German Judge′s Koran Call Causes an Uproar | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 22.03.2007
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German Judge's Koran Call Causes an Uproar

Politicians, lawyers and migrants' groups in Germany were incensed over a German judge's decision to reject a divorce case, saying the Koran permits husbands to beat their wives.

Critics say Islamic law shouldn't apply in German courts

Critics say Islamic law shouldn't apply in German courts

A German court on Wednesday upheld a complaint against a judge who refused to allow a Moroccan-born German woman to file for divorce, on the grounds that the Koran permits wife beating.

A spokesman for the regional court in Frankfurt said it had backed a complaint of bias against the judge by lawyer Barbara Becker-Rojczyk on behalf of her 26-year-old client, a mother of two. Another judge will now hear her case.

According to a police report filed in May, the husband, also of Moroccan origin, regularly brutalized his wife and threatened to kill her. She filed for an immediate divorce in October on the grounds that although they were separated, he still posed a threat to her.

Controversial decision

But a female judge at the Frankfurt regional court made clear in a letter that the wife's bid had little chance of approval because, according to her, Sharia, or Islamic law, allowed a man to strike his wife.

Mina Ahadi Porträfoto

Mina Ahadi Porträfoto

"It is not unusual that a man exercises his right to punish his wife" among Arab married couples, the judge wrote in a letter to the plaintiff's lawyer, adding that the couple had married in 2001 "according to the laws of the Koran."

The judge cited Koran verses which she said gave a man the right to claim his honor has been compromised if his wife is unchaste.

Decision 'beyond the pale'

She suggested the plaintiff wait until she had been separated from her husband for a year -- in May -- and then apply for a divorce, as is normally required under German law.

"Apparently the judge considers my client to be unchaste for adopting a Western lifestyle," Becker-Rojczyk told the online edition of news weekly Der Spiegel.

The managing director of women's rights organization Terre des Femmes in Germany, Christa Stolle, said she was shocked by the judge's stance.

"It is unbelievable that a judge in Germany is basing her decisions on the Koran," she told Spiegel Online. "It is beyond the pale."

Hatun Sürücü

Hatin Sürücü was murdered by her brother in an infamous Berlin "honor killing"

Stolle said German judges were occasionally known to take a softer stance on crimes within a marriage, particularly if the couple came from a more "traditional" culture. She noted that so-called "honor killings" were at times treated with more discretion than other murders.

But she said the German justice system largely rejected the use of cultural traditions as an excuse to break the law. "I hope the case in Frankfurt is an exception," she said.

The chairwoman of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims, Mina Ahadi, called the judge's behavior "scandalous."

'Infuriating' relativity

"The practice of the Islamification of our society is dangerous and racist," she told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. Even people who come from other cultures need to honor universal human rights, she said.

"This cultural relativity is infuriating," Ahadi said, noting that honor killings are often punished less severely than other murders.

The president of Germany's Society of Women Judges, Jutta Wagner, had harsh criticism for the justice in question.

"It is an appalling case, especially since we work so hard to achieve greater acceptance of our rules among migrants," she told the Berliner Zeitung.

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