The Government must overcome the fear of being labelled "Islamophobic" and make the registration of sharia Muslim marriages mandatory, according to a new report. Around 100,000 sharia marriages take place in the UK every year, of which up to 75 per cent are thought to be unregistered.
Many Muslim women are unaware that they lack legal protection and access to marital rights after they have got married in an unregistered ceremony.
For women in such unregistered religious-only marriages, divorce has no legal status in UK civil or family law, leaving them facing destitution without financial assets or property as well as being shunned by their community.
Author (of the report by the Civitas think tank, called "Fallen Through the Cracks") Emma Webb accuses successive governments of failing to address "this well-known problem", claiming reluctance to act "may be the result of a fear of being accused of Islamophobia".
"Despite calls from Muslim women activists and the international bodies, everyday women continue to suffer horribly because of completely unjustifiable shortcomings in our legislation," she said. "Despite bigamy being illegal in the UK, the fact that religious-only marriages can go under the radar effectively allows men to enter into polygamous relationships that leave the women with absolutely no marital rights or legal protection under UK law."
I used to be in favour of a robust campaign to inform any woman who lived with a man with whom she had not gone through either a registered church/synagogue wedding or a Register Office ceremony that she was neither a 'wife', nor a 'common law wife'. That in the case of Muslim women in a mosque their nikkah was merely a religious blessing. she was not a lawful wedded wife. Informing women in judgmental tones that she was merely a kept woman, no better than she ought to be, if her husband already has a first wife she is now an adulteress and that her children are illegitimate is probably old-fashioned, unhelpful and intolerant. But information could be given sensitively and I didn't see why we needed to change the law when all they needed to do was marry legally in a Register Office.
But in the same sweep of the news this morning I came across this nasty tale.
A man accused of murdering two vulnerable women and storing their bodies in a freezer had a history of abusing partners and was a registered sex offender, a court has heard.
Zahid Younis, 36, known as Boxer, is accused of murdering Hungarian national Henriett Szucs and mother-of-three Mihrican Mustafa.
Younis has several previous convictions for assaulting partners. The court heard that when he was 17, Younis was controlling, violent and overbearing towards his then-girlfriend and would wait outside her house and escort her everywhere.
In 2004 he married a 14-year-old in an Islamic ceremony at a mosque in Walthamstow.
He was eventually jailed for 30 months for assaulting the teenager and unlawful sexual activity with a child, and was put on the sex offenders’ register.
I can't find out what happened to the Imam at the mosque, but we know that this happens as some Imam's don't accept that British law of the age of consent and suchlike applies to them and their flock. But maybe, just maybe, a law requiring marriages taking place in a mosque to then be registered with the authorities would be a check and balance. Or maybe they would continue to think that British law doesn't apply to them and wouldn't register the under age marriages, the second wife which to them is a polygamous marriage but in our law is merely adultery.
I don't know. I don't want Sharia law to have any legitimacy in my country at all, so perhaps the campaign to include the Register Office in the marriage arrangements is the way to go. It is certainly the way Muslim colleagues did things 40 years ago.
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