Though polygamous marriages are illegal in Italy, they are reportedly on the rise. While few Italian Muslims admit such unions, Muslim scholars put the number between 15,000-20,000 nationwide. Opinions in Italy are divided over the practice – “It’s a statistically irrelevant phenomenon that affects very few families, within which the presence of more than one wife doesn’t create problems,” said sociologist Stefano Allievi. However, Italy’s Moroccan Women’s Association president and parliamentary candidate for the centre-right People of Freedom Alliance, Souad Sbai, has a different view: There are thousands of cases of polygamy and in most instances, women suffer abuse. Husbands beat wives who don’t want to accept another wife… After a few years, polygamists sometimes abandon their second wives, who then find they are not entitled to benefits and have no rights – they cannot file for divorce, because in the eyes of the state, they were never married.”
For the first time in the country’s history, almost all party lists in Italy’s mid-April elections will contain at least one Muslim candidate. Among the hopefuls include Souad Sbai, the Moroccan Women’s Association president, also a member of Italy’s Consulta Islamica, a government’ appointed consultative body for Muslims in Italy. Italy’s Northern League has its eyes set on Moroccan-born Zakkaria Najibi, a local councillor in Padua, and strong opponent of illegal immigration. The centre-left Democrat party is expected to court sociology lecturer and columnist Khaled Fouad Allam, while the Values party is urging for support of Islamic studies lecturer Ahmad Vincenzo as a candidate for the Senate.
Italy’s Moroccan Women’s Association took part in an event to reflect on a recent decision made by a prestigious Rome university, to oppose a visit by Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope cancelled a visit to Rome’s La Sapienza University after protests by academics and students concerning his position on the astronomer Galileo. Souad Sbai, the president of the Moroccan Women’s Association said that the group’s support of the pope was also to support free speech, saying that it represents a surrender to extremists and is similar to what happens towards moderate Muslims who on many occasions are censored. Citing the picking and choosing of which guests to permit at the university, the organization backed giving the pope the chance to freely speak at the university.