The protection of children is one of the essential principles of civilised society. Yet the duty to safeguard the vulnerable seems in danger of being undermined out of sensitivity towards some minorities.
This disturbing trend has been highlighted this week by revelations that, during an undercover investigation, two imams from Islamic centres, one based in Peterborough, the other in East London, expressed their willingness to marry an under-age Muslim girl — aged just 12 — to a man in his 20s under the aegis of Sharia law.
It is right, of course, that we respect freedom of religion, but surely not when basic laws and morality are being flouted in this way. It is reported that one of the imams, in trying to justify his actions, said that he would not have married the girl unless she had given her consent.
But a 12-year-old cannot consent to a marriage. It is precisely because children lack the experience, judgment and maturity to make such decisions that we have laws against marriage and sex under the age of 16.
Any failure of the authorities to uphold these laws, because of an apparent clash with another culture, is an example of the politically correct establishment failing vulnerable children.
Unfortunately, police and local authorities sometimes appear to allow excessive deference to cultural considerations to prevent them from acting to stop abuses.
There is sometimes a tendency to defer to the most traditional practices within a culture, rather than trying to assist the modernisers. The result is that those who need most help are often neglected.
This most recent case demonstrates once again how women’s and girls’ rights are subverted under Sharia.
This applies in areas including child custody after a couple split up — when the father is often given the right to keep the children without adequate consideration of the child’s welfare — and, even worse, domestic violence.
Ordinarily, you would call the police, report the attack and he would be charged with assault and possibly jailed, and you would be afforded some protection.
But if you and your husband are Muslim, it’s possible that you will be pressured by family and friends or community leaders into allowing this violence to be dealt with in a local Islamic Sharia court where an imam will adjudicate.
Child bride: An imam at the Husaini Islamic Centre in Peterborough allegedly agreed to the marriage of a 12-year-old girl
There, the result may well be that the aggressor is given no more than a mild reprimand, or just told to go to an anger management class, while his bruised wife is often required to go back and give her husband ‘another chance’.
She will remain trapped in an abusive home without any of the protection, help or support available to other women. The misery that can be caused by Sharia law is illustrated by tragic cases such as this, which I have come across countless times during my work campaigning on this issue.
The women insist on remaining anonymous for fear of reprisals — another indicator of the climate of intimidation that sometimes exists.
It’s a disturbing picture in a country in which equality for all is meant to be a guiding principle of the justice system.
- The British child brides: Muslim mosque leaders agree to marry girl of 12… so long as parents don’t tell anyone (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
- Sharia marriages for girls of 12 and the religious courts subverting British law (dailymail.co.uk)
- Girls, 12, married off in UK by British Muslim imams (thesun.co.uk)
- Girls, 12, married off in UK by British Muslim imams (sfluxe.com)
- UK: The British child brides: Muslim mosque leaders agree to marry girl of 12 (themuslimissue.wordpress.com)