Netherlands recognizes polygamous marriages of Muslims
Registrars in the major cities, in particular, record dozens of bigamous or polygamous marriages per year. These marriages are prohibited and an offence in the Netherlands. However, polygamous marriages that take place in countries where more than one wife is permitted, such as Morocco, are accepted, newspaper NRC Handelsblad reports.
If immigrants with several wives settle in the Netherlands, the local authorities register all the marriages. However, the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS), where all marriages are registered nationally, removes these bigamous or polygamous marriages from its files, on the assumption that administrative errors have occurred. As a result, it is not known how common the phenomenon is in the Netherlands.
Amsterdam city council has informed the CBS that the marriages are not a mistake. “We will now investigate whether this can be regarded as a trend that was previously not recognised. If this is the case, it is out task to report this,” CBS researcher Jan Latten explained in NRC Handelsblad.
Spokesman T. Verhoeven of the Rotterdam city council disclosed that polygamous marriages are registered almost every week. “They are simply acknowledged. It is important for us to check that the documents are authentic and that the husband does not have Dutch nationality.” Otherwise the construction is illegal, Verhoeven explained.
In Amsterdam, local government employees must inform the Public Prosecutors’ Office (OM) if there is any suspicion of marriages of convenience or exploitation of women. But this has never happened, a spokeswoman revealed.
Islam permits men to marry up to four women, but not all Islamic countries allow it. In Morocco, the home country of many Dutch Muslim immigrants, polygamy is permitted only under strict guidelines.
Like most Western countries, the Netherlands is struggling with a huge influx of Muslim immigrants — many of whom are not willing to accept the laws, norms and ethics of the countries they choose to move to.
Dutch opinion weekly Elsevier reports that last year Holland’s Lower House addressed the issue of Islamic weddings (nikah). These are informal marriages, not legally recognize because they are not performed a civil servant. For instance, Mohammed Bouyeri — the murderer of Theo van Gogh — performed nikah weddings.
Such weddings are also performed at the As-Soenah mosque in The Hague.
At the time Justice minister Hirsch Ballin said there would be no formal investigation as the Public Prosecutor’s Office did not have the capacity to perform a thorough investigation — certainly not when compared to the €3.350 fine.
Earlier this year, members of the Lower House pointed out that the informal weddings stimulated polygamy, attack the Dutch legal view of the equality between men and women, and lead to the birth of illegal children. Moreover, in Morocco itself marriage laws are being modernised in favor of women.
Hirsch Ballin replied that he had no clear picture of the extend of the illegal practice. However, he said that the Advisory Committee on Aliens Affairs — an independent Committee that advises the Dutch Government and Parliament on immigration law and policy — had assured him the practice of nikah was slowly disappearing.
Currently, the issue is again being discussed in response to an alert issued by the Central Bureau for Statistics, which wants to know whether — and if so — how to register nikah weddings.
Council members in various cities are asking these questions as well. Media reports indicate that most native Dutch citizens simply want Muslims to submit to the laws of the Netherlands, and opinion writers are calling for polygamous Muslims to be expelled from the country.
That said, the approach under which something that is illegal is nevertheless tolerated is typically Dutch. It is called gedogen — a Dutch word that cannot be properly translated.
It roughly means ‘tolerated,’ but in a wider and different sense of the word. It is used of a situation or activity that technically is illegal, but which is actively tolerated as a matter of government policy — since everyone knows the issue (say, prostitution or the use of soft drugs, can not be legislated away).
In short, gedogen is used in reference to something that is illegal, but not illegal. This is the same principle that allows for the existence of Holland’s so-called ‘coffeeshops‘ — where soft drugs can be legally bought and used.
However, it should be noted that gedogen of something illegal can only be done after it has been officially condoned by the government.
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