Wednesday, November 10, 2010

So she called her imam...

This is an excellent essay written by Dr. Susan Stickevers, M.D. about one of her personal experiences with Muslim American polygamy, and reprinted here with her very kind permission.

35 year old Fatima thought she had it all.

As a proud naturalized American citizen who immigrated to the US at age 7, Fatima realized that she had accomplished more in the United States than she could ever could have as a woman in her native Pakistan.

As a physical therapist with a masters degree, she commanded a high salary - higher than her husband's. Her seven year old son excelled in school, she lived in a comfortable home in a suburb of NYC, and she considered herself to be happily married to a wonderful Moslem man named Muhammad whom she had met through a matchmaker 9 years ago.

Fatima felt secure about her career, her future, and her marriage - until Muhammad returned home from a visit to his family in Pakistan and announced that he had married his 17 yr old cousin. He announced to a stunned Fatima that he intended to send money from their joint bank account to Pakistan on a regular basis to provide for his new wife's financial support. Muhammad told Fatima that he eventually planned to bring his young bride to the US so that she could live with them.

Fatima was familiar with Sharia law regarding polygamous marriages. Muhammad was supposed to have asked her permission before he took a second wife.

He had not consulted her about his intention to marry a second time, so she called her imam. Her imam wearily informed her that she was one of many American Moslem women who had been duped by their husbands, and now there was nothing that could be done from a standpoint of Islamic law. Her imam informed her that she should simply learn to cope with Muhammad's decision to take another wife. Fatima found the prospect of sharing her husband, her home, and her finances with another woman to be intolerable.

Fortunately polygamy is illegal in NY State, and Fatima's attorney successfully used the threat of invoking NY anti - bigamy statutes to assist Fatima in gaining sole custody of her son, sole ownership of her home, and generous child support in her uncontested divorce settlement. Despite the fact that she has a substantial income which exceeds her husband's, Fatima is not required to make a monetary payment to Muhammad.

Susan M. Stickevers, MD


  1. Thank you Susan.
    It just goes to show what is lurking in the background of apparently stable muslim marriages. Where the threat of the omnipresent sharia law and it's attendant polygamy is always liable to rear it's ugly head.

    But I was heartened by your story Susan not just because of the outcome of this particular case but also because it reveals that we in the west have not yet gone too far down the slippery slope of appeasement to these abhorrent practices. There are still laws in place that if vigorously enforced are able to give protection and justice to vulnerable women and children who are the true victims of polygamy. And for that we can all give thanks.

  2. Excellent post, Susan. I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg and it's unfortunate we don't hear more about it.