LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Undercover reporters who asked Muslim clerics in Britain to perform child marriage, found 18 imams willing to do so, despite it being illegal in the UK, according to a television investigation.
British TV network ITV said two of its undercover reporters posing as the mother and brother of a 14-year-old girl, placed calls to 56 mosques in the UK, asking imams to perform an Islamic marriage ceremony, known as nikah.
ITV's "Exposure" programme found two-thirds of those contacted refused, with many religious leaders stating that they found the request "abhorrent". But 18 others agreed, according to the report which airs on October 8.
"I can get you someone to do the nikah for you, that's not going to be a problem," the imam at Al Quba Mosque and Shahporan Islamic centre in Manchester told one reporter.
Another religious leader reportedly agreed to marry the girl, despite being told it was against her will.
"We're doing it because it's OK (according to) Islam but then you've got the kaffirs (non-believers), the law, the English people ..." said Mohammed Shahid Akhtar, of the Central Jamia Mosque Ghamkol Sharif in Birmingham.
Four imams are under investigation following the report, the Daily Mail newspaper said.
Marriage before the age of 16 is illegal in the UK but, under Sharia (Islamic) law a girl can marry as soon as she reaches puberty.
ITV said some 400 schoolgirls forcibly enter marriage every year in the UK, most of them from South Asian communities, citing government figures.
"Forced marriage is probably the last form of slavery in the UK," Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor for Northwest England, told the programme.