More than a dozen Muslim clerics have been caught agreeing to marry off girls as young as 14.Four imams are now under investigation, after they offered to arrange the illegal ceremonies. Undercover reporters, posing as the mother and brother of a 14-year-old, contacted 56 mosques across the country and asked clerics to perform an Islamic marriage ceremony, known as a nika. Imams at 18 mosques agreed – including one who has advised the police. The preacher was prepared to arrange the nika despite being told that the ‘bride’ was being forced to move in with a man against her wishes.
The revelations will raise questions about how prevalent underage marriage is in Britain. Campaigners claim thousands of girls are forced into the illegal ceremonies every year, in a boom fuelled by the ‘moral blindness of cultural sensitivity’. Such weddings are not recognised by UK law. Marriages can only be officially registered if both parties are over 16, which is also the age of sexual consent.