The United Kingdom, which once boasted as the oldest democracy and a country upholding secularist spirits, has been silently bowing to Quranic rule thus finally emerging into a nation no different than Afghanistan – at least when it is related to Muslim males and females. For more than a decade, Britain has been granting benefits to Muslim men and their wives – including those under the Sharia law of polygamy.
Back in 2012, British newspaper the Evening Standard in a report titled ‘Muslim husbands with more than one wife to get extra benefits as ministers recognize polygamy’ said:
Husbands living in a “harem” with multiple wives have been cleared to claim state benefits for all their different partners.
A Muslim man with four spouses – which is permitted under Islamic law – could receive £10,000 a year in income support alone.
He could also be entitled to more generous housing and council tax benefit, to reflect the fact his household needs a bigger property.
Ministers have decided that, even though bigamy is a crime in Britain, polygamous marriages can be recognized formally by the state – provided they took place overseas, in countries where they are legal.
The Evening Standard further said:
Islamic law permits men to have up to four wives at any one time – known as a harem – provided the husband spends equal amounts of time and money on each of them.
The DWP believes the number of people in polygamous marriages entering Britain has fallen since the 1988 Immigration Act, which makes it harder to bring more than one wife to the UK.
But, while a married man cannot obtain a spouse visa to bring a second wife into Britain, some multiple partners may be able to enter the country via other legal routes such as tourist visas, student visas or work permits.
Officials have also identified a potential loophole by which a man can divorce his wife under British law while continuing to live with her as his spouse under Islamic law, and obtain a spouse visa for a foreign woman who he can legally marry.
Immigration rules say entry clearance may not be withheld from a second wife where the husband has divorced his previous wife, and the divorce is thought to be one of convenience.
This is so, even if the husband is still living with the previous wife and to issue the entry clearance would lead to the formation of a polygamous household.
Muslim couples are only married in the eyes of the British state if they undergo a register office wedding as well as a Nikah, or religious ceremony.
Muslim groups say it is quite common for men here to undergo more than one Nikah with different wives. This does not count as bigamy since only the first marriage is legally recognized.
In 2016, British newspaper Daily Mail in a report titled ‘Men with more than one wife will get extra benefits under new rules’, said, Men with more than one wife will qualify for extra benefits under the new welfare system, according to official House of Commons research.
In the UK, it is illegal to marry more than one person.
Polygamous marriages, largely confined to Muslim families, are only recognized in Britain if they took place in countries where they are legal, such as Middle Eastern states, Pakistan and Zambia.
There are no official figures but it is estimated that there may be as many as 20,000 polygamous marriages in the British Muslim community.
In 2008, British newspaper Express in a report titled ‘Muslims can claim benefits for several wives’ said:
“Husbands who bring more than one wife to Britain can claim extra benefits for them at taxpayers’ expense.
“Ministers have ruled that men in polygamous marriages can receive state handouts for each wife, including additional income support, even though bigamy is illegal in the UK”.
Express in its report said the decision would chiefly benefit Muslim men, as Islamic law allows them to have up to four wives.
According to UK Parliament (House of Commons) documents on polygamy:
A polygamous marriage is when a man legally has multiple spouses (a woman with multiple spouses is called a polyandrous marriage). Not every country allows polygamy, bigamy is where polygamy is not legal, and a person cannot have multiple spouses.
A person married to one person at a time, is called a monogamous marriage. In the UK, all marriages that take place in the UK must be monogamous and follow the relevant legislation to be legally valid.
A customer born, before 1 July 2006, to parents, in a polygamous marriage may have an automatic claim to British nationality. If they are recognized as their father’s legitimate child because the marriage is recognized as valid (for the purposes of a British passport application).
There is some anecdotal evidence of people entering into a form of polygamous marriage in the UK through religious ceremonies that are not registered by the state and are not recognized under UK law. Parties to these relationships do not have the same rights as legally married couples, such as access to financial remedies on divorce or automatic inheritance rights on the death of one of the parties. Calls have been made for all marriages taking place in England and Wales to be registered as a way of addressing this issue – it would not be possible to register a polygamous marriage.
In 2022, the Law Commission recommended comprehensive reform of weddings law in England and Wales. The reformed system would be based on regulation of the officiant responsible for the ceremony. Among other things, the Law Commission recommended it would be an offence for a person – an officiant or a person purporting to be an officiant or leading the ceremony – dishonestly to mislead a couple about the effect of a ceremony. It would also be an offence for an authorized officiant not to disclose to the couple if the ceremony will not give rise to a valid marriage.
UK Government on its website also describes wives and children of a Muslim man from polygamy will be entitled to obtain British citizenship.
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