Melbourne, Nov.21 : Several imams in the Australian state of Victoria have condoned rape and domestic violence within marriage, exploitation of women, welfare fraud and polygamy.
According to a report commissioned and funded by the former coalition government and produced by the Islamic Welfare Council of Victoria, some Victorian imams apply Sharia law only where it benefits men; hinder police investigations of domestic violence claims; and knowingly perform polygamous marriages, which allow a second wife to claim Centrelink ayments because they are regarded as de facto wives under Australian law.
The study was based on extensive community consultation; interviews with police, lawyers, court staff and academics, and meetings and interviews with the Victorian Board of Imams, Fairfax said.
The report said the 24-man board ignored or did not directly answer many of the questions put to it.
Women, community and legal workers and police said they were concerned about domestic violence and said imams put the interest of families ahead of women.
Relatives and community members sometimes pressured women to drop domestic violence cases, the report said.
The imams' narrow religious training, lack of life experience, poor English and a lack of understanding of Australia caused problems, some quoted in the report said.