Authorities to probe marriage of an 11-year-old to ‘imam’, activist says

Activist Syed Azmi said that the Gua Musang Social Welfare Department has been notified of the case and three officers are investigating the marriage that allegedly took place in Thailand. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Activist Syed Azmi said that the Gua Musang Social Welfare Department has been notified of the case and three officers are investigating the marriage that allegedly took place in Thailand. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 — Authorities will be investigating the marriage between a 40 year-old man and an 11-year-old, activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi said after news of the matter became viral on social media.

According to a Facebook update by Syed Azmi earlier today, the Gua Musang Social Welfare Department has been notified of the case and three officers are investigating the marriage that allegedly took place in Thailand.

He also noted that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s Senior Strategy Officer called him for further information.

“Cases like these are not new but we only sensationalised it without improving or addressing it,” said Syed Azmi.

“From a religious perspective, please don’t just let it slide but please also look at it from the wellbeing of the family and other issues.

Malaysians were outraged yesterday when they saw a Facebook post of a woman congratulating her husband on his latest marriage with an 11-year-old girl.

The post, which has now been removed, featured two pictures in which the girl’s face was blurred, and the woman’s husband was seen reaching out to his new bride as he looked into the camera.

Another picture showed the husband’s friends and the woman, along with the mother of the underage bride.

The woman had since the incident uploaded several other posts on Facebook, including one that clarified she did not blame “Ayu” — the new bride, for the situation she was in as the second wife to the man.

It is learnt that the man is a Malaysian religious leader at a village mosque and is respected by many.

Under the Islamic Family Enactment, it states that: “No marriage may be solemnised under this Enactment where either the man is under the age of eighteen or the woman is under the age of sixteen except where the Syariah Judge has granted his permission in writing in certain circumstances.”

Syed Azmi in his post had also explained that the man has two wives and the new bride’s parents, who are not Malaysian, work as rubber tappers who sell rubber to their new son-in-law.

The man was discovered to have been dating the 11-year-old in March, and they got married without the knowledge of the two wives in June.

According to the post, the marriage has not been registered in Malaysia.

Unicef’s Malaysian representative Marianne Clark-Hattingh expressed her fury over the incident and urged that the Pakatan Harapan government review laws pertaining to the legal age for marriage.

“If true, it is shocking and unacceptable. It is not in the best interest of the child,” she said.

“It is a violation of her rights, law reform to set the legal age for marriage at 18 without exception should be one of the priorities of the new Parliament.”

The Joint Action Group (JAG) for Gender Equality also echoed her sentiments to condemn the marriage.

“ Child marriage is not an obligation (not wajib) nor encouraged by Islam (not sunnah). The tradition (sunnah) often quoted is the practice by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) on his marriage to Aishah,” it said in a statement.

“There is no concrete evidence that Aishah was 9-years-old at the point of her marriage and there has been other studies that assert that she was much older (19 years) when she was married to the Prophet.”

JAG asserted that such child marriages hindered a girl’s formal education as she was expected to take care of the household and start a family.

“This is in gross violation of Articles 3 and 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which call for the best interests of the child to be the primary consideration in any action by the authorities,” it said.

“Immediate action must be taken by the government to condemn this action and pledge legislative action to put an end of to child marriage in Malaysia once and for all.”

“This must be done by raising the marriageable age for all Malaysians, Muslims and non-Muslims whether male or female, to 18-years-old, with no exceptions,” JAG stressed.

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