Activist judge makes bigamy an Irish joke

In my world, ABC TV’s Q&A stands for Queer and ­Ancient. It has a fascination with the exotic. And so it was at this week’s best exotic Melbourne Writers Festival. The Queer and Ancient were wheeled out to berate Australia on the evils of the West and praise the beauty of the rest.

There was the obligatory shot at Pauline Hanson’s burka stunt. But not only was Pauline’s stunt brilliant theatre, it also drew from the Attorney-General the ­admission that our security apparatus spies on Muslims in Australia. A good morning’s work.

But ABC guest Amani Al-Khatahtbeh knew better than Pauline and George. She used the exercise to argue that the oppression of women in Islamic countries was misrepresented by the West to “absolve ourselves of our own ­issues”.

This is code for “Islamic countries have problems because the Western colonialists overran our wonderful nations and tried to stifle our superior religious practices and culture’’.

There is much truth in the colonial thing, but Amani would know for example that, at its outset, Turkey crushed Islam assuredly as any Westerner, and more recently, the Egyptian army threw out the Muslim Brotherhood precisely because of its overly ­enthusiastic beliefs in Islam.

But, OK, we’re sorry. Now back to the superiority of the exotic. Amani says Hanson’s “stunt” was symptomatic of Westerners trying to “look at them in an inferior lens”. She brushed aside honour killings with “when you look at countries like Australia and the US, the top killer of women is domestic violence. But we choose to refer to it as domestic violence like it’s a social issue and often ­really disregard it.”

Disregard? Jesus and Mary, we spend half the GDP of some Islamic nations on the issue. And, by the way, Islamic societies are rife with domestic violence, in addition to honour killings. Stop the slip-sliding, Amani: violence is violence and Australia and the West are ­arguably the least violent places on earth.

Like a bad virus, however, the exotic is coming to the West, infecting our legal system via adventurous judges. Take the Irish Supreme Court decision about the Lebanese refugee who had two wives. I kid you not: In June the court decided the legal consequences of a polygamous marriage entered into in Lebanon.

The husband was a refugee from Lebanon and now is a naturalised Irish citizen. In Lebanon he had two marriages (the first in 1975 and the second in 1988), lived with both wives and had children with both.

Under Lebanese law and sharia law, a Lebanese Muslim man may marry up to four women. Sounds pretty inferior to me, Amani. Anyway, the husband went to Ireland as an asylum-seeker.

He was recognised as a refugee and became entitled to bring members of his family, including his “spouse”.

The husband applied for the second wife. She was admitted with a number of children, expressly on the basis that she was the wife of the husband. She is now an Irish citizen.

In these proceedings she has supported the claim of the first wife to be recognised, while also maintaining her own claim that she is validly married. The Irish court decided that the marriage of the husband with the first wife was valid as of the date of its inception.

I draw now from the thoughts of an experienced lawyer and good friend.

“The Irish court sounds reasonable, but in effect it usurps Irish marriage law.” What the court should have said is: “Your first marriage was valid at the date of inception under the law of Lebanon. It is no longer valid, under the law of Ireland, the moment you had your second wife recognised as your wife in Ireland.”

Or the court could have said: “The first marriage was valid in Lebanon, and is still valid in Ireland. The second marriage was valid in Lebanon, but bigamous in Ireland.”

If the law in Ireland allows only a single wife, and does not recognise foreign polygamous marriages, the court may well have found he needed to divorce one of his wives, in order to have the marriage recognised as valid.

In short, no bigamy. No poly­gamy. No harems.

Arguably, by not withdrawing recognition of one of the marriages, this judgment effectively is permitting polygamy in Ireland.

The declaration about validity at inception is a red herring.

Sorry, Amani, despite your ABC, the Queer and Ancient is not humane and should not grace our shores.