by, UK Editor Lucy Manning | Itv News
Religious leaders appeared willing to agree to perform underage marriages at some mosques across the UK, an ITV Exposure investigation discovered.
Two undercover reporters called 56 mosques to ask whether they would perform the marriage of a 14-year-old girl.
Two-thirds of those contacted refused to perform the marriage but 18 of the respondents spoken to agreed.
Abdul Kashem, a trustee of the Al Quba Mosque and Shahporan Islamic centre, in Manchester, condemned underage marriage.
His comments came after an ITV Exposure programme spoke to a man at the mosque claiming to be the Imam who said he would be willing to perform an Islamic marriage for a 14-year-old girl.
However Mr Kashem said the name mentioned in the report “doesn’t belong to us”.
He added: “It’s an open office. It’s a mosque. It’s not something private and locked up. During the praying hours there are hundreds of people that come here. I don’t know how old this guy is and it could be age differences and maybe making fun out of it.”
British Muslim clerics are willing to carry out sharia marriages involving child brides as young as 12, an investigation has found.
Two imams said they would be prepared to officiate at the wedding of an underage girl to a man in his twenties, despite fears the pair would later have sex.
The revelations have led the Home Office to confirm that such ceremonies will be examined in the Government’s forthcoming Bill to outlaw forced marriages.
More than 1,000 of the 8,000 forced marriages of Britons each year are believed to involve girls of 15 or under, with one case last year allegedly involving a girl of five.
The clerics were approached by man posing as the father of a 12-year-old who wanted her to marry to prevent her being tempted into a decadent Western lifestyle.
Imam Mohammed Kassamali, of the Husaini Islamic Centre in Peterborough, stressed the need for secrecy with such a ceremony.
He allegedly said: ‘If it (the marriage) was not possible, I would have told you straight away… I would love the girl to go to her husband’s houses (sic) as soon as possible, the younger the better.
‘Under sharia (Islamic law) there is no problem. It is said she should see her first sign of puberty at the house of her husband.
‘The problem is that we cannot explain such things (the marriage) if the girl went tomorrow (to the authorities).
‘The other thing is the underage thing and if tomorrow the girl is, let’s say coerced or forced into this, and she goes and reports it to the police then she will put all of us into the problems.’
He also urged the father to encourage the newlyweds to ‘delay the togetherness’, meaning postpone having sex.
Abdul Haque, a retired imam who still officiates at weddings at Shoreditch mosque, East London, reportedly agreed to carry out the ceremony after evening prayers on Wednesday.
‘Tell people it is an engagement but it will be a marriage,’ he told an undercover Sunday Times reporter.
In this video.. 2 Imams agrees to perform the underage marriage of a 12-year-old little girl in the UK.
‘In Islam, once the girl reaches puberty the father has the right, the parents have the right, but under the laws of this country if the girl complains and says her marriage has been arranged and she wasn’t of marriageable age, then the person who performed the marriage will be jailed as well as the mother and father.’
He explained how the Prophet Muhammad had married a seven-year-old girl before adding: ‘We are his followers, and that is what you have to explain (to your daughter).’
It is not illegal for clerics to perform Islamic marriages, even when one or both of those marrying are under 16.
Such marriages are not recognised in British law, so civil formalities can take place only if both are over 16.
Islamic law allows a couple to have sex after marriage but, as the legal age of consent is 16, a husband can be prosecuted for rape if he has sex with an underage girl.
The Forced Marriage Unit, set up in 2005, dealt with 1,468 cases last year with 205 involving children under the age of 15.
Farooq Murad, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: ‘We are strongly opposed to it on the basis that it is illegal under the law of the land where we are living and even under sharia it is highly debatable.’
After being confronted, Kassamali said he would not have performed the marriage without the girl’s consent and would have sought legal advice. Haque declined to comment.
The Home Office said: ‘Child marriage is totally unacceptable and illegal. Perceived cultural sensitivities and political correctness cannot and will not get in the way of preventing and uncovering.