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Published in the 1-15 Oct 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

AP Wakf Board to check marriages with foreigners 

Hyderabad: Begum's marriage and alleged rape has shaken up the AP state Wakf Board, which has now clamped stringent norms for foreigners who marry girls from AP. This is not the first time that the Board or the Minorities Welfare Department have come out with "stringent guidelines". 

The government announced a series of measures soon after the Ameena episode 15 years ago, but it failed to rope in qazis who solemnise marriages in the Muslim community. Only recently was the jurisdiction of the Wakf extended to Andhra and Rayalaseema areas. Hopefully the new set of guidelines will end the heinous practice. From 20 September, police clearance is compulsory for the issue of marriage certificates to foreign nationals to Muslim girls. 

The bride has to appear in person before Wakf officials to get a marriage certificate, which is essential for a visa. Qazis must inform the local police and Wakf authorities before they solemnise marriages of Indian nationals with foreigners, particularly from Arab countries. Those who ignore this rule invite suspension of licences and criminal prosecution.

The Siyanama, the marriage booklets issued to Qazis, will be verified at regular intervals. The Board will set up a meeting between Qazis and police officials to fix new guidelines on marriages with Arab and foreign nationals. The Wakf Board has also decided to set up a complaints cell on phone number 040-23234044 at the State Haj House. People may pass on information to the Board if they come across any clandestine marriages or movement of Arab nationals with local women. 

The Wakf Board will write to the Union Ministry of External Affairs to make immigration rules stringent for Arab nationals landing at Hyderabad. "We will refer all applications of foreign nationals to the city police for verification of their antecedents. The Board will fix the responsibility on the Qazi and the parents of the bride," State Wakf Board chairman Muhammad Saleem said. 
The government has thus far turned a blind eye to certain loopholes in the quzat system. Ironically, several Qazis in the Old City exclusively perform marriages of local girls with Arabs. The board has not initiated any action against them. On an average, a dozen Arab marriages are clandestinely performed in the city every month and surprisingly neither the government nor the Board is aware of menace right under their nose. "The State government should first look into the functioning of Qazis. It should revamp the whole system fixing responsibility on individual Qazis. The black sheep should be weeded out and until the Wakf Board gets executive powers this is simply not possible," Islamic scholar H Shujath Hussain said.

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