The goal of married life within Islam is much greater than bringing
two consenting adults together, it is to build a stable, loving
and secure family unit to nurture future generations. However, the
ideal of marriage can often be tainted by duress and family loyalties
and examples of forced marriages, illegitimacy and honour killings
are sadly rife within our community, although these issues are often
brushed under the carpet.
A forced marriage may be defined as a marriage without consent
and is unacceptable under both UK and Islamic law, where mutual
consent is a prerequisite to any marriage. Forced marriages are
typically associated with the Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslim Community.
Forced marriages arise primarily as a result of a clash of interests
and cultures between parents, born and brought up in the Indian
Sub-continent, and British born children.
For parents, living as a minority community in Britain, away from
their homeland, can often make finding suitable marriage partners
for their children a stressful process. Also due to promises made
to family, children can often find themselves being used by their
parents as ‘pawns’ to marry their children to nieces
and nephews “back home”. Parents’ ability to force
their marriage choices onto their children can often be reinforced
by the attitudes of local Imams, who share the cultural norms and
values of Muslim parents.
It is important for youth to be educated about marriage in Islam
and although they should be given free will over choice of a spouse,
they should also appreciate the Islamic etiquettes of finding a
suitable marriage partner. Parents have a wealth of knowledge and
experience they can share with their children in assisting the choice
of a partner, which is fine as long as no pressure is being used.
Also Imams should be educated on the importance of ensuring two
people are truly consenting to a marriage, before performing nikkah
ceremonies. In this way they can play a crucial role within the
community by refusing to conduct nikkahs where they believe either
party is being forced. By educating the community in this way it
is hoped the true values of marriage within Islam may be re-instilled
into the British Muslim community.
The Muslim Parliament in association with the Muslim Women’s
Institute has launched the “Stop Forced Marriages Campaign”
in order to:
- create awareness and agreement within the Muslim community
that forced marriages are a real problem which the community collectively
needs to tackle;
- identify gaps in service provisions within the Muslim community
relating to forced marriages and focussing on those specific needs.
The campaign group incorporates the services provided by existing
Muslim organisations and skills groups where possible and also
provides assistance in improving such services where necessary
eg. counselling for victims of forced marriages/domestic violence,
- identify and build alliances with other organisations with a
view to facilitating change within the community eg. visits to
schools to provide guidance and contact details of organisations
who can help students who may be victims of forced marriages,
developing a website to highlight the issues and also educate
on Islamic teachings of marriage; and
- identify opportunities to enter the debate on family issues
being discussed within the wider community.
Before launching this project, the Muslim Parliament commissioned
a consultation paper on the issue of marriages within the community,
in order to highlight the legal issues/procedure, potential conflicts
and problems which can arise, suggest solutions, provide a practical
guide for those intending to marry and explore the way forward for
Muslim marriages taking place in Britain.
See the Stop Forced