Posted on December 31, 2008

How Sahar Daftary’s Death Fall Exposed Polygamy in Britain

Dominic Kennedy, Times of London, December 27, 2008

The death of a model who learnt that her husband was already married has shone a light into the murky world of Muslim polygamy in Britain.

Sahar Daftary, 23, fell 150ft from the twelfth storey of a block of flats where she had gone to collect her belongings at the home of a businessman whom she had married in a religious ceremony last year.

Her husband, Rashid Jamil, 33, was arrested on suspicion of murder but bailed by police after they found no evidence that the death was anything other than an accident or suicide.

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, the head of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, told The Times: “This story is very common, unfortunately. We have tried to plug some of the holes in the whole system, but unfortunately our clerics do not live on this planet.

“They don’t understand. For them, controlling the sexuality of the woman is far more important than justice, so we have this problem.”

Ms Daftary, a Sunni Muslim from London whose family comes from Afghanistan, was crowned Miss Face of Asia in a beauty contest last year. She was found critically injured by the apartment block in Salford Quays near the Manchester United football ground on Saturday. She had been helping with make-up at a fashion show in the city but left early to collect clothes from Mr Jamil’s home.

Ms Daftary also wanted to arrange an Islamic divorce from him. She had undergone a Muslim wedding ceremony in Brentford, West London, only to learn later that her husband already had a wife.

Her sister, Mariya Massumi, a hairdresser, said: “A few months after they got married we had a phone call from Narissa Amjad, and she said she was Rashid’s wife. We were very shocked and we confronted him.” Relatives learnt that Ms Amjad, 29, a marketing executive, was expecting a second child by Mr Jamil.

Islam traditionally allows husbands to take up to four wives at a time. A confrontation took place at Mr Jamil’s detached house in Altrincham, Manchester, where Ms Amjad lived.

Ms Massumi said: “When we arrived he was very calm. He said to Sahar he was not happy with his wife. He said in front of his wife he wanted to live with Sahar. His wife Narissa was also very calm and said that was OK. We were all so shocked. Rashid told Sahar he loved her.”

Mr Jamil also had a former wife {snip}. They had a daughter but were formally divorced. According to relatives, Mr Jamil had also undergone an arranged marriage in Pakistan that ended in divorce.

Dr Siddiqui said some British Muslim clerics performed polygamous marriages. The ceremonies are unrecognised by law. Clerics let husbands end marriages by saying “I divorce you” three times. Ex-wives have no rights.

Ahmad Thomson, a barrister and founder of the Association of Muslim Lawyers, said that polygamous marriages could work in Britain if all parties were open and in agreement. But he added: “Sometimes the husband has tried to keep the earlier marriage secret. When the second or third wife finds out, it’s devastating.”