Zakaria Virk, Editor
The UK government must ensure to register all Islamic marriages in order to protect Muslim women from abuse and destitution. Women are trapped in “marital captivity” in the United Kingdom, as the government has refused to make the registration of sharia marriages mandatory.
This is in view of the fact that polygamous marriages and Islamic divorce – which permits the man to instantaneously divorce his wife but makes it far more difficult for the woman to initiate divorce proceedings – puts wives at risk.
Take the case of Mrs Nasreen Akhter and Mohammed Shabaz Khan, who have four children had an Islamic wedding ceremony in a west London restaurant in 1998 in the presence of an imam and about 150 guests, but no civil ceremony subsequently took place, despite Mrs Akhter repeatedly raising the issue.
They separated in 2016 and Mr Khan tried to block his wife’s divorce petition two years ago on the basis they had not been legally married in the first place. The High Court ruled in 2018 that the couple’s Islamic “Nikah” ceremony fell within English marriage law.
But the Court of Appeal said that it was an “invalid” non-legal ceremony. Mrs Akhter argued their Islamic faith marriage was valid, as was her application for divorce, and that she was entitled to the same legal protection and settlement offered in the UK to legally married couples. Her application for divorce was analyzed during a trial in the Family Division of the High Court and Mr Justice Williams delivered a written judgment in the summer of 2018.
The Court of Appeal overturned that decision in February 2020 and said the marriage was “invalid” under English marriage law. It explained the wedding was “a non-qualifying ceremony” because it was not performed in a building registered for weddings, no certificates had been issued and no registrar was present.
A report Fallen through the Cracks – prepared by Emma Webb of CIVITAS think tank states that of the 100,000 sharia marriages that are held each year in Britain, only around 25 per cent are actually registered with the government. But there is hesitation on the government part to have Islamic marriages (Nikah) registered because people in the government are afraid of accusations of being Islamophobic if they crack down on the unregistered marriages and view the practice of sharia marriages as a “social and religious” problem that should “be dealt with by the community rather than the law”.
The author of the study, Emma Webb, told The Telegraph: “Despite calls from Muslim women activists and the international bodies, every day women continue to suffer horribly because of completely unjustifiable shortcomings in our legislation.”