Date: 02/04/2020
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Judges reject bid to make Islamic marriages legally binding

From the Independent, the most left leaning of all our left leaning newspapers. They spend the latter half of the article rolling out assorted 'campaigners' as to why this is a bad thing. Personally I think it's a good judgment. As the Judges said, and the Independent sub-heading says 

It is ‘not difficult for parties who want to be legally married to achieve that status’, says Court of Appeal

And in the UK Sikh authorities will not perform a religious ceremony until the couple produce their legal civil marriage certificate. Often they attend the Register Office in the morning and the Gurdawa in the afternoon, as is done in France with a church wedding. If Sikhs respect the law of the land I don't see why Muslims can't. 

The Court of Appeal overturned a family court judge’s decision that a woman was entitled to apply for maintenance payments from her estranged husband despite the fact they were not legally married. The attorney general had appealed the ruling.

Nasreen Akhter had a nikah, an Islamic marriage ceremony, that led to a Muslim marriage contract between herself and Mohammed Khan. The couple were married for 18 years and have four children together. 

Ms Akhter, a 47-year-old solicitor, said she was keen to have a civil marriage and presumed it was on the cards, but her husband refused. She alleges their relationship ended after he said he wanted to take another wife; they separated in 2016. The silly cow, despite being a solicitor and knowing she needed a Civil ceremony STILL didn't realise she wasn't married. 

However, Mr Justice Williams’ ruling at the High Court in London in July 2018 led to Ms Akhter being entitled to apply for maintenance. 

“The wife’s evidence of how the husband put her under pressure saying that Islam permitted polygamy and that she was a bad Muslim and was rejecting the word of God shows a degree of emotional manipulation that is most unattractive,” he said in the judgment. He sounds like a lousy partner, but that still does not make their form of religious service a legal marriage. 

But in the written judgment which the Court of Appeal handed down on Friday, a trio of judges concluded that upholding the High Court’s ruling “would gravely diminish the value of the system of registration of marriages upon which so much depends in a modern community”. 

The judgment added that it is “not difficult for parties who want to be legally married to achieve that status”.

Master of the rolls Sir Terence Etherton, who looked at the case with two other judges, argued the nikah was a “non-qualifying” ceremony. Announcing the court’s decision, he said: “The parties were not marrying ‘under the provisions’ of English law.

“The ceremony was not performed in a registered building. Moreover, no notice had been given to the superintendent registrar, no certificates had been issued, and no registrar or authorised person was present at the ceremony. Further, the parties knew that the ceremony had no legal effect and that they would need to undertake another ceremony that did comply with the relevant requirements in order to be validly married.

“The determination of whether a marriage is void or not cannot, in the court’s view, be dependent on future events, such as the intention to undertake another ceremony or whether there are children.”

It (the case) also makes clear that in England and Wales, a Nikah ceremony alone cannot produce a valid lawful marriage - or at least a void marriage (one that doesn’t comply with rules such as the place of marriage being a registered venue).

The judgment also found that the state does not have a human rights obligation to recognise religious marriage.   

The Telegraph understands that Ms Akhter is now considering taking her case to the Supreme Court.

Charles Hale QC of 4PB, who represented Ms Akhter, said: “Thousands of women, usually Muslim women believe that they lawfully marry in this country each year by undertaking a religious ceremony only.  Many of them (and its usually Muslim women) do not know in fact that, no matter how many people attend, no matter how public an expression of the marital contract, that they are not in fact lawfully married in accordance with the laws of England and Wales."

This used to be well known. I recall both ceremonies being organised amongst colleagues and the families of girls I attended school with. As an official of the Lord Chancellor's department I recall at least one case where the Civil Marriage took place, the bride prefered that she not co-habit with the groom until their religious marriage had taken place. It was his responsibility to organise it, and when he failed to do so she eventually obtained an legal annullment for his refusal to consumate the marriage, knowing that a religious ceremony was a moral but not legal requirement. 

That it is no longer well known is a failure of the authorities to make this clear to Muslim women, a pandering to Muslim culture and a reluctance to put Sharia law in its place as nothing to do with the law of the land. 

If campaigning bodies are so concerned then let them encourage Muslim women and their families to demand a Civil marriage ceremony first, and the Mosques and Imans demand (as do the Sikhs) to see the valid certificate before they perform the religious ceremony. It isn't rocket science. And it would prevent child marriage and polygamy as well. Or have I hit on the reason they don't do this already?


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