A recent news item exposes the Dutch response to polygamy as a stew of accommodation, bungling, and illogic. We have witnessed these elements many times before as Western states grapple with Islamism, but their confluence in a seven-paragraph article is striking.
For starters, local Dutch officials are registering plural unions even though the practice is formally banned. The paperwork proceeds with nary a hitch as long as the people involved are immigrants whose marriages took place in countries where having more than one wife is permitted.
But this represents the least interesting part of the story. After all, Britain and the Canadian province of Ontario already grant de facto recognition of polygamy by providing added welfare benefits to men with multiple wives. Far more intriguing in the Dutch case is the manner by which the national government has been excising these data from public records:
The Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS), where all marriages are registered nationally, removes these bigamous or polygamous marriages from its files, on the assumption that administrative errors have occurred. As a result, it is not known how common the phenomenon is in the Netherlands.
[The] Amsterdam city council has informed the CBS that the marriages are not a mistake. "We will now investigate whether this can be regarded as a trend that was previously not recognized. If this is the case, it is our task to report this," CBS researcher Jan Latten explained in NRC Handelsblad.
"At present, it is not included in our statistics," Latten pointed out. "In the same way, we delete marriages involving fourteen-year-olds. A man with two wives just cannot exist by law."
The bizarre reasoning of the Dutch official recalls an attempt by Ontario parliamentarian Ted McMeekin to deny the presence of polygamy in his province, based on similar logic that something illegal must not actually exist.
Yet most disturbing of all is the census researcher's offhand comment, "In the same way, we delete marriages involving fourteen-year-olds." Child marriage is endemic to much of the Islamic world and the phenomenon is of growing concern in the West. For example, earlier this year British officials warned that pupils missing from school may have been forced into wedlock overseas.
Which begs the obvious question: is polygamy just the beginning of what gets dropped down the Dutch memory hole?