A MUSLIM cleric in Heckmondwike has been suspended for allegedly agreeing to conduct a forced marriage involving a 14-year-old girl.
Shams-Ul-Huda Khan Mishabi, who preaches at the Jamia Masjid Kanzul Iman Mosque on Albion Street, appeared in an ITV documentary on Wednesday night.
Undercover reporters posed as the mum and brother of an underage girl they wanted to marry to an older man.
The pair approached 56 mosques across the UK and at 18 of them they were told an Islamic marriage called a Nikah could be performed.
One of those was Mr Mishabi, who has worked with West Yorkshire Police as an advisor on community cohesion.
On being told the girl is against the marriage, he told the reporters British law means he will not be able to provide official marriage papers.
But Mr Mishabi is recorded as saying: “We’ll make everything okay by Islam. We’ll write down and put it in our records.”
The mosque has launched an investigation while insisting it said it does not endorse, nor has ever been party to, a forced or underage marriage.
Government figures show about 400 children, mainly girls from South Asian communities, are forced into marriage annually in the UK.
Nazir Afzal, of the Crown Prosecution Service, told ITV: “Forced marriage is probably the last form of slavery in the UK.”
Campaigner Aneeta Prem, of the Freedom charity, said: “People are too culturally sensitive when dealing with this.
“It’s immoral and illegal and we must stamp it out. But I think what we’re hearing is the tip of the iceberg. It’s a huge problem.”’
A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said the force is reviewing its contact with Mr Mishabi.
He added of forced marriage: “It is a form of domestic violence and sometimes of child sexual exploitation.
“We stand together with our partners in the condemnation of forced marriage and are doing everything possible to protect people.
“In the first six months of this year we worked through 129 incidents of forced marriage or honour-based violence.”
• MOSQUE officials have launched an investigation into claims a cleric agreed to a forced underage marriage.
The Press went to the Jamia Masjid Kanzul Iman Mosque on Albion Street, Heckmondwike, on Tuesday and found the premises appeared to be closed.
On the door was a statement in response to media interest in an ITV show broadcast on Wednesday.
It said in full: “This statement is being made in relation to the forthcoming ITV Exposure programme about forced and underage marriage.
“The views of Mr Shams-Ul-Huda Khan Mishabi expressed in the undercover investigation were entirely his own and made from an individual’s capacity.
“The comments that he made were against our mosque policies. For this reason he has been suspended from all duties.
“This organisation does not condone or endorse forced or underage marriages. As an organisation, we have in place policies and procedures to prevent such acts taking place.
“The organisation has a child welfare policy in place which has been communicated to all employees.
“The organisation has also carried out training for all its employees on child welfare matters.
“We can confirm that our record prove that NO underage or forced marriages have ever been conducted by our organisation or employees acting on behalf of our organisation.
“The mosque committee committee takes a very serious view of this and are undertaking a full and thorough investigation.”