Judge Tells Battered Muslim Wife: Koran Says ‘Men Are in Charge of Women’
Friday, March 23, 2007
BERLIN — Politicians and Muslim leaders denounced a German judge for citing the Koran in her rejection of a Muslim woman’s request for a quick divorce on grounds she was abused by her husband.
JudgeChrista Datz-Winter said in a recommendation earlier this year that both partners came from a “Moroccan cultural environment in which it is not uncommon for a man to exert a right of corporal punishment over his wife,” according to the court. The woman is a German of Moroccan descent married to a Moroccan citizen.
The judge argued that her case was not one of exceptional hardship in which fast-track divorce proceedings would be justified. When the woman protested, Datz-Winter cited a passage from the Koran that reads in part, “men are in charge of women.”
The judge was removed from the case on Wednesday and the Frankfurt administrative court said it was considering disciplinary action.
Court vice president Bernhard Olp said Thursday the judge “regrets that the impression arose that she approves of violence in marriage.”
While the Koranic verse cited does say that husbands are allowed to beat their wives if they are disobedient, Germany’s Institute for Islamic Questions noted that such an interpretation was no longer standard.
“Of course not all Muslims use violence against their wives,” the group said in a statement.
Olp said the judge thought she was protecting the woman, who had been granted a restraining order against her husband. She had seen no reason to grant help in paying court costs for a fast-track divorce.
Olp said her reasoning was unacceptable, but insisted it was a “one-time event” that would not have an effect on other cases, or on the final ruling in the divorce proceedings.
The latest uproar comes amid an ongoing debate in Germany about integrating its more than 3 million Muslims, most of them from Turkey. A decision last year to cancel an opera featuring the severed heads of the Prophet Muhammad and other religious figures out of security concerns caused a furor and was later retracted.
Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries condemned the judge’s decision.
“Every so often, there are individual rulings that seem completely incomprehensible,” she said.
Lawmakers from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats said traditional Islamic law, or Sharia, had no place in Germany.
“The legal and moral concepts of Sharia have nothing to do with German jurisprudence,” Wolfgang Bosbach, a lawmaker with the Christian Democrats, told N24 television.
“One thing must be clear: In Germany, only German law applies. Period.”
Ronald Pofalla, the party’s general secretary, told Bild: “When the Koran is put above the German constitution, I can only say: Good night, Germany.”
Representatives of Germany’s Muslim population were also critical of the ruling.
“Violence and abuse of people — whether against men or women — are, of course, naturally reasons to warrant a divorce in Islam as well,” the country’s Central Council of Muslims said in a statement.
The mass-circulation Bild daily asked in a front-page article: “Where are we living?” The left-leaning Tageszeitung headlined its Thursday edition: “In the name of the people: Beating allowed.”