STORM OVER THE MUSLIMS ‘WITH UP TO FOUR WIVES’

GROWING numbers of Muslim men are “marrying” up to four wives in Britain, a leading Muslim peer warned last night.

Tory Baroness Sayeeda Warsi fears a sharp increase in polygamy in the UK is becoming a threat to community cohesion.

And she accused Labour ministers of turning a blind eye to the practice, which is common in some Islamic countries.

The Government must make it clear to Muslims that “in this country, one married man is allowed to marry one woman,” she said.

Most Muslim polygamous arrangements are not illegal because the “weddings” are private religious ceremonies that are not recognised by British law.

But Baroness Warsi, Tory spokesman on community cohesion, feared that multi-wife marriages could increase tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain.

There are also concerns that some Muslim men are claiming benefits for several wives.

“There has been a failure on the part of policymakers to respond to this situation,” she said.

“Some of it has been done in the name of cultural sensitivity and we’ve just avoided either discussing or dealing with this matter head on.

“There has to be a culture change and that has to brought about by policymakers taking a very clear stance on this issue.”

She urged ministers to consider introducing a system of registration for religious “weddings” to curb the growth in polygamy.
But her remarks provoked an angry backlash from some Islamic experts last night.

Manzoor Moghal, chairman of the Muslim Forum, said the Government should not interfere.

He said: “Why would you not allow Muslims to conduct their affairs in their cultural, religious framework, without interference from the state? Why should we take them to task for having a second, third and a fourth nikah [marriage] which is compatible with their religion?”

Islamic law only allows a man to marry up to four wives in very specific circumstances and he must treat them all equally.

Professor Haleh Afshar, professor in politics and women’s studies at the University of York, said: “Sadly it is increasing on the part of British-born men who... sometimes marry British-born girls, but more often... someone in the sub-continent then go back and abandon wife number one and take wife number two.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman denied that polygamy was being ignored by the Government and insisted the practice was illegal in Britain.

But he added: “It is not the role of government to take a position on the rites, beliefs or practices of any particular religious faith, other than where these give rise to conflict with the common law.”

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