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Gudrun Eussner
Homepage von Gudrun Eussner

Polygamy in France

One April afternoon in France, police stop a niqab-clad woman driving a car. Arguing that her field of vision is not sufficient, they charge her 22€, about $29. Instead of leaving it that way, two days later, on Friday afternoon after mosque, she, accompanied by her husband and some Muslim men, holds a press conference, accusing the policemen and the French society of islamophobia.

It turned out that the 31 year old woman, a French convert to Islam, was one of four wives of a certain Liès Hebbadj, 35 year old and originating from Algeria, who came to France at the age of 2. When marrying a French woman in 1999, he was given a French passport. Now he, his four wives and twelve children are living in Rezé-les-Nantes, a suburb of Nantes at the Atlantic coast. He is a businessman whose various enterprises are expanding and doing pretty well. He is the owner of a brand new halal butchery-grocery named El Kaouthar -- The Abundance -- of which nobody knows by whom it has been financed, and, at the same time, he is an active member of the Sunni-orthodox movement Tabligh-e Jamaat, a group originating from and having its epicentre in Lahore, Pakistan. Tabligh in France is openly targeting the goal of proselytism. Liès Hebbadj has travelled to Pakistan several times, and also to London, where Tabligh-e Jamaat is known to be a hotbed for terrorists.

The cases of three of Liès Hebbadj´s wives is handled as if they were single mothers, they and their children are receiving social welfare. His and the situation of his family is known to the French authorities for several years now, to law enforcement, social services, and specifically to those in charge of social welfare benefits. Many French think that this is outrageous. All of his four wives are wearing the niqab, they are living in kind of zenanas, two of them in two interlinked houses and another two in a third house, all situated in a good neighbourhood, all window shutters closed. The property has been fenced off by huge, opaque erections.

The neighbours, an elderly married couple, retirees in their sixties, are telling when interviewed by French journalists that they are not really bothered, the husband is just a wee bit disappointed that the niqabs keep him from having a peek at the wives. From the blue eyes of one of them they know that she is not the one caught by the police driving in a niqab. The interviews are soon to deteriorate into nothing but anecdotal stories without any value for the case of polygamy and the confinement of women to niqabs, the couple has seen, for example, a lorry full of korans delivered and stored at the parking lot, later they have come to know that Liès Hebbadj is selling them at a marketplace in Nantes.

The niqab is not forbidden until today, Hebbadj says surrounded by his Muslim friends, in a press conference. So for what can he be blamed, he asks, dressed in Pakistani kameez, an embroidered white cap and a keffieh on his head.

When threatened to be stripped of his French nationality by the Minister of Interior Brice Hortefeux because of polygamy and welfare fraud, Liès Hebbadj claims to be behaving according to French law, as three of the women were his mistresses only, a situation not illegal in France and not in Islam -- but maybe offensive to Christians, he kindly adds. The problem is, that three of the four wives are not married to him according to French law, but by religious marriages performed by imams. Even though French law is demanding from priests, rabbis and imams to get legal documents from the civil registry office before proceeding with a religious marriage, in thousands of cases imams are ignoring that. As of 2008, about 180 000 people in France are living in polygamous relationships, the couples discreetly married by an imam in the presence of the bride´s guardian (sic!) and two witnesses.

As the public is focusing on the scandal, journalists after years of active disinterest, are now finally doing their job and each day new sensations are surfacing. A wive repudiated by Liès Hebbadj and now re-married in Dubai is posting at her blog about how she was mistreated by him, and she claims that he is selling young girls. All lies, the accused lets know through his lawyer, but a person affiliated to her declares all to be true, and he adds that Liès Hebbadj is drawing on his religion, Islam, to reach his goals.

It now turns out, that the woman caught by the police is one of his wives married by an imam only, a concubine. Her father has contacted the police and told them about alleged violence against his daughter. He is also accusing the companion of his daughter for locking up his grandchildren. Last time, about two months ago, when talking to his daughter on the phone, she was crying and told that she was beaten, while her confined children are learning the Koran.

It is interesting to follow the reactions. The French government represented by prime minister François Fillon is playing the case down, to him, not to interfere and prejudge has priority to avoid a distorted image of Islam in France. Islam has nothing to do with this case of polygamy and niqabs, he tells the French public, thus arguing against his Minister of Interior. He is holding talks with the Minister of Justice and the French Council of the Muslim Faith about the projected law against niqab and burqa, a project controversial throughout all parties.

The liberal Socialist Party of France (PS), in opposition to Nicolas Sarkozy´s UMP, is seeing its chance, blaming the government of demagoguery, talking of instrumentalization, the Mayor of Nantes, party whip of the Socialists at the National Assembly, is declaring, that all the facts have been known for several years, but were never told the public, that it´s due to his political allies who rule in the region of Nantes, that Liès Hebbadj´ civil status never has been examined in detail.

As if this was not enough, Tariq Ramadan, who happens to be preaching at one of the five mosques of Nantes in front of about 1000 Muslims, is trying to benefit from the situation, accusing the Minister of Interior of nothing less than treason. Considering to deprive Liès Hebbadj from his French citizenship is, to Brother Tariq, treason against the values of France. Not Liès Hebbadj and his seraglio are against the values of the Republic of France but those who want to end this ignominious situation.

The Figaro publishes a summary of the dossiers about the naturalisation and the amorous lifestyle of the polygamist, which are catching dust in the archive of the Ministry of Interior. According to them, he is known to the police since the late Nineties already. As soon as he gets French citizenship, he moves closer to the radical Tabligh-e Jamaat and develops a guru-like status, of which many members of Tabligh disapprove. He acquires three more wives by religious marriages of which at least two are seriously physically abused by him. He travels to Dubai with a 17-year-old teenager. All of them are French converts. The French Muslim Youth finds his behaviour immoral. The "Conseil français du culte musulman", the French Council of the Muslim Faith, criticise him because he states that adultery is allowed in Islam. However, that wasn´t what he stated but, truthfully, that Islam allows marriage to four wives.

The official representatives of the French Muslims are trying to tell us that the conduct of Liès Hebbadj has nothing to do with Islam. The Islamic religious and legal writings and the experiences with polygamous Muslims, not just in France but elsewhere as well, are speaking a different language.

May 4, 2010


Quand Brice Hortefeux met les pieds dans le plat. Par Ivan Rioufol,
Bloc-notes, 25 avril 2010

Ce très étrange M. Hebbaj. Par Dominique Hervouet, Correspondant,
Le Figaro, 26 avril 2010

Polygame présumé de Nantes: Fillon tente de calmer le jeu. Le Figaro,
26 avril 2010

Accusé de polygamie, Lies Hebbadj rétorque avoir des "maîtresses".
LAlsace.fr, 26 avril 2010

Une femme témoigne sur son blog contre Liès Hebbadj. Le Figaro,
27 avril 2010, p. 3

Polygamie : Liès Hebbadj dit avoir des "maîtresses". L´Indépendant,
27 avril 2010

Hebbadj accusé de violences. Par AFP, Le Figaro, 28 avril 2010

Burqa : le trouble passé de Lies Hebbadj. Par Cécilia Gabizon, Le Figaro,
4 mai 2010

A Nantes, les musulmans venus écouter Tariq Ramadan ne polémiquent pas.
Midi Libre, 25 avril 2010

Ils ont dit ... Midi Libre, 26 avril 2010, p. TEO 4

Additional information from Europe and Canada

Hat Tip David J. Rusin, Islamist Watch

Multiple wives will mean multiple benefits. By Jonathan Wynne-Jones,
Telegraph.co.uk, February 3, 2008

Muslims claiming cash for numerous wives. By Tom Godfrey,
The Toronto Sun, February 8, 2008
http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2008/02/08/4834833-sun.ht ml

Suspicion of polygamy stokes France´s veil debate. By AP. Pierre-Baptiste Vanzini
in Nantes contributed to this report. Fox News, April 25, 2010

Polygamy banned but some immigrants in France use system to make money
on their wives. By Associated Press writers Karl Ritter in Stockholm,
Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin, and Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus,
Fox News, May 2, 2010

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