PRESS RELEASE: BRITISH ASIAN MARRIAGES: FORCING THE ISSUE

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UK government's demonisation of Muslims is a breach of human rights

 

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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19.9.99

PRESS RELEASE: BRITISH ASIAN MARRIAGES: FORCING THE ISSUE
UK government's demonisation of Muslims is a breach of human rights

UK-based rights group Islamic Human Rights Commission today voiced its concern at the British government's campaign against forced marriages within the British Asian community.

The community under scrutiny, hails from the Indian sub-continent. The British government has commissioned a working group to devise strategies to tackle the issue. Forced marriages - where women are violently coerced into marriage against their will - is an abuse of basic rights that Islam forbade 1400 years ago.

Unfortunately, a small number of forced marriages do happen in the UK in the targeted community. However this is a minor issue in the catalogue of problems and suffering Muslims in the UK face. The fact that Muslims have been targeted in a manner that suggests unqualified Islamophobia behind the policy. Enticements to the Muslim community to pick up on the issue have led to otherwise disinterested and unrepresentative Muslim organisations have been enticed back into the public arena through the promise of government funding if they promote this concept Muslim community. The result is the perpetuation of Islamophobia and the myth that Muslims routinely practice forced marriage, and indeed culturally approve of it.

IHRC is clear in its stance - forced marriage is abhorrent, and should be tackled. However it is not an excuse to demonise an already marginalised, disenfranchised and disempowered community. Muslims in Great Britain face a whole host of problems - including untold hardship, trauma and discrimination faced by Muslim and non-Muslim women in a secular world. IHRC daily sees cases of religious and other forms of discrimination in schools, the workplace, universities etc.

To portray forced marriage as endemic to the Muslim community not only detracts from the seriousness of the problems faced by women in the UK today, but also misleadingly vilifies the values of a whole community. The fact that Islam has the longest emancipatory track record in this respect should be a matter of example for a secular world coming to terms with its tendency to violence against others. It should not, as it is now, be swept under the carpet in the service of prejudice. To do so is to violate the rights of those in whose name such working groups claim to address.