Sharia Court

Imagine your husband beats you. Imagine you have had enough and file for divorce. Imagine requesting an expedited divorce because your husband has made death threats. Imagine the judge turning down your petition, not because the secular law isn’t clear – but because the Koran allows husbands to beat their wives.

Sad case right?

A case from the Sudan, Iran, Afghanistan? No. Germany. According to Spiegel Online [German],

The case sounds too bizarre to be true: a 26-year old mother with two young children wanted to free herself from the captivity of her [abusive] marriage. After a physical altercation in May 2006 in their joint apartment, even the police had determined that her husband, who comes from Morocco like she does, was abusive. The husband had to leave – but the terror continued. After separation her still-husband threatened to kill the young mother.

An expedited divorce seemed the only escape – the twenty six year old didn’t want to wait through the legally required one year separation. She hoped that as soon as she wasn’t married, her husband would stop harassing her. Together with her attorney, Barbara Becker-Rojczyk, they filed a motion for expedited divorce proceedings with the Frankfurt district court in October last year. That the violence and death threats presented a hardship case, the only foundation for an expedited divorce, seemed clear to the attorney and client.

But then came a letter from the judge assigned to the case. And with the letter the scandal was perfect: using a reference to the Koran, the judge rejected the divorce motion. “The use of corporal punishment is not unacceptable cruelty under paragraph 1565 of the BGB [the appropriate civil code],” was to be read in the letter from the judge. One needs to bear in mind that both partners come from the Moroccan culture. [my translation, my emphasis]

Basically, since the Koran allows men to beat their wives, women should accept this as a part of marriage. At least if the woman is Muslim and comes from Morocco.

The passage being used here is from Sura 4:34 which has been translated to English as follows.

Husbands should take full care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money. Righteous wives are devout and guard what God would have them guard in the husbands’ absence. If you fear high-handedness from your wives, remind them [of the teaching of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them. If they obey you, you have no right to act against them. God is most high and great. [Oxford University Press (2004)].

While this seems pretty clear to me (and hey – what do I know?), there seem to be other translations and interpretations. It’s religion after all. You have to interpret everything. It seems people have determined that you don’t have to beat them. (It’s probably only optional.)

This doesn’t mean that the judge is being excused from a little verbal ‘beating’ herself. (Yes, it’s a she-judge.) For some reason, people don’t seem to think this judgement was a terribly good idea. The judge recused herself (or was recused) on Wednesday after this case became public. The case will be re-examined and it can only be hoped that 26 year old woman will have a more settled future.

The future of the judge might not be that clear. Politicians are already very grumpy over this issue. (Of course the politicians are already under fire for not doing more to stop and prevent forced or arranged marriages in Germany but that’s a different story.) But getting rid of German judges is not an easy thing to do.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the courts.

One only hopes it’s not a Sharia Court: Germany.

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