Marry young, it’s better than free mixing of sexes, says PAS man

A Kelantan MP’s view on teen pregnancy and underage marriage reveals the vast difference between some conservative Muslims and rights advocates in addressing the problems.

(FMT) – Che Abdullah Mat Nawi, a PAS MP representing Tumpat, the northernmost constituency in Kelantan which borders Thailand, blames teen pregnancies and baby-dumping on the authorities’ failure to stop what he terms the free mixing of the opposite sexes.

“I see this a lot in Kuala Lumpur,” he told FMT.

“They go riding on motorbikes but I know they are not married. They go to islands and beaches. They have babies, and then throw them away.”

Abdullah disagrees with calls to raise the minimum legal age of marriage to 18, which have gained momentum following a series of cases of young girls married off to men twice or three times their age.

He also said getting married at a young age should not be seen as an obstacle for men and women to further their studies.

“How many people got married and still furthered their education? I got married when I was 23 years old. I did my masters in accounting when I was 32. I had four children already.

“So I don’t think marriage stops anyone from continuing their education,” said Abdullah, who is now the father of 12 children.

Yesterday, Muslim women’s empowerment group Sisters In Islam criticised the Kelantan government for not supporting Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s call to raise the minimum legal age for marriage to 18 years.

“We are disappointed that Kelantan and Terengganu have opted to retain child marriage in the states, with Kelantan citing last November that the practice is regarded as a ‘necessity’ in the state,” it said.

Underage marriages have been widely debated in the media since June last year when a 41-year-old Kelantan man took an 11-year-old girl as his bride.

The following month, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the government would amend the laws to raise the marriageable age for girls from 16 to 18.

Mahathir also reportedly urged state governments during a meeting of menteris besar and chief ministers in October to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 years for both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Abdullah said the main problem was the free mixing of genders.

He said unmarried couples caught for khalwat, or close proximity, should be married off as they would become more responsible after that.

“To me, we should not stop kids from getting married yet allow them to mix around. It is better for them to get married,” he said.

Abdullah also dismissed concerns that young parents would be unable to support their children.

“We believe we give birth and God gives sustenance. I have 12 children. I never worry about how I am going to feed the babies.

“Every time I have a baby, it is fed,” he said.