Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Follow Up on German Divorce Case

A German attorney specializing in international divorce law emailed me and offered his opinion that the case where the judge cited the Quran isn’t as outrageous as the media has made it out to be. He has written up a summary of the reasons for that opinion. It does place the situation in a bit more context, but I don’t think it really absolves the judge of the accusations made. He points out that the judge did grant a protection order and force the husband out of their home, so it wasn’t like the judge was endorsing domestic violence. Fair enough. But he also says:

The judge informed the wife’s atttorney that one factor that she would consider in the wife’s request for an early divorce was the law of Morocco, where both spouses got married in 2001 according to Islamic law. She also mentioned that the Koran does allow men to physically harm their women under certain circumstances.


Again, I don’t think this absolves the judge much at all. There is no legitimate reason, under any legal circumstances, for the words of the Quran to be any factor at all in the legal proceedings of a liberal democratic nation. Of what possible legal, logical or moral relevance could it possibly be that the Quran says it’s okay for men to physically harm women? None whatsoever. Citing such a fact, even as “one factor” is extraordinarily inappropriate and the judge was rightly removed from the case as a result.

He may be right that the judge’s refusal to fasttrack the divorce was technically correct, but that isn’t really the warrant for the criticism of the judge. The warrant for the criticism is the inappropriate and irrelevant citing of the barbaric and patriarchal views of an alleged holy book as being somehow relevant to the outcome of a case that takes place in a nation where such views are entirely contrary to both the legal and moral reality of the situation.

Comments

  1. #1 Joe Shelby
    March 25, 2007

    The judge informed the wife’s atttorney that one factor that she would consider in the wife’s request for an early divorce was the law of Morocco, where both spouses got married in 2001 according to Islamic law.

    So is the judge just totally confused on the idea that Moroccan law and Islamic law might not actually be the same thing?

    That their vow is under Islamic law is irrelevant. Their marriage was recognized under Moroccan law.

  2. #2 writerdd
    March 25, 2007

    Every divorce should be fast tracked. If a person wants to leave a marriage, it is absolutely no-one else’s business and it should be as easy as getting a library card.

  3. #3 brtkrbzhnv
    March 25, 2007

    Every divorce should be fast tracked. If a person wants to leave a marriage, it is absolutely no-one else’s business and it should be as easy as getting a library card.

    No, it should be none of your business if two people have chosen not to include a fast-tracked-divorce option in their marriage, just like it should be none of your business what period of notice I and my landlord have agreed upon, &c.

  4. #4 T. Bruce McNeely
    March 25, 2007

    writerdd:
    A divorce is no-one else’s business than the person who wants to leave? There may be a spouse and a few children who would disagree with that.
    And, yeah, I just applied for a library card the other day. I had to hand over half my net worth plus half my after tax income for the next few years, but, hey, I got my library card!

  5. #5 Zach
    March 25, 2007

    It’s quite a shame for a judge to be ignorant of the most basic rights of a citizen and misinformed about the laws of another country. This case is quite fascinating. First, Moroccan laws, even though based partly on the Koran but mostly in tune with French and Spanish Civil laws, are some of the most progressive laws in Africa and the Middle East when it comes to marriage and the protection of women. Under new Moroccan laws passed in 2003, a woman can seek divorce on the basis of unhappiness or the behavior of the husband. Any form of abuse is severely punished and I recall a year ago how the police, the media, the paratroopers, and the public joined forces to arrest a man who had beaten his wife. The man’s escape didn’t last more than three days. Of these stories and thousands more we hear nothing. So it’s really a shame that a judge ignored German laws as if this woman, because of her Oriental origin, does not deserve to be treated humanely. It’s also a shame for Ed Brayton to refer to the Koran as barbaric and patriarchal. It’s an offense no less shameful than a judge who ignores the facts. A little respect from a person who calls himself educated would help bring people together. Let’s not be opportunistic about our desires to attack other cultures, that’s really very low.

  6. #6 Dave S.
    March 25, 2007

    Zach writes:

    It’s also a shame for Ed Brayton to refer to the Koran as barbaric and patriarchal. It’s an offense no less shameful than a judge who ignores the facts. A little respect from a person who calls himself educated would help bring people together. Let’s not be opportunistic about our desires to attack other cultures, that’s really very low.

    What he said was that some of the views expressed in the Koran are barbaric and patriarchal. Not only has he the right to say that, he’s also absolutely correct. There are also views expressed in the Bible that are barbaric and patriarchal.

    And a judge ignoring facts is very a different thing than an individual expressing an opinion.

  7. #7 Zach
    March 25, 2007

    “the barbaric and patriarchal views of an alleged holy book,” Dave, with all due respect, where do you see “some” in that sentence? More, what does the use of “alleged” convey? Denial of the Koran as a holy book, exactly conveying the attitude of a judge who denied a woman her rights. This is a biased attitude, widely prevalent in the West. No one is questioning one’s rights in expressing one’s views about something, that is not the question. The issue is quite different; it’s about being disrespectful to people who believe in something. Unless we know how to respect others, peace will always remain an illusion. “He is absolutely correct,” again it’s not the question of whether one is correct or incorrect about The Koran and the Bible being barbaric and patriarchal, it’s about knowing how to show moderation and respect to others. The use of correct may not be shared by the millions of devout and peaceful Christians and Muslims who did nothing to Ed or to anyone. So the use of correct here is only valid, because it expresses your opinion and what you think about those religions. It may not be correct in the eyes of those who practice that religion or the millions who are non-religious, like me, and know how to respect others.

  8. #8 JLT
    March 25, 2007

    “So it’s really a shame that a judge ignored German laws as if this woman, because of her Oriental origin, does not deserve to be treated humanely.”

    “2. The judge granted the wife a no-contact order against her Moroccan husband and had him kicked out of the apartment. In a second ruling, the judge prolonged that order for another 6 months.
    Never did the judge in this proceeding tolerate the husband’s domestic violence or invoke the Koran to justify it.

    3. In Germany, you need to be separated for 1 year before you can file for divorce. As the couple in question separated in May 2006, the wife (and of course also the husband) could have filed for divorce in May 2007.
    The wife wanted to file early, invoking a special provision of German divorce law that allows an early divorce if it can be shown that it is unbearable for one party to remain married for the remaining part of the separation year.

    4. For this early divorce, the wife requested legal aid, i.e. the government paying her court and attorney fees.
    In this legal aid proceeding (NOT the divorce proceeding) the judge also did not issue a ruling yet. She however wrote to the wife’s lawyer that she was likely to deny the request for legal aid and have the woman wait until May 2007 (another 2 months – during which she would still have the protection from the no-contact order) to have her divorce granted.”

    Read the summary Ed linked to.

    I think that any mentioning of holy books in whatsoever context is inappropriate in court decisions. Therefore the judge was relieved from the case (The wife’s attorney requested the judge to be substituted) and therefore it’s a good thing that she was relieved.
    But that doesn’t mean that a negative ruling by the judge would have been in disagreement with German laws.

  9. #9 knutsondc
    March 25, 2007

    Zach, try reading a little more sympathetically and carefully before responding. Ed’s comment referred to the Qu’ran’s endorsement of a man’s “right” to beat his wife under certain circumstances, not the entire book. That view is as a matter of fact patriarchal and in the opinion of many extremely barbaric.

    What I’d like you to explain is why I should “respect” belief in that “right” simply because it appears in a book assembled about 1300 years ago based upon purported transcriptions of sayings made decades earlier by a man who claimed to be taking dictation from an angel after lengthy fasting in a desert cave.

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    March 25, 2007

    Zach wrote:

    It’s also a shame for Ed Brayton to refer to the Koran as barbaric and patriarchal. It’s an offense no less shameful than a judge who ignores the facts. A little respect from a person who calls himself educated would help bring people together. Let’s not be opportunistic about our desires to attack other cultures, that’s really very low.

    Let me be very clear: this is complete bullshit. A book that says it’s okay for a man to beat his wife IS barbaric and patriarchal. It may, like the Bible, also contain passages that are inspiring and beautiful and humane, but such a view represents a primitive and, yes, barbaric viewpoint that we have thankfully managed to overcome in most of the civilized world. The fact that some cultures believe it to be true does not change the validity of what I said anymore than the fact that some people believe the world is 6000 years old changes the validity of modern geology. Endorsing slavery is a barbaric view. Endorsing the killing of a woman for not being a virgin on her wedding day is barbaric. And they do not become any less barbaric because someone in another culture believes them to be true.

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    March 25, 2007

    Zach also wrote:

    More, what does the use of “alleged” convey? Denial of the Koran as a holy book, exactly conveying the attitude of a judge who denied a woman her rights. This is a biased attitude, widely prevalent in the West. No one is questioning one’s rights in expressing one’s views about something, that is not the question. The issue is quite different; it’s about being disrespectful to people who believe in something. Unless we know how to respect others, peace will always remain an illusion. “He is absolutely correct,” again it’s not the question of whether one is correct or incorrect about The Koran and the Bible being barbaric and patriarchal, it’s about knowing how to show moderation and respect to others. The use of correct may not be shared by the millions of devout and peaceful Christians and Muslims who did nothing to Ed or to anyone. So the use of correct here is only valid, because it expresses your opinion and what you think about those religions. It may not be correct in the eyes of those who practice that religion or the millions who are non-religious, like me, and know how to respect others.

    LOL. You put out all those words to say one very simple thing, which I’ll paraphrase here: “That’s your opinion and others may disagree.” The obvious response is: yeah, no shit. The same could be said about every statement by every person on the entire planet since the beginning of time. Does that mean there are no true and valid statements? Of course not. I say “alleged” holy book for a simple, and entirely valid, reason: some people allege – i.e. believe – it to be a holy book inspired by God. I do not. Disagreeing with Muslims on that question is no disrespect to Muslims; are they really so unaware of the fact that some people don’t agree with them that the mere mention of my disagreement wounds them somehow? If so, they really need to grow up and learn to accept reality – and if my saying that offends them, then tough; sometimes speaking the truth is more important than speaking falsehoods that make others comfortable. In fact, that’s nearly always true. Your idea of how to “respect others” is simply nonsensical. You wrongly think that we respect others by treating them as children who wish to believe in Santa Claus, hiding reality from them and never speaking honestly so as to avoid offending their delicate sensibilities. I have no patience for such a notion. Should we not bother to tell the flat earthers that they are wrong so as not to offend them too?

  12. #12 Stuart Coleman
    March 25, 2007

    Ed, you could go on for another few paragraphs listing atrocities that the Qur’an specifically condones (Incidentally, you could do the same for the Bible). Anyone who thinks that Islam is the Religion of Peace (TM) is, quite frankly, deluded. It is barbaric and patriarchal, even if some of its followers have moved past that.

  13. #13 zach
    March 25, 2007

    Knutsondc,
    You should respect it only if you want to; respect is a personal matter as are beliefs, including religious beliefs. It’s against my principles to attack religions in spite of the inadequacies we find in them. You should respect it only because you also want to be respected, for your freedom and belief end where those of others begin, so goes the French saying. If people start to lash out at each others’ beliefs, then the wheel of history will start to move backward. When “most” Europeans disrespected Jews and attacked them, we witnessed the horrors of the holocaust. Please go back to the literature of Nazi Europe to see how alarming are the parallels between the attacks on the Jews and today’s attacks on the Muslims. It started by attacking the culture, the religion, the history, and it escalated to personal attacks, and then to thinking about extermination. Not to say that we are at this stage yet, nor that the same thing will happen or is similar, but if we can’t respect others, then we missed a historical lesson of great magnitude. We are reading freedom the backward way, thinking that freedom of expression means attacking people or ridiculing their culture and religions as it is clear from your characterization of the Islamic religion at the end of your comment. I also tried to re-read what Ed wrote, but the more I read, the less convinced I am of your interpretation of what he might have said or wanted to say. Having said that, I give you the benefit of the doubt.

  14. #14 THobbes
    March 25, 2007

    More, what does the use of “alleged” convey? Denial of the Koran as a holy book, exactly conveying the attitude of a judge who denied a woman her rights.

    What does that mean? It’s nonsensical. Prove that the Koran–or the Torah, or Bible, or Bhagavad Gita–was divinely inspired and/or produced. Until then, all such holy books are “allegedly” holy, and it is exactly right to put such quotes around the term in this context. I won’t even get into the fact that these books, while allegedly inspired and created by a magnificent higher power, endorse slavery, rape, and wholesale slaughter of people. If you wish to explain these atrocities, then of course you are free to do so (many modern theologians have taken up the issue, some very well), but don’t try to whitewash the facts of these texts.

    “Exactly conveying the attitude of a judge who denied a woman her rights”? Again, what exactly does that mean–Ed Brayton expresses the fact that the Koran contains barbaric, patriarchal language, and that it has no place in the courtroom, and suddenly he is as bad as the judge who used the Koran to justify spousal abuse?

    So the use of correct here is only valid, because it expresses your opinion and what you think about those religions.

    What? Opinions can be accurate or inaccurate, depending on how they accord with the facts; the whole point of having an opinion is to express one’s thoughts on a topic. Here, it’s pretty clear the opinion that the Koran contains barbaric and patriarchal language is accurate.

  15. #15 Zach
    March 25, 2007

    Ed,
    Thanks for getting on board, but I am quite shocked to read the kind of words you’re using here, “shit”, “bullshit” etc. With all due respect, I respect your views and I am quitting this conversation, which is turning to be uncivilized and rude.

  16. #16 Ed Brayton
    March 25, 2007

    Zach-

    You are clearly conflating criticizing a book – a book full of ideas, some of them quite heinous – with “attacking” and “lashing out”, as well as with bashing a group of people. I did none of those things. I criticized a book because that book contains barbaric ideas, just as I often criticize the Bible for the same reason. And this notion that such criticism leads to Naziism is, frankly, too stupid to bother replying to. And that, too, is criticism of an idea. If criticism of ideas bothers you, I suggest not expressing ideas – especially not stupid ones.

  17. #17 Ed Brayton
    March 25, 2007

    Zach wrote:

    Thanks for getting on board, but I am quite shocked to read the kind of words you’re using here, “shit”, “bullshit” etc. With all due respect, I respect your views and I am quitting this conversation, which is turning to be uncivilized and rude.

    Welcome to the real world, where people often express ideas that are bullshit. Calling them bullshit is perfectly valid if they are, in fact, bullshit.

  18. #18 raj
    March 25, 2007

    It appears that there are two issues here. One, the “choice of law” issue as to which country’s law is to be applied for the divorce. I don’t know what the nationality of the couple is, but I would presume that it is likely that their nationality is Morocco, and the German judge was going to try to apply the law of Morocco to the divorce. Quite frankly, if the wife wanted to divorce the husband, she should have done so in Moroccan courts.

    The second issue is whether the German criminal law would apply to batteries that may have been committed by the husband against the wife while they were legal residents of Germany. The obvious answer is yes, regardless of what the Koran says, and regardless of whether the wife was seeking a divorce.

    Those are two separate issues.

  19. #19 JBL
    March 25, 2007

    raj wrote:
    “Quite frankly, if the wife wanted to divorce the husband, she should have done so in Moroccan courts.”

    Huh? If I get married in place X and immigrate to place Y, why should I be forced to return to X for a divorce? This doesn’t make any sense.

  20. #20 Jim51
    March 25, 2007

    As I understand it the woman in this case is a German citizen.

  21. #21 Dave S.
    March 25, 2007

    Zach –

    You seem like a decent sort. But you need to get used to the idea that in a free society of ideas you have no right not to be offended by the views of others. All holy books are alleged to be holy by those who adhere to that religion. Its not an axiom, even though it might seem that way to the true believer. Some support positively frightful and unconscionable things. You might find it ‘disrespectful’ to have that pointed out, but respect needs to be earned, not impelled.

  22. #22 Martin R
    March 25, 2007

    T.B. McNeely wrote:

    A divorce is no-one else’s business than the person who wants to leave? There may be a spouse and a few children who would disagree with that.

    You aren’t suggesting that the agreement of both spouses should be a requirement for divorce?! If so, then I suppose that only the agreement of one spouse should be required for marriage?

    As for children, it is inconceivable to divorce them. Society may of course take them away from a parent who shows himself to be harmful, but if you’re fit to function as a parent, then it’s your inalienable right and sacred duty to take care of your kids. (Being godless, I don’t use the words “sacred duty” lightly.)

  23. #23 Till
    March 25, 2007

    It doesn’t matter what nationality she is or in what country they married. Hitting your spouse is illegal here in germany – and citing sharia law as mitigating circumstances implies that people of some cultural backgrounds have an excuse to ignore the law of the land.

    What the Koran says about hitting your wife is entirely irrelevant if it is in conflict with the law and the constitution – it should therefore not be a factor in any judges decision.

  24. #24 Jim51
    March 25, 2007

    Till,
    I agree with you entirely. The German Constitution and German law is all that is relevant here. I only mentioned her German citizenship as there seemed to be some thoughts on the subject to the effect that as a Moroccan she should have gone through the Moroccan courts. It was just a point of information.

  25. #25 Till
    March 25, 2007

    Jim51,
    no problem. that comment wasn’t directed at you but raj. should have made that clear.

  26. #26 T. Bruce McNeely
    March 25, 2007

    Martin R:
    No, of course I’m not suggesting that. What I mean is that a divorce affects more than the person filing for it, so in the broader sense, it is the spouse and children’s business. I mean, it only profoundly changes their lives.
    Does getting a library card affect anyone other than the applicant?

  27. #27 windy
    March 25, 2007

    Does getting a library card affect anyone other than the applicant?

    Sure: if the applicant is a thief, likes to doodle or doesn’t return his books on time, it affects the other users. Not sure how this relates to marriage, though… 🙂

  28. #28 blf
    March 26, 2007

    Apologies if this has already been mentioned, but an interesting angle just showed regarding the Quran verse which (allegedly) permits wife-beating:

    New translation of Quranic verse ignites controversy
    [ … Academic ] Laleh Bakhtiar, who has spent seven years on a translation of the Quran is under fire because of her rendition of Verse 34 of the Surah Al Nisa. The verse as translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali says, “As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty or ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them (lightly) but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance) for God is most high, great (above you all)”.
    Bakhtiar says the most common translation for the Arabic word “daraba” is not hit or smite but to “go away”. She said when she came upon the verse she could not believe that God would sanction harming another human being except in war. Her translation is due for publication in April. There are at least 20 English translations of the Quran in which the word “daraba” has been translated as “beat, hit, strike, scourge, chastise, flog, make an example of, spank, pet, tap and even seduce”.

    The above is from Daily Times (Pakistan):

    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C03%5C26%5Cstory_26-3-2007_pg7_9

    and refers to an article in the NY Times.
    The International Herald Tribune version is at:

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/25/news/koran.php

    and is (presumably) essentially identical to the (original?) NYTimes article.

New comments have been disabled.