Two years ago today, Qasim Ahmed became "possibly the first" imam to open a session of the Florida House of Representatives with a prayer. Subsequent findings by Islamist Watch suggest that he made history in another sense — as the first polygamist to be so honored.
Critical information comes from the website of the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), an African-American Muslim organization whose Islamist-heavy leadership is topped by radical cleric Siraj Wahhaj. Ahmed is listed as a member of MANA's executive committee; his important role in the group lends credence to descriptions of him carried on its site.
One post summarizes an August 2009 workshop in Atlanta by Services for Human Advancement and Resource Enhancement (SHARE), the "organizational vehicle for implementing MANA's agenda in a local area." The gathering was titled "A Refreshing Look at Polygyny with Qur'anic Insights and a Focus on Justice & Freedom in an Adverse Environment." (Polygyny refers to a man being married to multiple women at once.) MANA's write-up notes that presenters included "Imam Qasim Ahmed and his wives Nadiyah Ahmad and Aminah Muhammad." A later post reiterates this, stating that the event "featured … Imam Qasim Ahmed and his two beloved wives." Furthermore, Word documents advertising the 2009 workshop have been located: one version in which the women are labeled as Ahmed's "wives" and a second in which they are not.
Google turns up another page mentioning all three individuals, but it contains no hint of any marital links. However, even shallow searches of public records databases show that the histories of Ahmed and the women identified by MANA as his "wives" overlap in intriguing ways.
Polygamy is banned in virtually all Western countries, including the United States, though a few nations do recognize such marriages entered into abroad. Nevertheless, polygamy among Muslims has been spreading across the West, as many governments shut their eyes. Estimates of the number of polygamous Muslims in the U.S. reach well into the tens of thousands. Men often get around statutes by marrying one woman in a government-sanctioned manner and then marrying the next in a purely religious ceremony that has no legal standing. MANA "emir" Siraj Wahhaj reportedly has claimed to conduct these unions at his mosque. While performing other types of unlicensed marriages between consenting American adults has sparked legal action against officiants in the recent past, Islamists seem to be largely immune.
That an imam who appears to flaunt his circumvention of the law was asked to pray before a body charged with writing the law is yet another example of Islamism being legitimized. Most, if not all, allusions to Ahmed's "wives" emerged only after Rep. Jim Waldman had invited him, which partially mitigates this specific faux pas. Still, officials must learn to exercise vigilance when dealing with members of radical groups like MANA, where many embarrassing secrets lie.
Readers are welcome to educate Rep. Waldman (phone at this link, email form here) and ask him whether he remains proud of sponsoring Qasim Ahmed's prayer. The imam may have been the first reputed polygamist to pray before the legislature, but citizen pressure can make him the last.