Human-rights groups in Nigeria say they have "mobilized" dozens of lawyers to help defend a man who has been threatened with death for having too many wives. Bello Masaba, a preacher from the town of Bidda, in a Muslim majority state, has 86 of them. Authorities say that is 82 more than Islam allows, but Masaba challenges that interpretation, claiming that the Koran does not set forth any punishment for having more than four wives. He believes that, so long as a man can care for all of his wives, he can have as many as he wants. He does not recommend that other men follow his example, however, because he concedes that -- especially at the age of 84 -- only supernatural help enables him to deal with all 86 wives (and "at least" 170 children).
"A man with [only] 10 wives would [normally] collapse and die," he told the BBC, "but my own power is given by Allah. That is why I have been able to control 86 of them."
But after six weeks of criticism, at least one fatwa, and an ultimatum from the village chief, Masaba finally agreed to divorce 82 of the wives and try to make do with four. He doesn't seem to have followed through, however, and eventually he was arrested and charged with "incendiary contempt of religious laws and contracting unlawful marriage to 86 wives."
Saying Masaba's rights had been violated, a coalition of human-rights groups assembled to defend him, describing Masaba as "a political prisoner and prisoner of conscience." And what will probably be a fairly chaotic courtroom scene will be enlivened by a very large defense legal team. "The choice of 86 lawyers is deliberate," said a spokesperson. "For each wife, Masaba will have a lawyer."
Hopefully, the Koran doesn't say anything about how many lawyers a man can have. I would argue that as long as a man can care for all of his lawyers, he should be able to have as many as he wants.
Link: BBC News (Aug. 2008)