The Happy Arab News Service

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Forward to Middle Ages

This article about Tajikistan by the New York Times may surprise many people who hail from the former Soviet Union.

Polygamy existed in this overwhelmingly Muslim and rural country in the 70 years when the Soviet Union enforced a fiercely secular governing ideology that continues to be the law of the land. But it was very rare, and occurred in secret arrangements by people living shadowy lives.

. . .

Tajiks say polygamous marriages can now be found in nearly every apartment block in Dushanbe, and few Tajik families seem to be without a recent example.

. . .

The revival in Tajikistan of polygamy — which has been outlawed by the government but is supported by many imams — underscores a surprisingly swift return to traditional cultural and religious practices in all the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

. . .

Miriam Cooke, a professor of Arab culture at Duke University, said polygamy was an emerging trend across the Islamic world, including Indonesia, “where there is a huge controversy about the perceived growing trend in polygamous marriages.” But she warns against treating it as a black-and-white issue.

“It is complicated,” Ms. Cooke said. “There are some women who consider themselves to be feminists who think it’s perfectly acceptable to be a second or third wife and to be a professional woman, a good Muslim and to have all her rights. But I would say that I would agree with the majority of Islamic feminists who consider this to be a setback.”


Less than two decades have passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union and Islam seems to have already undone the 70 years of non stop work of the Soviet brain washing machine. It's hard to imagine grey blocks of Soviet style buildings populated by polygamous Tajiks. Tajikistan testifies to the surprising tenacity of this religion that came back to life barely a decade after the communist regime's gone. Those who think that religion/secularism is just a matter of education should take it as a warning not to overestimate their educating abilities.

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