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Polygamy, terrorism, wife-stealing, and nuclear war

A chain of progression - one leads to the next, then the next...

By Will Offensicht  |  October 4, 2007

All human societies are based on families, and families stand on how men and women relate to one another.  All societies have laws and customs to regulate how couples mate and raise children.  Traditional Islamic societies forbid any interaction between men and women who aren't married to each other.  One reason Saudi women are not allowed to drive cars is that they might interact with an unrelated male; everybody knows where that could lead!

Modern Mating Dances

If men and women can't interact, how, then, do men and women decide whom to marry?  They don't.  In much of the Middle East and Asia, fathers decide whom their children marry; marrying for romantic love is regarded as an impractical Western notion.  Comparing divorce rates around the world suggests that there's merit in the skeptical Asian view of romance-based marriage.

A father worries about economics when choosing his daughter's husband because there will be grandchildren.  Having reduced his payroll by giving her to her husband, he doesn't want her back on his budget.  The more desirable the daughter, the wealthier the husband he can attract and the more money he gets for selling--, oops, giving, his daughter in marriage to the lucky buyer--, oops, groom.

Some modern elements have crept into the tradition.  Instead of just dealing with the parents, Japanese marriage brokers circulate resumes.  I spent a couple of evenings around a Japanese kitchen table as the entire family reviewed 100 or so data packets about young men who might become the daughter's husband.

She filled out a form and sent in her evaluations.  When the broker noted mutual interest, a "date" was arranged.  The goal is to find the best of both worlds - parents filter resumes and young people find "safe love" by dating from pool of qualified candidates.

The mixture of Western ideas with traditional mating habits has become a staple of the film industry headquartered in Bombay, India.  Many "Bollywood" plots center on a sincere, bumbling marriage broker struggling to marry off a handsome / ugly / rich / poor daughter.  The crisis comes when somebody makes trouble just before the wedding.  These stories reinforce the idea that the broker, the father, and the girl can count on the marriage being a done deal once the broker gets paid.


The assumption that marriages last "'til death us do part" doesn't work as well in Islamic societies where husbands may divorce any wife at any time by saying, "I divorce thee" three times.  What happens then is up to the offended husband.  He may send her home, he may let her stay, or he may put her out in the street with or without her children; it's up to him.

Jewish divorce law of 4,000 years ago was a much better deal for women:

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.
 - Deuteronomy 24:1-2

An ex-wife can't leave her husband's house to meet other men without his permission.  She no longer belongs to her father so he can't help her.  Even if a man could meet her, she couldn't marry because her ex-husband could reclaim her at any time so long as claiming her again didn't put him over the four-wife limit specified in the Koran.

Under Jewish law, her ex-husband had to give her a document which certified her eligibility to marry.  He had to put her out of his house so that she could meet another husband, and he had no further claim on her ever again.

Islamic law limits a husband to a maximum of four wives at a time.  Sheik Mohammad bin Laden, who founded the largest Islamic construction firm, is said to have had at least 54 children.  To Muslims, wife's names aren't worth writing down so we don't know whether he had 20 or 22 wives, but he was meticulous about not being married to more than four at once. Osama bin Laden of 9-11 fame was the only son of Mohammad bin Laden's tenth wife.

Given that his construction firm grossed $5 billion per year, the Sheik could support any number of ex-wives, but that was up to him.

The American custom of a wealthy man dumping his spouse for a younger, more fertile "trophy wife" is similar to Islamic custom but the Islamic system is easier for men.  When he replaced Ivana with Marla Marples, Donald Trump couldn't just say "I divorce thee," he needed lawyers and Ivana got some money.  Not only that, American law meant that Mr. Trump had to be content with one trophy wife at a time, he couldn't have four at once as the Sheik could.

Prudent American men use prenuptial agreements to limit the future cost of dumping trophy wives.  Islamic law gives a wife no legal rights, but a father can negotiate a prenuptial agreement committing the groom to support her and her children after divorce.  Although her husband is free to divorce her at any time and she has no legal rights, his contract with her father -- being an agreement between men -- is enforceable.

If a daughter is desirable enough, her father can give her some protection through a prenuptial agreement, but what happens if the prospective groom says, "I'll pay 10 camels for her without a prenup, but only 5 if you insist that I promise to feed her if I have to divorce her"?

Polygamy and Terrorism

Islamic polygamy creates situations where terrorism flourishes.

Polygamy puts awful strains on society.  Let's assume that only 1 Muslim man in 10 can afford the statutory 4 wives and that other men can only afford one.  In a town of 200 people, 100 men and 100 women, the 10 richest men take a total of 40 women by offering more money to the girl's fathers.  That leaves 60 women for 90 non-rich men.  If each rich man takes only 4 women out of the marriage pool, 30% of the men  find no wife at all.

The actual situation is worse because super-rich men like the Sheik marry more than 4 women.  He'll divorce surplus-wives as necessary for the bureacracy's sake, but he'll keep an ex-wife confined to the house so she'll be available for "creature comforts" in case of emergency. The super rich man takes 20 women; the 9 rich men take 36 so the richest 10 men take 56 wives.  That leaves 44 women for the remaining 90 men; about half the men have no chance to marry.

People who find it hard to believe that there could be enough rich people to make that big a difference haven't thought about the oil money.  The Saudi royal family, for example, has about 4,000 princes.  There are reports that each prince gets a monthly allowance of $250,000.  A cash flow of $3 million per year could support at least 20 wives.  20 wives for each of 4,000 princes is 80,000 women, leaving 76,000 men with no marriage prospects.

Saudi oil money paid for the construction work which gave Sheik Bin Laden his fortune and funded his harem.  Saudi Arabia is the wealthiest country in the Middle East so the problem of men not being able to find wives is at its worst there.  Sure enough, most of the 9-11 perpetrators were Saudi citizens.

Having too many unattached men is dangerous for any society.  In the US, married men pay less for auto insurance than unmarried men because being linked to a woman stabilizes a man.  Some historians claim that women drive civilization.  As President Reagan said, "I happen to be one who believes that if it wasn't for women, us men would still be walking around in skin suits carrying clubs."

The urge behind central heating, home appliances, and other civilized comforts is a man's drive to take care of his wife and make her comfortable enough that she likes being his wife.  If a man owns his wife he doesn't need to act civilized and men who can't have a woman don't care about being civilized.

The New York Times documented the side effects of women shortages due to American polygamy in a recent article:

Over the last six years, hundreds of teenage boys have been expelled or felt compelled to leave the polygamous settlement that straddles Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.  Disobedience is usually the reason given for expulsion, but former sect members and state legal officials say the exodus of males -- the expulsion of girls is rarer -- also remedies a huge imbalance in the marriage market. Members of the sect believe that to reach eternal salvation, men are supposed to have at least three wives.

The Times puts it well, "huge imbalance in the marriage market."  Victims of American polygamy can leave home to find wives.  Muslim men can't because neighboring countries have the same customs.  Men with no attachment to society become terrorist cannon fodder; a successful suicide bomber is guaranteed 75 virgins in the afterlife.  If the only way to get a woman is to commit suicide, so be it.

Any woman who's been pursued by an obsessed man she doesn't want understands how strong a man's drive for a woman can be.

Some women believe that if women are in short supply, their value goes up and they're treated better, but the genders are too far out of balance in the Middle East for this to work smoothly.  As pointed out by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada,

In some areas the gender imbalance is so marked that women are kidnapped and sold as wives."

If women are too valuable, the temptation to steal them becomes so great that they can't walk around without being "swept off their feet" and ripped off.  That's another reason the Saudis don't let women drive cars -- carjacking easily turns into wifejacking.

Polygamy and Wife Stealing

Newspapers report that Palestinian suicide bombers who blow themselves up to kill Israelis come from the lower ranks.  In the National Review October 8, 2007, p 36, an assistant to General Petraeus explained that instead of committing suicide to get women in the afterlife, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) leaders use force to get women here and now:

AQI killed a sheik over his refusal to give daughters of his tribe to them in marriage, which created a revenge obligation (tha'r) on his people who attacked AQI."

AQI needs local cooperation to stay hidden from the Americans, but their drive for women is stronger than their desire to keep the locals happy.  Most AQI leaders come from Saudi Arabia where establishment types not only get all the oil money, they get all the women, too.  Killing a sheik and taking his women won't win Iraqi "hearts and minds," but since they can't afford the bride price, the only ways AQI can get women are murder or suicide.  Murdering your prospective in-laws is a new twist on "shotgun wedding."  As Willy Sutton put it, "You get further with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone."

Getting a discount on the bride price by murdering the bride's parents was such common practice in the Middle East that Jewish law regulates the practice:

When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, and seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; and she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.  And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.
 - Deuteronomy 21:10-14

The Jews couldn't just work their will on a captive female, Moses wrote down rules:

First, she shaves her head, cleans her nails, and gets rid of her clothes; that's the traditional way to get rid of body lice.  Even today, shaving kids' hair is the standard way to cure head lice in certain American neighborhoods.

Second, she gets a "full month" to mourn her parents.  This gives the man time to come down from his adrenaline high.  I didn't win my wife by killing her parents, but I suspect that conquering a woman this way would be as exciting as having my team win the championship.  Even in civilized parts of America, victorious sports fans can get rowdy, the Red Sox World Series comes to mind.  Letting the man cool off for a month means she's less likely to get hurt when he "goes in unto her."

Third, Moses' law says that if the man does take her, she's no longer a slave, she's no longer property - the man cannot sell her.  If the man doesn't want her any more, he has to set her free as required as noted above.  Having sex with her promotes her from slave to wife.

Taking a woman gave her certain rights.  If a man raped or seduced a woman, Deuteronomy 22:28-29 said he had to pay a fine and marry her.  He also lost his right to divorce her.

Given the sexual forces involved, militant Islam will be a tougher opponent than communism ever was.  By saying God did not exist, communists gave up religion as a tool to motivate people.  Women were equal under communism, so they couldn't be given as rewards to the faithful.  The only reward communists could offer was power.

Al Qaeda offers its followers power and religious satisfaction, of course, but it also offers the chance to find a wife or wives.  If Al Qaeda wins in Iraq, they'll have oil money with which to reward their followers and they can award them wives by killing Iraqi men.  What motivates men more, God's approval, money, power, or access to wives?

Gender imbalance fuels terrorism in the Middle East, and it could have more serious consequences.

Polygamy and Nuclear War

Gender imbalance might lead to nuclear war.  Pakistan, a nuclear power, has an unstable government and a Muslim majority where polygamy and poverty flourish.  If radical Islamics take power in Pakistan, they might start a war with India or China to get rid of unattached men who would otherwise cause them trouble.

Chinese gender imbalance could also lead to a nuclear exchange.  An Economist book review noted an unexpected shortage of women:

Some big numbers are so frightening that a habitual reaction is to ignore them, deny them or optimistically assume that they are already dwindling. One such figure was produced in 1990 by Amartya Sen, who later won the Nobel Prize for economics. More than 100m women, he claimed, were missing. Demographers have since quibbled with the arithmetic, but not with the underlying argument: that, in many countries, especially in Asia, there are fewer women than there should be, assuming normal patterns of birth and longevity.

The Wall Street Journal explained the shortage.  "China's One-Child Mistake" WSJ Sept 17, 2007 p A17 says,

Under normal circumstances, about 103 to 105 baby boys are born for every 100 baby girls.  Shortly after the advent of the one-child policy, China began reporting biologically impossible disparities between boys and girls - and the imbalance has only continued to rise.  Today China reports 123 baby boys for every 100 baby girls. . How will China cope with the sudden and very rapid emergence of tens of millions of essentially unmarriageable young men?

Twenty-three out of 100 Chinese men can't find wives; that's close to the minimum estimate of the wife shortage due to Muslim polygamy.  Chinese place immense value on sons because a) they carry on the family name and b) sons support their parents when the parents get old.  Chinese trust their government to take care of them less than Americans trust their government to pay off on Social Security; they prefer sons to daughters strongly enough to murder enough girls to upset the gender balance, that's what "pro choice" means in China.

When their government got serious about enforcing the "one child" policy, Chinese used infanticide, murder, or abortion to get rid of girls in favor of boys.  The Wall Street Journal counts "tens of millions of essentially unmarriageable young men," the Economist states that there are 100 million fewer Asian women than normal birth rates suggest that there should be.  Either way, it's a problem.

What will the Chinese Government do with millions of surplus men?

In 1860, the Imperial Russian Government forced the Chinese to give up control of "Outer Manchuria."  The British returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, but  the Chinese are acutely aware that Russia has not given back Manchuria.

Russian life is so unpleasant that women are refusing to have babies at all and the Russian population is dropping.  Very few Russians live in Outer Manchuria.  Just south of the border, Chinese masses teem.  What if Chinese men simply start walking across the border?  What could the Russians do?  General MacArthur, once the ranking US expert on war, said, "Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

MacArthur's men suffered from "human wave" attacks in North Korea.  The Chinese had one rifle for every 10 men.  They'd line up and charge the American machine guns.  When the guy carrying the rifle died, the next man picked it up and the line marched on.  The Americans killed Chinese until they ran out of bullets, then they died to the last man.

MacArthur wanted to use nuclear weapons against the Chinese but Truman wouldn't let him.  The President won the argument and fired MacArthur, but MacArthur had a point - how do you stop millions of Chinese without nukes?  Would the Russians go nuclear to keep Outer Mongolia?

There's no way to replace millions of Asian girls who were killed or aborted 15 - 20 years ago.  The WSJ suggests that the Chinese government abandon the "One Child" policy, but fear of famine is too deeply embedded in the Chinese psyche for them to let the population grow at its natural rate.

The Washington Post has reported how much trouble women had getting men to stop putting posters of women in locker rooms.  Can anyone imagine rich, powerful Muslim men giving up their right to marry four wives at a time and to keep ex-wives around as spares?  As the National Review article cited above put it, "You can imagine the tribes' reaction if the next thing they hear from us after Al-Qaeda is gone is, 'Hi, we're from the United States government and we're here to liberate your women.'"

Muslims send surplus men to Iraq to be killed by the American army, but that's only a short-term solution.  Bin Laden contributed to the problem by having 5 wives.  What if he wins and turns the entire world into a Muslim state?  What will he do with all the surplus men when he doesn't have any enemies left to kill them off for him?