“I only have several mistresses – I’m not a polygamist!”

A French Muslim threatened with being stripped of his passport for practicing polygamy on Monday denied the accusation, saying he had only one wife and several mistresses.

The case of Lies Hebbadj, an Algerian-born butcher who became a French citizen when he married a French woman in 1999, has flared into a major political row with opposition parties accusing the government of exploiting the situation.

Hebbadj’s story came to light on Friday, when his wife complained she had been fined for driving while wearing an Islamic veil on the grounds that it was dangerous.

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux accused Hebbadj of having four wives, who between them were claiming single parent benefits for his 12 children…

Hebbadj said only one was his wife and the others were lovers.

If one can be stripped of one’s French nationality for having mistresses, then many French could lose theirs,” he told reporters in the Western city of Nantes, where he lives…

Local authorities on Monday launched an official investigation into the polygamy and benefit fraud claims.

One of the few situations where a trite phrase like “Damned if you do – Damned if you don’t” – fits.

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