live. Women have it better in some places than others, in terms of social independence. What the Qu'ranic practice of polygamy really boiled down to was taking care of the Ummah in Yathrib (Medina). One could make a good case for giving women social equality just on that principle alone, and I think that social equality for women (as well as the poor and children) was one of the goals of the Qu'ran.

    So, you won't find me ranting about the supposed unjustness of polygamy, as long is it's done for the right reasons. To any Christian who would denounce polygamy, I'd refer them to the practices of the Old Testament kings. People tend to forget things that don't fit their personal world view.

    As for the Muslim girl in the post office, I think she was doing a good job of handling herself. She made her opinion on the subject known, and as an American she didn't see the necessity of polygamy, which reinforces my belief that acceptability of the practice depends on social circumstances, and that once women have social independence it's no longer necessary. Women here have a lot of independence and freedoms. Also, I think she, as a Muslim, could make her argument more clearly than I could. If she had indicated she wanted assistance, I certainly would have helped her out.

    Thanks for commenting ed. Glad to see you're still reading from time to time. =)

  4. If you could say something here, you should have said something there as well. If the woman told you to mind your own business, you could easily say that if she took it upon herself to make it the Muslim girl's business, than you have the right to do likewise to the Hispanic woman.

    Anyway, there is nothing wrong with a man having more than one wife, provided it is within particular economic and patriarchal conditions. But taking away the latter two, it may not be as right. But then again, that might make the woman do more for the relationship if she thought her deficiencies could be complemented by her man's marriage to another women.

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