Polygamy's Human Cost

Myra Morton turned herself in on Thursday. Police say she shot her husband, Jereleigh, to death Sunday as he lay in his bed in their home near Philadelphia.

The Mortons converted to Islam in the 1980s. Jereleigh Morton had recently taken a second wife in Morocco: Zahra Toural, 35. (The first Mrs. Morton is 47). According to the police, Jereleigh met Zahra in December 2006, on the Internet, and got married in Morocco last March. This made Myra Morton unhappy. She complained to friends that Jereleigh was “no longer paying attention to her,” but she felt as if she had to approve of his marriage to Zahra since it was sanctioned by Islamic law — and it was what Jereleigh wanted. She wrote in her diary: “I go give him the permission, because he argues with me when I protest this marriage.”

It is never easy for the first wives. Adile Sultan, the daughter of the 19th century Ottoman reformer Mahmud II, was married to Mehmed Ali Pasha, an army officer. One day while traveling, Adile stopped for a rest at a mansion that was on the way. The hostess, who was unknown to her, offered her coffee and sherbet — and introduced herself proudly as the wife of Mehmed Ali Pasha.

Adile Sultan was shocked. And her life was never the same. “Thereafter,” says historian Phillip Mansel, “she lived in seclusion, writing poems of increasing sadness.”

This is the story of one woman, but it doesn’t take much knowledge of human nature to recognize that it’s a story that has been repeated and is still being repeated the world over. A twenty-first century American Muslim wife felt the same way. April Ray El-Hage, wife of convicted Al-Qaeda terrorist Wadih El-Hage, resisted her husband’s attempts to take a second wife. She couldn’t, of course, deny that he had a right to marry again — to do so would have been by her own account “un-Islamic.” But she fought back anyway: “I made his life hell…I was becoming a real b—-.” After six months, Wadih El-Hage broke off his engagement to his second wife.

Myra Morton was not so fortunate. Infidelity doesn’t justify murder, but it isn’t hard to sympathize with her despair and pain. Still, on the question of polygamy, as on all instances of Islamic oppression of women, feminist groups maintain a stony silence.

Is that because polygamy has nothing to do with American women? According to AP, CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper “said that a minority of Muslims take second wives, and that Islamic scholars would differ on whether one could do so while living in the United States.” How large a minority? Do these Islamic scholars take into account the fact that polygamy is illegal according to the laws of the United States?

Polygamy is a human rights issue. But since it involves the avowal that Western civilization is more humane in this regard than Islamic civilization, don’t expect human rights groups to be taking it up anytime soon. For, as I discuss in my new book Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t, the West is consumed with self-hatred and moral equivalence at precisely the time when Judeo-Christian civilization and values are facing a life-or-death challenge, and when Western countries should therefore be reasserting the goodness of their common civilization. Values that originated in a Judeo-Christian context are accepted the world over, except in the areas where the sharp Islamic dichotomy between believers and unbelievers, and the idea that women are inferior beings created to serve men, supplant the idea of the equality of dignity of all people.

For the West to defend its heritage and values would go a long way toward delineating the nature of the present conflict — still cloudy six years after 9/11 — and giving people the will to resist Sharia and Islamization initiatives. But the dominance of multiculturalism and political correctness ensure that this defense is not on the horizon. The sad case of Myra Morton is only the latest example of the human cost of this failure of will and courage.