Posted by: sean | March 23, 2007

"In this cultural background"

This story in the Times shows what happens when an idiot judge in Germany mistakes cultural sensitivity with bigotry:

A German judge has stirred a storm of protest by citing the Koran in turning down a German Muslim woman’s request for a speedy divorce on the ground that her husband beat her.

In a ruling that underlines the tension between Muslim customs and European laws, the judge, Christa Datz-Winter, noted that the couple came from a Moroccan cultural milieu, in which it is common for husbands to beat their wives. The Koran, she wrote in her decision, sanctions such physical abuse.

…The 26-year-old woman in this case was born in Germany to a Moroccan family and married in Morocco in 2001, according to her lawyer, Ms. Becker-Rojczyk. The couple settled in the Frankfurt area and had two children.

In May 2006, the police were summoned after a particularly violent incident. At that time, Judge Datz-Winter ordered the husband to move out and stay at least 55 yards away from the coupleis home. In the months that followed, her lawyer said, the man threatened to kill his wife.

Terrified, the woman filed for divorce in October and requested that it be granted without the usual year of separation because her husband’s threats and beatings constituted an “unreasonable hardship.”

“We worried that he might think he had the right to kill her because she is still his wife,” Ms. Becker-Rojczyk said.

In January, the judge turned down the wife’s request for a speedy divorce, saying her husband’s behavior did not constitute unreasonable hardship because they are both Moroccan. “In this cultural background,” she wrote, “it is not unusual that the husband uses physical punishment against the wife.”

This is the kind of ruling that gives intercultural dialogue a bad name. All it takes is for some foolish judge to think that she’s engaging Islam in a respectful way to make the whole enterprise look foolish.

It seems ridiculous to me that the Qu’ran would even come up in her ruling, but even more ridiculous that she would have the gall to say what is and isn’t customary in Muslim culture or Islamic law or think that her opinion would have any weight at all. This, of course, is not because she’s a foreigner, but because Islam is not her field, so just like she’s unfit to make judgments on quantum physics, say, or Inuit literature, she should hold her tongue on issues that are not only not germane in a German civil court but of which she most likely knows next to nothing.

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