Getting married is a rite of passage that many Americans enjoy. In modern times, many will marry in their early twenties. A few marry out of high school in their late teens. This may be the norm in the U.S., but in other parts of the world, brides marry much younger. Some religious groups, including Muslims, do not see a child’s age as a barrier to marrying them off to an adult. At times the religious belief directly goes against the laws of the country where the couple gets married. This is the case in a recent scandal in Australia. A cleric married a 34-year-old man to his. Both the cleric and the groom face charges.
Even though the wedding may have been legal in the eyes of the religion, it was not in Australia. Current laws for a wedding in the country clearly state that both parties must be at least 18 years of age. There are special considerations if one of the two is under the age of 18 but at least 16. No marriages are legal for either member of the couple who is under the age of 16.
According to the officialfor Australia:
“To be legally married in Australia, a man and woman must:
- not be married to someone else
- not be marrying a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister
- be at least eighteen years old, unless a court has approved a marriage where one party is aged between sixteen and eighteen years old
- understand what marriage means and freely consent to becoming husband and wife
- use specific words during the ceremony
- give written notice of their intention to marry to their authorized celebrant, within the required time frame.”
The age requirements for the wedding are specific and have little room for interpretation. The demand for the celebrant to receive paperwork before the ceremony is a way for those who perform the services to verify the couple getting married is, in fact, able to legally marry. The “Notice of Intended Marriage Form” is given to the officiant at least a month before the wedding. Another part of the form and the overall process is the requirement of the officiant to review documents including birth certificates that proof age.
According to a report about the recent court proceedings:
“Mohammad Shakir pleaded guilty to going through a formal ceremony of marriage with a person not of marriageable age at Noble Park last September. The “wedding” was conducted by former imam, Ibrahim Omerdic. As part of Shakir’s plea, two charges were withdrawn by prosecutors in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.”
Before the Tuesday court meeting, Shakir was also charged with sex crimes against his young bride. He had sex with the 14-year-old after the wedding over the course of a few days. Former imam Omerdic is also facing legal action. The 62-year-old is being charged with conduct that forced a minor into a forced marriage.
At the time that Omerdic performed the wedding ceremony in the Nobel Park Mosque, he was an imam with the Bosnian Islamic Society. His imam status was removed by the Board of Imams Victoria. The board issued the following statement:
“Underage marriages are illegal in Australia. As Australian Muslims we are required to observe and respect the laws of Australia. Imams should meet both the bride and groom in person before the marriage ceremony to ensure they are of marriageable age and both consented.”
The marriage between 34-year-old Shakir and the 14-year-old was not legal in the eyes of the local and state government. It was legal however in the eyes of Shakir’s religion. According to traditions, a woman can marry as soon as she reaches puberty. This means the age limits are not always followed as young females hit puberty at a variety of ages.
According to Islamic Law (Sharia), females are ready to marry when they start menstruating because they can then bear children. Some countries that are primarily use this as a standard for legal marriages and set no age limits otherwise. Other countries have established age limits to move beyond the horrible practice of allowing young children to get married.
A recenton child brides worldwide explains:
“If the question is about laws in Islamic countries, it differ by country. For example, it’s 20 in Tunisia, 18 in Egypt, Sudan, UAE, Iraq, Morocco & West Sahara, 16 & 15 in different countries in the Levant region, 12 in Iran, 9 in Yemen, and no existing law in Saudi Arabia & Oman. However, if a girl is 9 years old in Yemen, and hasn’t hit puberty, marrying her is OK by the Yemeni law, but it’s not OK with Islamic law. This is something that must be considered.”
The basis for child brides in Islamic countries goes back to the early actions of the Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad was 54 when he married his favorite wife, Aisha. She was six-years-old when they wed and 9 when the marriage was consummated.
Many within modern communities have pushed to end child marriages. These recent efforts were shut down as they call into question everything about the Prophet. For:
“…marrying young girls was not all that unusual for its time, but because in Islam Muhammad is the supreme example of conduct (cf. Qur’an 33:21), he is considered exemplary in this unto today. And so in April 2011, the Bangladesh Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini declared that those trying to pass a law banning child marriage in that country were putting Muhammad in a bad light: “Banning child marriage will cause challenging the marriage of the holy prophet of Islam, [putting] the moral character of the prophet into controversy and challenge.” He added a threat: “Islam permits child marriage and it will not be tolerated if any ruler will ever try to touch this issue in the name of giving more rights to women.” The Mufti said that 200,000 jihadists were ready to sacrifice their lives for any law restricting child marriage.”
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