Tag Archives: Manchester

Britain’s Underage Muslim Marriage Epidemic

The imam of Birmingham’s Central Jamia Masjid Ghamkol Sharif Mosque (pictured above) agreed to perform the marriage of a 14-year-old girl against her will.

by Soeren Kern

More than a dozen Muslim clerics at some of the biggest mosques in Britain have been caught on camera agreeing to marry off girls as young as 14.

Undercover reporters filming a documentary about the prevalence of forced and underage marriage in Britain for the television program ITV Exposure secretly recorded 18 Muslim imams agreeing to perform an Islamic marriage, known as a nikah, between a 14-year-old girl and an older man.

Campaigners against forced marriage — which is not yet a crime in Britain — say thousands of underage girls — including some under the age of five — are being forced to marry against their will in Muslim nikahs every year, and that the examples exposed by the documentary represent just “the tip of the iceberg.”

The documentary, entitled “Forced to Marry,” was first broadcast on October 9 and involves two reporters posing as the mother and brother of a 14-year-old girl to be married to an older man. The reporters contacted 56 mosques across Britain and asked clerics to perform a nikah. The imams were specifically told that the “bride” did not consent to the marriage to an older man from London.

Although the legal age for marriage in Britain is 16, according to Islamic Sharia law girls can marry once they reach puberty. The imams who agreed to marry the girl openly mocked the legitimacy of British law, reflecting the rise of a parallel Islamic legal system in Britain.

One of the Muslim clerics who agreed to perform the underage marriage is Mohammed Shahid Akhtar, the imam of the Central Jamia Masjid Ghamkol Sharif Mosque in Birmingham, the second-largest mosque in Britain with a capacity of more than 5,000 worshippers.

On being informed that the girl did not want to get married, Akhtar replied: “She’s 14. By Sharia, grace of God, she’s legal to get married. Obviously Islam has made it easy for us. There is nothing against that. We’re doing it because it’s okay through Islam.”

The documentary also shows Akhtar expressing his contempt for British marriage laws: “You’ve got the kaffirs[non-believers], the law, the English people that … you know, you can’t get married twice but, by the grace of God, we can get married four times.”

An undercover UK investigation revealed that Imams at some of Britain's biggest mosques were willing to marry off girls as young as 14. (Shutterstock)

An undercover UK investigation revealed that Imams at some of Britain’s biggest mosques were willing to marry off girls as young as 14. (Shutterstock)

Another cleric who agreed to marry the 14 year old girl is Mufti Shams al-Huda al-Misbahi, who preaches at the Jamia Masjid Kanzul Iman Mosque in Heckmondwike, a town near Leeds in north-central England.

When the undercover reporter, posing as the brother of the girl to be married, says, “She’s not willing now, but she will be,” Misbahi responds: “If you make her willing, she will be willing.” He is then filmed saying that he would perform the marriage without providing an official marriage certificate valid under British law. “We’ll make everything okay by Islam. We’ll write down and put it in our records.” Misbahi goes on to tell the undercover reporters that the girl will be able to live with her new husband after the ceremony.

Misbahi is a senior Muslim cleric who has worked with the West Yorkshire Police as an advisor on community cohesion, a British concept that refers to the integration of Muslim immigrants within a multicultural society. Before being caught on camera advocating forced marriage, Misbahi had publicly condemned the practice for many years.

Another imam at the Al Quba Mosque and Shahporan Islamic Center in Manchester was filmed saying: “I can get you someone to do the nikah for you, that’s not going to be a problem.”

The documentary includes an interview with Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Northwest England. “Forced marriage is probably the last form of slavery in the UK,” he says.

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Aneeta Prem, founder of the Freedom Charity which educates children about forced marriage, said: “I think whoever is involved in this, you are talking about child abuse and exploitation and it is something we need to stop. People are too culturally sensitive when dealing with this, they are worried about offending particular groups. We have to say it’s immoral and illegal and stamp it out. I think what we are hearing about is the tip of the iceberg, it is a huge problem.”

At least 250 children are known to have been subjected to forced marriage in Britain in 2012, including a two-year-old girl who is believed to be the country’s youngest victim of the practice.

The statistics were provided by the British government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) as part of an ongoing effort to create a law that would criminalize forced marriage in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The custom is already illegal in Scotland.

Overall, the FMU said it gave advice or support related to nearly 1,500 cases of forced marriage during 2012, although experts say the vast majority of forced marriages in Britain go unreported. A study produced by NatCen Social Research, a British think tank, estimates that the real number of forced marriages in Britain probably exceeds 8,000 per year.

Most of the instances of forced marriage in Britain involve Muslim families from South Asia, particularly Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Many of the cases involve Muslim children who are taken abroad by their parents and forced to marry against their will. During the 2013 summer holidays, for example, an average of five girls were believed to have been taken out of Britain every day to be forcibly married abroad. Forced marriages also often involve horrors such as kidnapping, beatings and rape.

Prime Minister David Cameron has compared the practice of forced marriage to modern day slavery and has said people should not “shy away” from addressing the issue because of political correctness. “For too long in this country we have thought, ‘Well, it’s a cultural practice and we just have to run with it,'” Cameron said. “We don’t. It’s a crime.”

In May 2013, Cameron submitted a bill to Parliament that would make forcing someone to marry a specific criminal offense. The measure is part of the Anti-Social Behavior, Crime and Policing Bill slowly working its way through the House of Commons, the lower house of the British Parliament.

To be sure, not everyone in Britain is in favor of making forced marriage a crime. According to a research document published by the House of Commons Library on September 16, 2013, some campaigners on the issue are worried that victims could be deterred from coming forward because they will not want to risk relatives going to prison. Others argue it may lead to youngsters being taken overseas at an earlier age to be put through forced marriages. Still others question how allegations of forced marriage would be proven to the criminal standard of proof: beyond reasonable doubt.

Another reason why Britain is taking so long to outlaw forced marriage involves multicultural sensitivities. Many promoters of British multiculturalism say the move to criminalize forced marriage will unfairly single out Muslims.

journal article entitled “A Civil Rather than Criminal Offence? Forced Marriage, Harm and the Politics of Multiculturalism in the UK” argues that the reluctance in Britain to criminalize forced marriage is due, in part, to the influence that multicultural ideals have had on current British approaches to the practice.

The article also attributes the British preference for civil remedies rather than criminal legislation to the tendency of the state to conceptualize the harms of forced marriage principally in terms of a violation of choice, rather than as a matter of long-term violence against women.

The question arises as to whether, by adopting such an approach, the state may be giving rise to a two-tier system of rights, in which minority group women are afforded a lesser protection of their human rights, as a result of their racial or cultural background.

Back in 1999, former Labour Party Home Office Minister Mike O’Brien criticized the lack of action on the problem forced marriages. “Multicultural sensitivity is no excuse for moral blindness,” he said.

Fast-forward to 2013. In an interview with the Sunday Times on October 6, Jasvinder Sanghera, an activist who has been instrumental in the decades-long campaign to criminalize forced marriage in Britain, sums it up this way: The issue has become “wrapped up in this moral blindness of cultural sensitivity.”




Deaf, Mute Girl Kept in Cellar as Sex Slave for a Decade

Sex slave kept in a cellar for a decade

A deaf and mute girl was kept in a cellar and repeatedly raped for a decade, a court has heard.

A deaf and mute girl was kept in a cellar and repeatedly raped for a decade, a court has heard.

The child from Pakistan – now believed to be 19 – was trafficked to Britain so her captors could claim £30,000 in benefits.

She was repeatedly raped, beaten and forced to work for Ilyas Ashar and his family at their home in Eccles, Salford.

They taught the girl how to communicate in sign language and write to claim her benefits.

The passport used when the girl entered the country in 2000 claimed she was 20 and it was a matter of ‘mystery and concern’ how immigration officials at Heathrow Airport did not spot the lie.

She was made to cook, clean, do the washing and ironing for the Ashars and clean the homes of their family and friends.

While Ashar repeatedly raped her, the girl was made to spend her days in the cellar packing football shirts, clothes and mobile phone covers.

She had no family or friends here and never went to school.

Despite her disabilities, the girl was intelligent and a ‘remarkably resilient young woman’, the court heard.

Undated handout photos issued by Greater Manchester Police of a staircase in the home of Ilyas Ashar and his wife Tallat Ashar in Cromwell Road, Eccles in Salford. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday October 16, 2013. A pensioner who trafficked a deaf and mute orphan into the UK, using her to milk the benefits system, was today found guilty of repeatedly raping the girl. Ilyas Ashar, 84, sexually abused his vulnerable victim repeatedly, Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester heard. His wife, Tallat Ashar, 68, was found guilty of two counts of trafficking a person into the UK for exploitation and four counts of furnishing false information to obtain a benefit. See PA story COURTS Trafficking. Photo credit should read: Greater Manchester Police/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

A pensioner who trafficked a deaf and mute orphan into the UK, using her to milk the benefits system, was today found guilty of repeatedly raping the girl. Ilyas Ashar, 84, sexually abused his vulnerable victim repeatedly, 

Two female jurors at Minshull Street crown court in Manchester wept as Ilyas Ashar, 84, was convicted of 13 counts of rape.

He and wife Tallat, 68, were convicted at an earlier trial of trafficking, exploitation and benefit fraud.

His daughter, Faaiza, 46, was also convicted of benefit fraud.

Judge Peter Lakin revoked Ilyas Ashar’s bail after hearing how his electronic tag ‘came off’.

He said: ‘In my judgment cases such as this, with defendants facing substantial custodial sentences, there is always the significant temptation of defendants not attending here when required.’

Sentencing takes place next week.