Only months after Italy approved civil unions for lesbians and gays, a leader of the country’s Islamic community is using the move to argue for the civil recognition of polygamy. He also claimed that Pope Francis’ silence regarding his suggestion means that the pontiff has perhaps understood that it’s a “simple civil right” and a matter of equality.
Hamza Piccardo is founder of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, an umbrella organization which represents most of Italy’s Muslim communities. Recently, Piccardo shared a picture of the mayor of Milan with a gay couple after celebrating their union on Facebook.
Piccardo accompanied the picture with the following message: “If it’s only a matter of civil rights, then polygamy is a civil right.”
Commenting on his own August 6 post, after several Facebook users reacted to it, he wrote: “Myself and millions of people don’t agree with homosexual unions, and yet it’s licit and we respect them. Those interested in them are a minority, as polygamists would be. Society as a whole can accept everyone.”
An Argentine newspaper, Infobae, quotes Piccardo telling the Italian state TV system, RAI, that the Vatican’s silence regarding his request — which generated a heated debate among many circles — is perhaps proof that the pope has accepted it as a civil right.
Piccardo also uses religious grounds, what he calls “revelation,” to bolster his case, saying that’s the reason why he’s asking for recognition of polygyny (a man with more than one female partner), which is accepted in the Qur’an, but not polyandry (a woman with more than one male partner).
“Each asks on the grounds of his [or hers] expectations, so if a women’s movement wants to ask for the legal recognition of polyandry, do so,” he tells a user who suggested she’d support Piccardo if he agrees to supporting polyandry.
As a footnote, the term “polygamy” is often misused to refer to one man being tied to several women, including by Piccardo. Yet in fact, the term polygamy refers to one person having several spouses, regardless of whether they’re women or men.
Polygyny is more widespread, and is legally sanctioned in many Muslim majority countries in the Middle East and Africa.
The Islamic leader also argued that if the ethical and spiritual convictions of citizens have no impact in the public sphere, then “it’s not understandable” why a relationship between consenting adults can be “prohibited, stigmatized, what’s more, abhorred.”
Seeing the backlash his post caused, which at one point he described as “grotesque,” Piccardo also said that he wasn’t trying to be “politically correct,” because he’s been so for the past 25 years, “in respect to a role, often with discomfort and fatigue.”
“Now I try to be Islamically correct,” he added.
Among those who reacted to Piccardo’s post was Debora Serracchiani, deputy head of Italy’s ruling center-left Democratic Party, who said: “Centuries of fighting for women’s rights can’t simply be brushed aside.”
In a different Facebook post, Piccardo said that as he no longer has a role in the country’s Islamic union, the position he’s taken is exclusively his, not that of the organization he founded.
The union has often been criticized because some members of its leadership are tied to the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Sunni Islamist group founded in Egypt that on its website says: “Allah is our objective; the Qur’an is the Constitution; the Prophet is our leader; jihad is our way; death for the sake of Allah is our wish.”
In May, the Italian parliament voted in favor of allowing same-sex civil unions, which afford many of the rights as marriage but which don’t allow adoption.