Tom Godfrey, Toronto Sun, February 16, 2008
Long-distance telephone marriages can be dialled up under sharia law and then used to sponsor loved ones into Canada, Muslim leaders say.
Two Muslim leaders have told the Toronto Sun telephone marriages are permissible under Islamic law and require two witnesses and imams here and abroad to conduct the vows, which may have the bride in Pakistan and the groom in Toronto.
Once completed, a marriage certificate is obtained abroad legitimately in Muslim countries and can be used by the groom for sponsoring his new wife to Canada, one Mississauga imam said.
Mumtaz Ali, of the Canadian Association of Muslims, said he conducted a telephone marriage between a student in Toronto and his about-to-be wife in India.
“He was a university student and couldn’t leave,” Ali said. “It is a civil contract and the vows were conducted over the phone.”
A marriage certificate was obtained and the student was able to sponsor his wife to Canada, he said.
The vow takes less than five minutes and a dowry is exchanged to seal the ceremony, Ali said.
“These telephone marriages are taking place but are not widespread,” said the former lawyer for the Ontario attorney-general’s office. “The parties must know each other and have developed a relationship. Most of the times the couple have been introduced by family members,” Ali said. “In many cases one person may not be able to leave the country.”
Imam Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, of Ja’ffari Islamic Centre, in Toronto, said: “These marriages are perfectly acceptable under sharia law . . . the marriage certificate is taken to the Canadian embassy where it is recognized.”
Immigration spokesman Karen Shadd-Evelyn said her officials are aware of the telephone marriages.
“In spousal sponsorship applications, the validity of all marriages is evaluated,” Shadd-Evelyn said. “It is incumbent on the applicant to prove the relationship was not entered into to benefit from immigration.”