No more polygamy & underage wives for immigrants, says German minister

© Michael Buholzer
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has promised to crackdown on the growing problem of multiple, forced, and underage marriages that immigrants from developing countries are bringing with them – but which have often been ignored by authorities.

“No one who comes to us has the right to put their cultural roots or their religious beliefs above our laws,” the politician from the center-left SPD party told Bild newspaper on Tuesday.

The state of Bavaria alone has been able to confirm 550 cases of brides aged under 18, and 161 under 16, living among the asylum seekers that have arrived in the recent migrant wave, and similar statistics have been reported throughout Germany, according to Bild.

A government report from 2012 stated that more than half of all Muslim marriages in Germany involved a bride who was under 18.

Spiegel reported the same year that as many as 30 percent of Arab men had multiple wives.

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“Everyone must abide by rules and laws, whether they grew up here or are new,” said Maas.

Local authorities frequently find ways to indulge and even support such practices. For example, the inheritance of one man is often distributed among his official and unofficial wives.

For other issues, Muslims often appeal to Sharia arbitrators, who bypass official institutions to rule according to Islamic scripture.

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In the sphere of marriage, they have been helped by a 2009 law that allows religious marriages to be conducted without accompanying state registration, effectively giving the green light to a whole spectrum of semi-legal practices.

“No multiple marriages will be allowed to be recognized in Germany,” insisted Maas.

However, the problem has been complicated by the influx of refugees, with more than 1.1 million arriving just last year. Although the torrent of newcomers has receded, more than 500,000 relatives of Syrian refugees are expected to join their families in Germany this year, which will present its own set of problems.

“I know a few men with many wives,” Berlin Imam Abdul Adhim Kamouss admitted to Deutsche Welle. “The question is what does Maas want to do? I can understand it if he says that people who live here in Germany, and grew up here, cannot marry more than one woman – that is the law – but what about the people who come here and already have more than one wife? What are you supposed to do with those marriages?”