'Under-age marriage' Peterborough cleric quizzed by panel

A panel of experts is to look into the conduct of a Peterborough Muslim cleric accused of offering to preside over marriages of girls as young as 12.

Mohamed Kassamali, a Husaini Islamic Centre imam, "stepped aside" over the accusations by a Sunday Times reporter.

The centre said an independent panel of cross-community experts had met and was now considering the imam's case.

Police said that following a voluntary interview with Mr Kassamali no further action would be taken.

The possibility of underage marriage was reported in The Sunday Times newspaper on 9 September after an undercover reporter interviewed the imam.

He was asked if he would preside over the marriage of a girl as young as 12.

The reporter claimed that Mr Kassamali said it was possible.

No illegal marriages

The seven independent panelists looking in to the case include a former senior police officer and specialist in child protection.

Other members are an Islamic scholar and inter-faith specialist from the Muslim Council of Britain.

A specialist in Arabic and Islamic education, a former BBC head of religion, a local social worker and a local human rights lawyer make up the rest of the panel.

"They will consider all aspects surrounding the case, and make their recommendations to the management committee of the Husaini Islamic Centre in the coming weeks," a spokesman said.

The centre said when the claims were published that a British civil marriage certificate was required for any Islamic marriages it conducted.

It said no illegal marriages had taken place at the centre.

"We find the practice of forced marriages to be abhorrent, reprehensible and totally un-Islamic," the spokesman said.

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