Friday, 24 June 2011

Should religious law be curbed ? - Guardian Debate

The Guardian are running a debate on Religious Courts inspired by the Bill introduced by Baroness Cox

I have contributed an article as have others and there will no doubt be other articles and comments yet to come which I will add to this Blog as they appear

Should religious law be curbed?

Nesrine Malik: What is Lady Cox's bill really about?

Musleh Faradhi: Sharia bill is based on a false premise

Neil Addison: Lady Cox's bill is not so controversial


BarabbasFreed said...

On the comments on your article in the guardian the question has arisen as to what precisely is the illegality of mosques performing Nikah marriages if one or both parties aren't fully informed in that its not also a civil marriage. You write in 2009 "Such unregistered wedding ceremonies are in fact illegal under s75(2)(ii) of the Marriage Act and those involved could face up to 5 years imprisonment." Can you clarify this for us. Thanks

Neil Addison said...


I think this debate over s75 has become something of a circular argument and also distraction from the main point which is why are Muslims not registering their marriages in the same way as every other religious group does.

Why do I think it is a circular argument ?

Basically if the arguement is that the ceremony is not a ceremony covered by the Marriage Act so therefore it cannot be criminal then that is a circular argument. Clearly the only marriages which can be criminal under s75 are those which are not registered under the Act because the marriages which are registered are legal.

At the end of the day when a Nikah Marriage ceremony takes place it is supposed to mean something, the couple become married, they refer to themselves as married, they refer to themselves as husband and wife therefore it is a marriage ceremony for the purposes of s75 and if it is not registered under the Marriage Act then it is an illegal ceremony and those who "solemnise" the marriage (to use the word in s75) are committing a crime.

NB We are having friends round this evening and my wife will be VERY unhappy if I pop off to continue this debate via my computer so I leave you all o continue it. And, for the avoidance of doubt, (as we lawyers say) yes I did marry my wife in a lawful religious marriage ceremony which was solemnised in accordance with the religious rites of the Catholic Church but also registered in accordance with the legal requirements of the Marriage Act

Neil Addison said...

I tried to leave the following comment this Sunday morning on the discussion thread related to my Article in The Guardian. To anyone who reads that discussion thread this is my reply to the points raised in it.

R v Bahm was a case with very specific facts in particular that the couple had been told that they could not have a valid English marriage and therefore they had an Islamic ceremony which would be recognised in an Islamic Country. The Court was therefore giving its judgment in a situation where no lawful English Marriage was possible and you cannot simply take bits out of the judgment and divorce them from the factual situation whey were applied to.

The situation in Bahm is very clearly distinguishable from the generality of situations where Nikah marriages are performed in England where the couple are perfectly capable of having a lawful wedding and where there is nothing in law to prevent the marriage being registered under the Act. Bahm did not establish a general legal principle that Nikah marriages are not covered by the Marriage Act and indeed since a, relatively small, number of Mosques are registered under the Act a Nikah marriage ceremony is capable of being covered by the Act.

I accept that the above will not be agreed to by some of the commentators on this thread however perhaps we could look at what we may agree on. If a Nikah marriage ceremony is performed which is not registered under the Act and either of the two parties are not aware that it is not a lawful marriage under English law then the person who solemnises that marriage is breaking s75. If either party to the marriage has been told that it is not possible to register an Islamic marriage under English law then once again the the person who solemnises that marriage is breaking s75.

Finally I have been criticised on the basis that I am merely expressing my "opinion" on the law but that is what lawyers do every day.

BarabbasFreed said...

Thanks for your input. I'm not sure why the guardian thread got quite so confrontational (though that's not uncommon for these threads). I appreaciate your input on the issue