Malaysian leader urges Islamic scholars to be polygamists

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - The spiritual leader of Malaysia's Islamic party has urged religious scholars to practice polygamy, saying they could rid the practice of its bad reputation, a report said Thursday.

Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, who leads the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS) which is part of the opposition alliance, said that ulamas (religious scholars) could be model polygamous husbands.

"Normally, when a man likes a beautiful woman, he will take her as his second wife," he said according to the New Straits Times.

"But after they have children, he will divorce the woman. This is the bad image that I meant which should be cleaned up," he said. "Ulama can play an important role in clearing this image."

Nik Aziz said it was important to project a better image of polygamy, "especially in the era of information and communication technology, so that Islamic practices can be emulated by all communities."

Muslim men in Malaysia are allowed up to four wives. Activists and women's groups say polygamy is cruel and has deviated from its original purpose in Islam, which was to protect widows and orphans.

Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, where more than 60 percent of its 27 million people are Muslim Malays. Polygamy is illegal for non-Muslims.