Muslim immigrants with more than one wife will see an increase in their social welfare benefits beginning in 2013, when reforms to the British welfare system come into effect.
Although polygamy is illegal in Britain, the state effectively recognizes the practice for Muslim men, who often have up to four wives (and in some instances five or more) in a harem.
Currently the state pays extra wives in polygamous households reduced amounts of individual income support, in addition to the normal amount received by the husband and his first spouse.
Under the new rules, however, the extra wives will be eligible to claim a full single person’s allowance (despite being married), while the original married couple will still receive the standard married person’s allowance.
The changes are part of wide-ranging reforms to the welfare system that are being implemented by Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government, which admits that it wants to treat extra wives as single so that the state will not officially be recognizing polygamy as it is under the current system.
Critics who had hoped the government reforms would do away with benefits for polygamy altogether say the so-called Welfare Reform Bill is simply opening up a loophole for polygamous families to claim more money from the state.
Details of the changes were revealed in a 13-page legal brief dated July 19, and published by the library of the House of Commons. The document states: “Treating second and subsequent partners in polygamous relationships as separate claimants could mean that polygamous households receive more under Universal Credit than under the current rules for means-tested benefits and tax credits.”
The issue of Muslims with multiple wives claiming extra welfare payments has been steeped in controversy for years.
In September 2011, a British newspaper exposé on the subject found that the phenomenon of bigamy and polygamy — permitted by Islamic Sharia law — is far more widespread in Britain than previously believed. The rapid growth in multiple marriages is being fuelled by multicultural policies that grant special rights to Muslim immigrants, who demand that Sharia law be reflected in British law and the social welfare benefits system.
The exposé quotes two senior social welfare experts and is based on least 20,000 bigamous or polygamous Muslim unions in England and Wales. If the average size of such a “family” is 15 people, these numbers would imply that around 300,000 people in Britain are living in polygamous families.
The multiple marriages have been encouraged by changes made to the British welfare system by the previous Labour government, which allowed Muslim immigrants to have a second, third or fourth wife (and in some cases five or more) treated as a single mother who can get a house and an array of other state payments for herself and her children.
The exposé shows how Muslim men can take a new spouse from anywhere in the world, father any number of children with her, and have British taxpayers assume responsibility for this family’s upkeep and care.
Although all marriages that take place in the United Kingdom must be monogamous, Muslim immigrants can and do employ countless evasions to practice polygamy without running afoul of British matrimony laws.
Muslim men, for example, can marry their extra “wives” in an Islamic Nikah ceremony (temporary marriage), either in their own homes or in a mosque. Because these marriages are not officially recognized, they do not appear in government statistics, nor do they have any status under the law. As a result, the “single mothers” involved in these marriages are entitled to receive welfare benefits from the British state.
Another technique is for a Muslim couple to marry legally under British law but then divorce, leaving them then to have a Nikah ceremony and continue living together. The woman will then be entitled to welfare payments as a single mother and the man can then bring another woman from abroad and legally marry her in Britain.
Muslim men also cheat the system by bringing brides from abroad as nannies for their children, or as nurses for a sick relative. After the bride’s one year visitors’ visa expires, she then disappears into a tight-knit local Muslim community and is then entitled to receive welfare handouts.
About the Author: The writer is the Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group, one of the oldest and most influential foreign policy think tanks in Spain.
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