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Muslim Leader In Nigeria Links Polygamy To Poverty And Terrorism


A prominent Muslim leader in Nigeria is making a point about a common practice in Islam. He says if people are worried about poverty or terrorism, they should consider how those problems can be made worse by polygamy. Here's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Malam Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano, is Nigeria's second-most influential Islamic leader and a former bow tie-wearing, whistle-blowing governor of the Central Bank. He addressed a gathering on Sunday about proposed wide ranging changes to family law in Kano, Nigeria's biggest Muslim state and one of nine governed by Islamic law. Islam permits polygamy only if a man can provide for all members of his family. The Emir seems to suggest the state should enforce that. Those of us in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria, he said, have all seen the economic consequences of men who are not capable of maintaining one wife marrying four.

They end up producing 20 children, not educating them, leaving them on the streets and these children end up as thugs and terrorists. The Emir's utterances were taken to mean these youngsters become prime targets ripe for recruitment by Boko Haram. The extremist network has wreaked havoc in northeastern Nigeria these past seven years killing thousands of people, abducting thousands more boys and girls and recruiting often impoverished young men into their ranks. Perhaps sensing a potential backlash, a spokesman for the Emir has since stressed there's no provision in the proposed bill seeking to ban polygamy among poor men as it appears the Emir's comments have been interpreted.

The Emir said the draft bill would address what Islam says on marriage, outlawing forced marriages and domestic violence and placing conditions that must be fulfilled before a man can marry more than one wife. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Johannesburg. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.