Denmark: Imams marrying underage Danish girls

Denmark: Imams marrying underage Danish girls

Ed: This issue came up two years ago.

Danish girls as young as 16 are marrying Muslim men in Islamic marriages, without their parent's consent and before the girl's are of majority age, as is required in Danish marriages.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the marriages aren't legally binding, but the girls sign an Islamic marriage contract which includes a dowry and are bound by certain rules. By that it's effectively parallel to Danish marriage legislation, several experts told Berlingske.

Nobody knows the exact number of marriages, but Berlingske can tell the story of Christina Palshøj Schultz, who marries her Muslim boyfriend when she was 17, without asking her parents. Her father's family decided never to speak to her again.

This example is not unique, says Birgitte Karlsson of Etnika, a support-center in Copenhagen West, who has met several Danish girls aged 16-17 who married in the Islamic way.

"I think they're far from mature mature enough to make such an important decision. It should never happen," she says.

Muslim marriage obligates the girls to religious and social norms and stronger ties than a Danish marriage, says Birgitte Karlsson. Anne Sofie Roald, Professor of Religious History specializing in Islam at Malmö University agrees. "Many converts feel very strongly that they want to be good Muslims and so it becomes so that everything the man says is law," she says.

Article 1 of the Danish marriage law says that you need to be 18 in order to marry. Only then you're old enough to understand the consequences of such a big decision, says Linda Nielsen, professor of family and inheritance law at KU.

"We don't like child marriages in Denmark," she says.

Imam Shahid Mehdi of the Islamic Faith-Society denies their imams marry teenage brides.

"The Islamic Faith Society doesn't marry girls under 18. Our requirement is that they need a marriage certificate from the municipality. But maybe there are some other amateurish imams who do that," he says.

The head of the parliament's integration committee, Karen Jespersen (V), wants to end teenage marriages.

"Imams abuse their wedding powers. They know very well that it conflicts with Danish marriage law. I think they should be punished with fines, imprisonment or deportation," says Karen Jespersen.

Source: Berlingske (Danish)