Now that Qaddafi has been duly sodomized and lynched by our brave, new Libyan allies, leaders of the new government have said they intend to restore Shariah (Koran-based) law, and noted that “Shariah allows polygamy.” The NY Times, which previously offered relatively uncritical support for the Libyan rebels, ominously declared:
It looked like a sizable step backward for women at a moment when much here — institutions, laws, social relations — is still in play after the end of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s 42 years of authoritarian rule.
But is polygamy really as much of a step backward for women as it is for men? No, it isn’t. Polygamy ensures that women will always have a place in society as some man’s wife, whereas many men will necessarily be left out in the cold. Usually, it is the younger, poorer men who must do without as older, wealthier men marry up the local maidens.
However, French foreign minister Alain Juppé sees the issue in feminist terms, stating:
This is a problem for us, especially in regard to respect for the dignity of women.
Even from a feminist standpoint, this is an arguable position; women who are married, even those in polygamous marriages, will not be forced into prostitution or other dubious occupations to support themselves. No, as Financial Times columnist Tim Harford pointed out in Slate five years ago, the real losers will be single men:
…A lot of the knee-jerk reactions against polygyny are from people who can’t add up. In a society with equal numbers of men and women, each man with four wives gives women the additional pick of three men—the poor saps whose potential wives decided they’d prefer one-quarter of a billionaire instead. In the Sahel region of Africa, half of all women live in polygynous households. The other half have a good choice of men and a lot more bargaining power.
Much of the power of the so-called “Arab-Spring” revolts that have swept the Arab world derived from dissatisfied young men. Without their passion and outrage the social movement never would have made any headway, but the annihilation of the decrepit, authoritarian regimes of old Araby may not represent “progress” in the contemporary, Western sense of the word. In fact, it’s looking more like this is the beginning of another long jihad, the likes of which have periodically swept the world since the introduction of Islam, rather than the move toward “democracy” and modernity that the West foolishly expected.
Shariah is essentially a recipe for jihad, which is a sacred duty in Islam. Polygyny all but assures strife, as young men are forced to compete violently for the resources necessary to secure women. How are these young men to secure wives when the local girls are all married off to wealthy sheikhs? Why, by conquest, of course! Usually this takes the form of raiding a nearby village, but it can also result in massive campaigns, such as those that took the Arabs as far as China to the east and Spain to the West.
Cynics in high places surely knew what was going on in the revolts, and perhaps they are starting to get a bit nervous about the new strongmen in North Africa, but if the only critique our leaders can muster is on the basis of feminism we are going to be in for a rough ride, as that is an entirely insufficient response to the threat of resurgent jihad. Any way you look at it – and you don’t have to be a believer to recognize what stirs the hearts of men – God (or Allah, if you prefer) trumps effete Western handwringing over women’s equality in the Maghreb or the Pamirs. In fact, if our leaders keep up this pusillanimous finger-wagging over women, even as they provide air cover for Al Qaeda-trained jihadis, they may as well invite these modern-day Umayyads back to Tours for another round.