CAIRO - Muslim imams and Christian pastors in Britain have come together to draw up guidelines on how to deal with inter-faith marriages.
"It's clearly already an issue and something that will become more and more common," Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, a prominent Leicester-based imam from the Deobandi school, told The Independent."It makes sense for pastors and imams to be ready for such situations rather than be left without help of guidelines when they get approached by couples seeking their advice."
Looking into the thorny issue, Muslim imams and Christian pastors set together to draft guidelines for marriages between followers of different faiths.
Though it is deemed legal in Britain, couples engaging in interfaith marriages have often faced resistance from family members and religious leaders.
The pressures forced some couples to convert to another's faith in order to avoid fallouts and ostracism.
Months of talks between Muslim and Christian leaders on the issue have produced a document titled When Two Faiths Meet.
It emphasizes the need for tolerance and acceptance of mixed-faith marriages.
The publication of the document, which will receive a high-profile launch at Westminster Abbey on Monday, is significant for being supported by imams and evangelical Christians.
Figures signing on the document include Sheikh Mogra, the Right Rev Paul Hendricks, associate bishop of Southwark Catholic Archdiocese, and Amra Bone, one of the only women in the country to sit in a Shari`ah court.
British Muslims are estimated at nearly 2.5 million.
The 2001 census suggests the number of interfaith marriages at 21,000, but demographers believe the figure is considerably higher.
The document details legal and religious recognition for interfaith marriages in Britain.
"It might sound a little like we are stating the obvious but it does need to be said," imam Mogra said.
"In reality Christian and Muslim couples often face very challenging scenarios where there is not enough tolerance or the right pastoral care and that can lead to a very damaging and negative experience for them."
The Muslim imam said that scholars were motivated to come up with the guidelines because they were seeing increasing numbers of inter-faith marriages over the years.
The recommendations speak out against forced conversions, recognizes the legality of inter-faith marriages in British law, non-judgmental pastoral care and a complete rejection of any violence.
Heather al-Yousef, a counselor with Relate who married a Shiite Muslim man, was one of those asked by the Christian Muslim Forum to give advice for the guidelines.
"There are, of course, a whole range of Muslims and Christians. Some groups are liberal about mixed marriages, others much more proprietorial, al-Yousef said.
The good news is that Christians and Muslims are increasingly recognizing the need to talk about these things. The very fact we've got so many people talking is in itself a success."
In Islam, the general rule is that it is permissible for Muslim men to marry from the People of the Book (Christian and Jews). Yet, it is not allowable for Muslim women to marry a non-Muslim.
There is no difference whatsoever in regards to the rights of a Muslim or non-Muslim wife. The non-Muslim wife has all the legal rights that are preserved by Islam for any Muslim wife.In Islam, the Christian or Jewish wife does not need to change her faith and convert into Islam to make her marriage valid. As a matter of fact, she is allowed to practice her religion freely without any restrictions.