MUSLIM women and their Christian fiancés from across Europe are travelling to Oxford to get married because imams in their own countries refuse to perform the ceremonies.
Dr Taj Hargey, chairman of the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford, said he had performed about 36 marriages in the past two years between Muslim women and non-Muslim men.
More imams are happy to marry Muslim men to non-Muslim women.
Couples from Spain, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, France and Norway have all come to Dr Hargey after failing to find someone locally prepared to carry out the service.
Most had spent months looking for an imam, and many found Dr Hargey after contacting American Muslim leaders via the Internet.
Dr Hargey, who believes he is the only imam in the UK who openly performs the mixed marriages, said: “We do it because there is no prohibition in the Koran.
“Islam allows Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women and such marriages are common, but I am one of the only people who will do it the other way round.”
He said couples had to sign up to five non-negotiable conditions protecting the woman’s faith, and agree to counselling before he would perform marriages.
Muslim Sana Majeed McMillion, 27, and Christian-born Andrew McMillion, 32, were married by Dr Hargey last night in Abingdon — a 1,500 mile round-trip from their home in Oslo.
Mr McMillion, an account manager for an IT company, said: “Generally speaking it seems to be totally accepted for men to marry non-Muslims, but not women.
“When we talked to Dr Taj we finally met someone who had a different understanding of that.”
The pair had a civil wedding in Oslo last July, but wanted a Muslim marriage contract and the blessing of Allah on their union.
Pakistan-born Mrs McMillion, who is expecting the couple’s first child, said her faith was “part and parcel” of who she was and added: “The rights set down in the Islamic contract are very precious. This is something really important to me.”
Dr Hargey said: “We have a social timebomb with Muslim women getting better educated than their male counterparts and becoming lawyers and doctors while the men are taxi drivers — the average woman is not going to find her partner from taxi-driving.”
Dr Hojjat Ramzy, a trustee at the Muslim Iqra School in Oxford and an Islamic registrar, said such marriages were not permitted in Islam.
He said: “It is not allowed under any circumstances for a Christian man to marry a Muslim woman, it is not acceptable.”