Search This Blog

Friday, 8 August 2008

With this nonsense I thee wed

So now we are to have newly approved, updated sharia marriages in Britain. Women will have equal rights. It's being hailed as something revolutionary, instead of just bringing Muslim marriages (the not-legally-binding variety in this country, so far) into line with civilised practice. Civilised practice means women have equal rights. This sort of thing should be recognised by Muslims and everyone else.

According to today's Daily Telegraph, Muslim women are to be "guaranteed equal rights in marriage under a new wedding contract negotiated by leading Islamic organisations and clerics in Britain". It goes on:

Hailed as the biggest change in Sharia law in Britain for 100 years, a married Muslim couple will now have equal rights. A husband will have to waive his right to polygamy, allowed under Islamic law, in the new contract which has been described as "revolutionary".

A man will have to waive his right to polygamy! What right? In this country, a man can take as many women as he chooses, but only one is his wife in British law. And it's British law that counts, because it's British law that we all live under (warts and all).

Something called the Muslim Institute has been working four years to draw up this contract, apparently. Perhaps it met only once every two years – who knows? Seems an awfully long time to work on what should be simple equality measures. These marriages are going to take place in Blightly, after all, not some primitive Islamic theocracy.

The story tells us:

Currently Muslims in Britain have an Islamic ceremony called a nikah (a non register office marriage) which, although it is guaranteed under Sharia law, is not legally binding and does not provide a woman with written proof of the marriage and of the terms and conditions agreed between the spouses.

Does this mean that the new arrangement will be recognised? It doesn't say. Whatever happens, what on earth is the need for another type of marriage when we have the register office? Surely, it's complicated enough already with having "marriage" for heterosexual couples and "civil partnerships" for same-sex couples.

If religious groups wish to have ceremonies to mark their unions so that they can pretend it's in the eyes of their invisible friend, that's fine, and it should be their right. As long as there's one marriage law to suit everyone and, no matter what the traditions of the religious group, the law of the land is the one that is answered to when it comes to matters of divorce and the welfare of children.

So far, with sharia marriages that aren't legally recognised, "In cases of divorces, the absence of such proof, has meant that many Muslim women have been denied financial rights," the Telegraph says.

Is this not a case in point? If women are married legally, under British law, then their divorce rights are guaranteed and any settlements will be arbitrated according to the same law as applies to others who share this soil. No other form of marriage should be recognised as anything but an informal bonding within a religious context. And there's nothing wrong with that, provided it remains at that, and doesn't try to claim any legal status.

But I suspect it will not be long before different arrangements, in law, are in place, based on one's choice of superstition, requiring yet more buraucracy, at taxpayers' expense, to maintain it all.

No comments: