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."
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.