In an era when polygamy is being met with vocal opposition by women across the Arab world, some are still adamant about promoting the phenomenon. One of them is an Emirati woman currently running for the UAE's Federal National Council elections.
Sharjah candidate Khawla Al Ali published a program presenting polygamy as a solution to "spinsterhood" among women in the UAE. This came as the election's 495 final candidates launched their campaigns on Sunday ahead of the elections which are set to take place in October.
Banners featuring an image of the Sharjah Public Library employee are printed with her slogan: "For a spinsterhood-free society, yes to polygamy." They've gone up across the emirate and stirred up quite the controversy online.
Al Ali, who is single, has come under attack by married women who just couldn't fathom her slogan. In a statement to The National, Al Ali stressed that her pro-polygamy stance has nothing to do with her marital status but is only related to the fact that she believes the phenomenon is beneficial.
"I have always believed we should look at polygamy more subjectively. Since I was a teenager I have dreamt of helping bring couples together and thinking about how we can connect people," she explained.
She also added that her married friends frequently approach her for advice on the matter.
"They would complain about marital problems, the solution to which could easily be allowing their husbands to take a second wife," she stated.
Al Ali believes she is a voice for men and women, "including widows looking for a father figure for their children, divorcees and unmarried women." She told The National that if she were married and had a husband who wanted a second wife, she'd help him find one.
Al Ali's slogan has been divisive
In the Emirates, polygamy is widely believed to be a solution to "spinsterhood" and "population decline," but it's really not.
Those who are pro-polygamy in the country often justify their stance using false claims that have nothing to do with statistics.
This explains why the issue continues to spark controversy whenever it comes up on social media. This week, Al Ali's slogan and banners took center stage online and left people divided.
Some were all for Al Ali's proposal
"Dear voter, don't hesitate, pick Khawla Abdel Aziz (Al Ali) she's the obvious choice. This is my slogan for this evening."
Others were completely against it
"What's disappointing is that this Emirati woman still believes spinsterhood is a problem that needs solving. What's worse is that she still uses this insulting term."
"I don't get how she even proposed this"
"Instead of demeaning Emirati women with this proposal, she should've presented a program that treats major issues in our society and things that'll help develop our nation."
Not the first time polygamy is discussed during FNC elections
This isn't the first year polygamy is discussed as part of FNC elections. Last year, the UAE council drafted a proposal for the Sheikh Zayed Housing Program to extend housing grants and loans to men who take second wives.
This also isn't the first time the issue is debated on Emirati social media platforms. In 2017, Emirati psychologist Zahraa Al-Moussawi launched a controversial program that aims at helping women "accept being second wives." The scheme is based on research conducted by Al-Moussawi, who debuted her findings at a mental health conference held in Abu Dhabi.
According to the woman's study, since polygamy is accepted in Sharia and most Arab countries, it should be dealt with in a way that limits the "negative consequences" on members of polygamous families.
Islam only permits polygamy in specific situations
In Muslim countries, many continue to promote polygamy on grounds that have nothing to do with why the religion allowed for it in the first place.
The religion first allowed polygamy for the sake of widows and orphans who have no means of survival. The only Quranic verse that speaks about polygamy is believed to have been revealed after the Battle of Uhud, which led to the death of many Muslim men who left behind families in need of support. The Quran clearly states that a man can only marry more than one woman if he treats her and all his other wives "equally."
"But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one," Surat An-Nisaa states. The surah then declares: "You will never be able to be equal between wives, even if you should strive to do so."
This means Islam-approved polygamy is near impossible to attain, even when the very tight set of conditions for it apply.