Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Black Philadelphia and the Prophet's Arabia

I was listening to All Things Considered on NPR today, and they were playing the second part of a piece about polygamy in Islam in America. It was about the increased occurence of polygamy amongst black American converts to Islam. It was a fascinating piece, and included this interesting parallel between seventh century Arabia and modern-day black inner-city neighborhoods:

Abdullah, the imam, has conducted religious ceremonies for a dozen polygamous marriages.

Abdullah says polygamy in Islam dates back to the 7th century, when battles were killing off Muslim men and leaving widows and children unprotected. [...]

The single women at the mosque say polygamy is a fact of life. But it's not their first choice.

"Every woman has a preference to be the sole wife," says Aliya, echoing the sentiments of the others. Aliya is a 28-year-old single woman who is finishing up a master's degree. She says that South Philadelphia in the 21st century is a little like Arabia in the 7th century. There is a dearth of men to marry.

"We're dealing with brothers who are incarcerated — that is, unavailable," she says. "And then unfortunately, you have the AIDS and HIV crisis, where HIV has struck the African-American community disproportionately to others. So when you look at it that way, there is a shortage."

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