Prostitutes and undercover journalists in Sweden have claimed that Shia imams have charged Muslims for “weddings” with prostitutes as a means to circumvent Islamic rules on sex before marriage.
Imams across the country are said to have conducted sham “pleasure marriages” to allow Muslims to engage in sexual activity with prostitutes and then ended the marriages after the sexual activity was completed.
The claims come from an investigation by Swedish public broadcaster SVT, with prostitutes telling of their experiences with imams, who often charge cash for the fake marriages.
Two prostitutes, both using pseudonyms, told the broadcaster that at least one in ten Arabic-speaking sex buyers demanded that they enter a sham marriage with them prior to purchasing sexual favours.
The marriages last for usually around an hour, with one stating that the imams view the process as “business.”
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“He’s abusing his power and everything the situation offers. He’s taking advantage of a vulnerable woman, it’s disgusting. It is prostitution he engages in. He acts like a pimp,” a woman said of one of the imams performing the marriage services.
Going undercover, SVT found at least 15 Shia clerics who were willing to perform so-called “pleasure marriages” for both males and for females. Seven stated that they understood the practice went on but did not want to engage in it, and some labelled it prostitution.
According to police consulted by the broadcaster, what the imams are engaging in is likely illegal and could be considered prostitution and engaging in pimping activities.
“If I had been the head of the preliminary investigation, I probably would have drawn up a report of human trafficking,” Petra Stenkula, chief of police in Malmö, said.
Haider Ibrahim, president of the Islamic Shia Communities in Sweden organisation, of which all of the Shia groups contacted by the broadcaster are a part, commented on the allegations saying: “I’m going to take it very seriously. Those who are guilty and who have made a fool of themselves in this way must not remain seated.”
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Such sham marriages have been common in Islam for years, and have been reported as taking place as far back as 2005 in countries like Afghanistan, where the practice is known as Sekha.
Other sham marriages have also been reported involving the acquisition of residency permits for Muslim migrants, with an imam in 2014 being tried in the United Kingdom for conducting hundreds of sham marriages for British residency permits.