TORONTO — Canadian diplomats in Saudi Arabia say there may be a political tempest brewing as many oil-rich polygamist men look for ways to resettle here with their many wives.
Diplomatic officials said they`re flooded with applications from well-heeled Saudi men with one or more wives and have asked Ottawa for guidelines on whether the spouses should be given visas for Canada.
“Bigamy and polygamy are crimes in Canada, but not here in Saudi Arabia,” said Jeff Rogers, the first secretary of the Embassy of Canada in the Kingdomof Saudi Arabia.
Rogers said it is a “regular occurrence” to see men with more than one spouse applying for visas to travel to Canada as visitors, students or businessmen.
“And at times (they have) more than one spouse intending to travel with them,” he told officials in Ottawa in an October 2011 memo obtained through an Access of Information request by lawyer Richard Kurland. “Applicants will at times declare the multiple spouses.”
Rogers told officials of the foreign affairs department there are many men who hide their marriages from embassy staff.
“Applicants misrepresent their marital status in the application forms,” he said.
Canadian embassy officials allege some Saudi applicants try to go around the system.
They “are submitting applications with one or no wives,” he wrote. “Additional wives submit applications independently.”
Rogers said guidelines are being sought on how to process the rich applicants.
He said the issue has the potential to damage the relationship between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia, which follows the Muslim religion, is an important source of foreign students for Canada. Canada exports almost $1 billion of products to that country and imports almost $2.8 billion, according to government statistics.
© 2012 Sun Media Corporation
Sharing is caring: why many Saudi women don`t mind polygamy
In Saudi Arabia, polygamy appears to be a solution for women increasingly worried about spinsterhood which is seen as associated with a “shortage” of men.
“Saudi men travel a lot and live abroad for long times. This makes them forget about marriage altogether,” Professor of sociology Ibrahim al-Anzi was quoted as saying by al-Sharq newspaper.
Living in Western countries, Anzi added, also encourages men to engage in “practices that are alien to the conservative norms of Saudi Arabia.”
“This makes it very hard for them to think of marrying and having a family.”
Left with few options, girls increasingly accept to be second wives, he said.
“When a girl reaches 30 in Saudi Arabia, she is automatically considered a spinster and that is when she accepts marrying a man that would only give her part of his time rather than not marry at all.”
According to Anzi, polygamy not only solves the problem of spinsterhood, but also curb sexual relations outside the institution of marriage.
“In Saudi Arabia we have centers for sheltering children born out of wedlock and this was never the case before. This is basically because of outside marriage relationships due to objection to polygamy.” Fatima Ibrahim, a Saudi woman, said the reason some women reject polygamy is that a man would not be able to treat both wives equally.
“Some men remarry and totally forgot about their first wives to the extent that they stop supporting them financially and stop caring for their children.”
Fawzia Abdul Hadi supported Ibrahim`s opinion stressing that a man is usually more caring with the new wife.
“That is why I would never allow my husband to marry another woman under any circumstances,” she said.
Noha Ahmed disagreed. For her, if a man decides to remarry he would do that whether his wife likes it or not.
“I would talk to him and know why he wants to remarry, then I would choose his second wife myself and even accompany him when he proposes to her.”
According to Fatima al-Ahmari, if a man wants to remarry and his wife refuses, he will start picking fights until their life together becomes unbearable.
“And then he would get married anyway. That is why women should not object to polygamy.”
According to matchmaker Omm Rakan, men usually have conditions when they marry for the second time.
“A married man would prefer a woman who never married before and if he marries a divorced woman it would be on the condition that they don`t have children,” she said.
But divorced women, she noted, usually do not prefer to marry men who already have wives.
“A divorced woman has just come out of a failed marriage and is usually looking for stability. That is why she would refuse engaging in conflicts with the first wife.”
Omm Rakan argued that the prevalence of spinsterhood is mainly because neither men nor women want to take responsibilities.
“The most suitable form of relationship for them is convenience, or mesyar, marriages, but this is not feasible in our present time.”
In addition, she noted, most youths are preoccupied with other issues that make them marry late or not marry at all.“Most men now prioritize having a good income or a nice house over finding a suitable wife.”
© 2012 AlArabiya.net.