A few days ago Khodr Chehab, the imam of the Finnish Islamic Society, said that he has officiated at the wedding of a 14-year-old girl and 20-year-old man in 1996, and that the Ministry of Justice has given its permission for the marriage. The Ministry of Justice has no record of such permission.
Khodr Chehab insisted that he obeys all the Finnish laws, and that's really very nice to know (I am saying this without any sarcasm). However, he says, 13 years is a good age for marriage. "It is legal to go to bed here at that age - it's better to get married" - he says. He thinks it would be quite fine to get married even at 11, if the law permits it.
He says he doesn't understand the difference between starting dating and getting married.
Oh, dear... The man is 46 - one would think that by that age a person would figure out the difference between starting dating and getting married, even if he or she has never done either. Especially a member of clergy - I've heard some people go to them for marital advice, although I am not sure it's a good idea.
IIRC even at 13 most people do have some kind of a vague idea that there is more to marriage than sex and that fuzzy feeling that you get after someone you like turns out to like you, and you start dating.
For the differently-intelligent (or maybe just overly horny) folks among imams and commenters: forget about pedophilia for a second, enough has been said about it during these few days. Think about marriage. It's a legal contract that involves a lot of obligations, some degree of commitment, in most cases a common home, in quite a lot of cases children and in general building a life together.
A 13-year-old is not ready for this. Not even if there are no icky pedophilia issues involved (for example both parties are 13) and not even if the kids are mature enough to handle sex and birth control.
Seriously, if you cannot see the difference between a 13-year-old having sex with a classmate and then going home, where her parents take care of her, provide for her, yell at her for having sex and/or teach her about birth control and interfere on her behalf if the other party in the relationship becomes too controlling, and a 13-year-old making a lifetime (though terminable) legal commitment to another 13-year old and starting living together with him - well, at least you shouldn't be advising anyone on marital or sexual affairs.
Khodr Chehab also said that there is no sexual abuse of the underage in the Islamic world. To this I can only quote Nojoud Muhammed Nasser: "Whenever I wanted to play in the yard he beat me and asked me to go to the bedroom with him. This lasted for two months." Nojoud was divorced at the age of 8 from a 30-year-old man, in Yemen in June 2008. As soon as she was divorced another Yemeni girl, aged 9, also filed for divorce.
The really amazing thing about Chehab's statements is not that he thinks what he thinks - whoever hasn't ever wished for some illegal thing to become legal may throw the first stone - but the fact that he says it in a public interview without, apparently, having any idea that this kind of statement would cause an uproar in Finland. In spite of having lived here for about 20 years.
The next day the imam said that he remembered wrong: the girl wasn't 14, but 16, and it didn't happen in 1996, but in 1992. He also showed us all the true miracles of integration: it took him only one day to become unsure that getting married is such a good idea for somebody under 14.
Later on the same day he was unsure whether the wedding in question took place in 1992 or in 1993, said that a 13-year-old might be ready for marriage, but some are not even ready at 16 (think of those bachelors and old maids!), and that 15 is maybe a good age, but he himself wouldn't marry somebody younger than 20, or in fact somebody younger than 30.
In only two days. Now if that's not a mircale of integration, I don't know what is!
This would all be funny if he were just a lone nutcase. He does not represent all Muslims in Finland, might not even represent the majority, but he is the imam of what is, by Finnish standards, a fairly big mosque. And I certainly don't believe his own mosque did not know about his views.
There are perfectly sensible Muslims writing perfectly sensible things about this matter - for example Husein Muhammed. The sad thing is, Khodr Chehab is the kind of guy who gets invited to the President's Independence Day's party, and Husein Muhammed AFAIK isn't.