According to International Christian Concern, the High Court of Sindh, Pakistan, has ruled the marriage of a 13-year-old abducted Christian girl and a 44-year-old Muslim man is legal.
The Christian parents of Arzoo Raja say she was abducted on October 13. After reporting the incident, they were informed by police two days later that she had “willingly converted to Islam” and married Ali Azhar.
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The parents believe that the conversion was forced and have pled with authorities to undo the marriage and return their daughter to them. The parents presented the girl’s birth certificate to prove her age and petitioned the High Court of Sindh on the basis of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, which forbids marriages of minors under the age of 18.
In a Tuesday ruling, however, the High Court made a special interpretation of Sharia law to allow the marriage.
“The petitioner initially belonged to the Christian religion. However, after the passage of time, the petitioner understood and realized that Islam is a universal religion and she asked her parents and other family members to embrace Islam, but they flatly refused. Subsequently, she accepted the religion of Islam before the religious person of Madressah Jamia Islamia. After embracing Islam, her new name is Arzoo Fatima; per learned counsel petitioner contracted her marriage to Azhar of her own free will and accord without duress and fear.”
The court proceeded to direct government “protection” of the new wife, indicating that Arzoo’s parents will be prevented from further interference.
According to human rights activist Sabir Michael, this is nothing new from the High Court of Sindh. In February, the court also validated the marriage of 14-year-old Christian girl Huma Younas to an adult Muslim man named Abdul Jabbar. Younas’s parents also claim their daughter was abducted.
“The parents of Arzoo even touched the feet of the police to meet their daughter,” Michael said of the most recent case. “We have never witnessed such helplessness. My heart was broken today.”