November 28, 2009

A judge in Ohio ruled a marriage arranged by a Muslim father for his 17-year-old daughter who now has converted to Christianity isn't valid, clearing her of accusations she made false statements in applying for a marriage license with the man who now is her husband.

The little-reported case developed in Ohio, where Larry Crain, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, argued on behalf of his client, identified only as "Nishan."

Nishan was married last month to a man she began dating this year when she converted to Christianity, the ACLJ said.

She didn't reveal her conversion to her "devout Muslim family members" until just before the marriage because she feared what they might do.

When her father discovered her plans, he allegedly tried to assault her and then filed a claim that she had falsified her marriage-license application because of the earlier arranged marriage.

The ACLJ explained, "Nishan's marriage was arranged by her father during a trip to Karachi, Pakistan, in May 2007 following her graduation from high school. Three days after the 'nikah' ceremony, Nishan and her father returned to the United States.

"She remained confused about the ceremony conducted during her trip to Pakistan and later took precautionary steps to annul her vows by preparing an affidavit for the U.S. consulate in Pakistan in August of 2007," the legal team said. "She gave her affidavit to her father who assured her he would send the necessary paperwork to the consulate. Her family never again mentioned her alleged Paksitani husband and Nishan believed that all necessary steps had been taken to annul any alleged marriage vows."

However, her father's anger over her conversion to Christianity and her marriage included the statement she had falsified her marriage-license application in the U.S.

"The fact is that Nishan never knowingly or intentionally misstated her marital status on her application...the fact is that even if Nishan's own attempts to nullify her Pakistani marriage were insufficient, her conversion to Christianity in 2009 effectively annulled her partial marriage pursuant to Islamic law, which provides that if either spouse leaves Islam..and the two never consummated their union, the 'nikah' is immediately annulled," the team explained.

The court listened to testimony from Nishan, her father and the man who claimed to be her Pakistani husband, and said Nishan's version of the events was "credible."

"On cross-examination, the father denied assaulting or abusing his daughter or making any threat to his daughter that a 'fatwa' — an Islamic religious ruling — could be issued against her. In fact, the father told the court that he did not know what the term 'fatwa' meant — testimony that the court labeled 'not believable,'" the organization reported.

"This is an important case involving the rights of a former Muslim to accept and convert to Christianity. And this decision no doubt will be watched closely by other Christian converts in this country who cannot publicly testify about their conversion to Christianity for fear of facing retaliation — and even harm — from their own family members," the report said.