Forced marriage is often perceived as the white elephant that has cogently parked itself in many a family home.
Disguising itself as a religious requirement, rather than a cultural custom, for centuries this beast has manipulated the concept of arranged marriages.
Like a bully, hanging around in a school yard waiting to latch on to the most vulnerable, forced marriage has particularly targeted the Muslim community.
Such has been the ferocity of its attack that the western world have falsely been led to believe that perhaps forced marriage is in some way permissible under Sharia Law.
To conquer this misapprehension, and burst the cloud of misconception taunting society, the Muslim Women Network UK joined forces with The Sheffield Federation of Mosques, The Pakistan Muslim Centre Sheffield and held a seminar recently in Sheffield.
‘Sheffield Says No To Forced Marriage’ commenced with the recitation of the holy Quran, and progressed with a stream of eloquent speakers whose factual and personal experience-based presentations helped portray Islam’s actual stance on forced marriage.
While Muhammad Ali, chair of the Pakistan Muslim Centre, Lord Mayor of Rotherham Coun Lynsday Pitchley, and Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings gave comprehensive presentations on forced marriage, it was in fact Shahin Ashraf MBE - the project manager of Muslim Network’s presentation - who received the most generous applause.
Focusing on why forced marriage was not acceptable, Shahin Ashraf’s presentation help slay any misconception society may have about Islam and forced marriage.
Mr Ashraf said: “The speakers eloquently challenged the narrative that forced marriage is based on religion. Audience participation highlighted the need for more engagement on these issues that affect the moral fibre of our community.“
For years the might of forced marriage’s manipulative tactics allowed it to affect so many vulnerable lives, yet the presentation of Imam Sheikh Mohammad Ismail, Muslim Chaplain of University of Sheffield, clarified how forced marriage was an illegal act under Islamic law.
The respected chaplain expansively helped the audience understand the difference between arranged and forced marriage.
Given the sensitive nature of the subject matter, emotions among the attendees were naturally very high.
The depth of those emotions was elevated further when the nationally renowned poet and philanthropist Asim Khan recited a poem he meticulously brought together concerning a victim of forced marriage.
While the focus of his words may have revolved around a fictitious character, the depth of that character’s experience and troubles were not alien to the bulk of the guests who were failing to maintain a brave face.
The event, which was hailed a success by all sectors of the community, was widely welcomed by all, and the Pakistan Muslim Centre was applauded for taking the lead.
Chairman Muhammad Ali said: “Forced marriage has been responsible for destroying so many lives.
“We wanted today to be about sending a strong message, Islam Says no To Force Marriage - Sheffield Says No to Force Marriage.
“I want to applaud the city of Sheffield for coming together with Muslim Women Network and Pakistan Muslim Centre and making this brave stand.”
Concluding what has been hailed a ‘monumental gathering,’ the master of ceremonies - Hafees Rehman, director and secretary of PMC Sheffield - added: “Today we have started a tsunami, the waves of which will send a clear message out to everyone: forced marriage has no place in our society.”
Forced marriage may have relied on the weight of its presence in some cultures, and for years society may have falsely believed this cultural concept was the king of the jungle, but ‘Sheffield Says No To Forced Marriage’.