Danish imam says government should accept child marriages among refugees

Aarhus cleric says child brides should be looked at from a “different perspective”

Oussama El-Saadi, a high-profile imam from a mosque in Aarhus, is urging the Danish government to reconsider its decision to separate child brides from their husbands when the couples arrive as refugees in Denmark.

El-Saadi said the practice is part of the culture of many of the refugees arriving in the country and that child brides should be looked at from a “different perspective”.

“It is an extraordinary humanitarian situation, and I think you have to take care of these families,” El-Saadi told Metroxpress.

“These couples are married. Even if the man is twice as old, they have built a family and we cannot destroy family life.”

Extraordinary circumstances
El-Saadi said the marriages were often important to the extended families of the young brides.

“The situation in refugee camps is often marred by violence and uncertainty,” he said. “If a daughter marries early and gets a man, it can create a safer situation for her family.”

El-Saadi’s comments came after an announcement by Inger Støjberg, the immigration minister, that Denmark would be separating child brides from their husbands.

“We should naturally ensure that young girls are not being forced to live in a relationship with an adult at the asylum centres,” Støjberg said.

The Immigration and Integration Ministry revealed in January there were 27 minors living as part of a married couple in the asylum system – some of them as young as 14 years old.

More cases in Norway
Data from Norway reveals that at least 61 minors were married when they sought asylum in that country last year – several of whom were under the Norwegian age of consent. The youngest was an 11-year-old girl.

Metroxpress made a point of asking El-Saadi what age he would allow his daughter to marry at, and he said 18.

The age of consent to get married in Denmark is 18, although it is permitted at an earlier age in special circumstances. The age of consent to have sex is 15.