Allow me to choose four, five or even nine men, just as my wildest imagination shall chose.
I’ll pick them with different shapes and sizes, one of them will be dark and the other will be blonde. Tall or maybe short, they are to be Chosen from different denominations, religions, races and nations. And I promise you there will be harmony.
Create a brand new positive law for me, or may be a divine one. Make me a new law under the umbrella of the fatwa and fantasies, those which you unanimously agree on suddenly and without any advance notice.
Those were Saudi journalist Nadine Al Bedair’s words in her article for the Egyptian independent daily newspaper Al Masry Al Youm in her article “Me and my four husbands” on December 11th. She spoke hypothetically about how she would pick them, and she gave examples of how diverse her choices would be. Al Arabiya pointed out that she used all the justifications that men usually use:
In the article, Bedair asks why men have the right to get bored of being with one woman and therefore have the right to marry another three, while women do not.
Bedair then asks what happens when the woman gets bored as well or rather if she has not been enjoying her marital life from the very beginning.
In her article, she explained that her own belief in monogamy made her think about this kind of “make them feel what we feel” strategy that was described by a cleric as an “appeal for people to wake up and see how badly some women are treated by their husbands.”
Many reacted to her article by denouncing it as vomit, inflammatory, and anti-Islamic. Even an Egyptian MP has taken up that gauntlet, filing a legal complaint against the Al Masry Al Youm, accusing it of promoting vice.
In his comment on the article, Farag Esmail wrote, “What our colleague (referring to the editor in chief) allowed here is an unpaid aid for “prostitution”. A young woman with no shame writing to ask for four, five or even nine men!”
After arbitrarily accusing Al Bedair of promoting prostitution, he added an irrelevant and unprofessional comment, calling her “the Saudi woman who always intends to wear a short skirt and calls herself modern.”
Several others, including Dr. Abdul-Fattah Idris, professor of contemporary jurisprudence in al-Azhar University, and Sheikh Abdullah Al Manea, also seem to think that Al Bedair (and not just her article) is shameful.
Bikya Masr brought both teams: Sheikh Mohamed Gama’i argued that in the Qur’an, there is a reason for polygamy, and said that, “…no woman has the right to attack our traditions in this manner. She should be stopped.”
And others, including Sheikh Amr Zaki, who runs a mosque in downtown Cairo, said:
People should wake up and look at how women can be treated by their husbands and the fact that in our world today polygamy should be unacceptable. There is no need for it and besides, no man can truly love more than one woman and vice versa.
For those who didn’t realize Al Bedair’s aim, Aisha Gawad from elan provides an interpretation for the article:
I am not advocating polygamy for women or men. And I don’t want to speak for Ms. al-Bedair, but I have a feeling she is not advocating for it either. I believe she was trying to make a point about the inequalities that exist in many polygamous marriages…
A week later, Al Bedair came back with another article, “Finally you know the taste of anger”:
During the past few days and after the publication of my article entitled “Me and my four husbands”, words have spread that I want to meet a group of men, although I need only one. One who is by my own definition of the romantic lover doesn’t exist.
She then asked:
Finally you’re starting a revolution? Just because my words are telling the story of equality?
Finally you’re starting a revolution? When I only painted your pictures that but with only switching the roles?
What about me? What is supposed to be happening to me now from all that pain that has been being stored in me by practicing polygamy against me all that time?
And then she defended her previous article, pointing the finger back at those who pointed it at her:
You have emptied the article from all content and meaning, instead of getting my point, in the pursuit of justice which will make marriages happier, by my questions because I know, as you do, that most of our marriages are unhappy and boredom usually comes after the first year. Solution always exists for men (via polygamy) but what are women supposed to do?
In her answer for a question about polygamy, Egyptian first lady mentioned that polygamy must be fought by education rather than by laws.
I completely agree, laws can’t end polygamy, but people can. Egyptian law gives the woman the right to divorce in case her husband marries another woman. Religion never forced two women into staying married to the same man, yet a lot of women actually do agree. Until such culture is changed, no laws can change minds, and for that I actually appreciate what Al Bedair is trying to do by her words.