Dubai: Religious and community leaders have condemned the first "gay marriages" held in the United Kingdom this week.

Britain's most famous gay couple Sir Elton John and Canadian filmmaker David Furnish tied the knot on Wednesday in a star-studded event that capped the first week of civil partnership ceremonies in the United Kingdom.

Scholars say homosexual relationships contravene Islamic teaching and should not be recognised by law. They also say they cannot see any prospect of same-sex partnerships being allowed in the Arab world.

Dr Fatma Al Sayegh, Professor of UAE and Gulf History at the UAE University in Al Ain, said as a Muslim she "would not accept" same-sex civil partnerships.

"They are against my beliefs, my culture and my religion. I have lots of reservations about them and I wouldn't recommend that they are applied in the Gulf region.

"In other parts of the world, if it suits them, then it's their choice. They can accept whatever suits their society," she said.

She said it would "take centuries" before people would consider allowing similar ceremonies in the Arab world.

Pastor Dan Marshall from the Emirates Baptist Church International was also opposed.

He explained: "I am proud to come from Texas and we had a referendum there in October on whether to amend the state constitution to define a marriage as being something that is only between a man and a woman. The amendment was overwhelmingly supported and I agree with that."

According to Dr Mohammad Abdullah Al Roken, Professor of Law at the UAE University, UAE law will not recognise the UK's same-sex civil partnerships.

"In Arab or Islamic culture, such a relationship is null and void. It might be considered to be a criminal act. From my own background, I don't think it's something acceptable because it goes against the basic nature of human beings and against the reason for having men and women on earth," he said.

A similar view was taken by Nick Dutt, chairman of Dubai St George's Society, which represents English expatriates.

"It is not appropriate. I am very conservative in my views when it comes to that sort of thing," he said.

He added that many Western expatriates here tended to be more socially conservative than their counterparts back home.

Rev John Weir, Senior Chaplain of the Anglican Chaplaincy of Dubai and Sharjah, said the civil partnerships "should in no way be confused with Christian marriages".

"Marriage is a faithful, committed, permanent and legally-sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman that is central to the health and stability of human society. The church is not authorised to depart from this clear teaching," he said.

He said that Holy Trinity Church, where he conducts services, only performs Christian marriages and not civil partnerships.

He added: "Having said that, it seems to be sensible that the civil law should take into consideration the legal rights of individuals involved in other relationships."

Civil partnership procedures

- It gives gay couples the same property and inheritance rights as married heterosexuals and entitles them to the same pension, immigration and tax benefits. But unlike in Belgium, Spain and Canada it is not a marriage.

- The procedure is an exclusively civil one in Britain, with the partners merely signing documents, whereas a marriage becomes binding when partners exchange spoken words in a civil or religious ceremony.

- On December 5, a terminally ill gay man, given just days to live, was given a special dispensation to waive the two-week waiting period to become the first to take advantage of the new law.

Legal history

June 1989 Denmark passes a law allowing homosexuals to enter a registered partnership, giving them the same housing, pension and immigration rights as married heterosexual couples.

August 1993 Norway becomes the second country to allow gays and lesbians to have registered partnerships, giving them rights almost equal to those of married couples.

June 1994 Sweden's parliament approves a law allowing same-sex marriage. Under the law, gay couples are able to wed in a ceremony similar to a civil marriage.

December 2000 The Netherlands gives final approval to laws allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. Dutch law had recognised registered partnerships since 1998.

July 2002 Germany allows gay couples to register their partnerships with local civil authorities.

June 2003 Belgium allows same-sex marriages.

July 2003 Two Argentines become the first gay couple in Latin America to use a new law legalising same-sex civil unions.

March 2004 US President George W. Bush calls on Congress to back a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriages. He leaves the door open for states to provide homosexual civil unions.