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Europe is increasingly surrenduring its own culture and bowing to the mandates of Sharia law.
First, from Germany:
A 26-year-old mother of two wanted to free herself from what had become a miserable and abusive marriage. The police had even been called to their apartment to separate the two — both of Moroccan origin — after her husband got violent in May 2006. The husband was forced to move out, but the terror continued: Even after they separated, the spurned husband threatened to kill his wife.
A quick divorce seemed to be the only solution — the 26-year-old was unwilling to wait the year between separation and divorce mandated by German law. She hoped that as soon as they were no longer married, her husband would leave her alone. Her lawyer, Barbara Becker-Rojczyk agreed and she filed for immediate divorce with a Frankfurt court last October. They both felt that the domestic violence and death threats easily fulfilled the “hardship” criteria necessary for such an accelerated split.
In January, though, a letter arrived from the judge adjudicating the case. The judge rejected the application for a speedy divorce by referring to a passage in the Koran that some have controversially interpreted to mean that a husband can beat his wife. It’s a supposed right which is the subject of intense debate among Muslim scholars and clerics alike. “The exercise of the right to castigate does not fulfill the hardship criteria as defined by Paragraph 1565 (of German federal law),” the daily Frankfurter Rundschau quoted the judge’s letter as saying. It must be taken into account, the judge argued, that both man and wife have Moroccan backgrounds.
“The right to castigate means for me: the husband can beat his wife,” Becker-Rojczyk said, interpreting the judge’s verdict.
A French court is tomorrow expected to decide whether I and the newspaper I edit, Charlie Hebdo, committed a crime by publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. If the court finds me guilty of “publicly abusing a group of people because of their religion,” in effect racism, as the organizations of French Muslims that are plaintiffs in this case claim, I could be imprisoned for six months and fined thousands of euros. A great deal is at stake, for free speech in France and Europe, in the outcome of this trial.
Before publication, I was pressured not to go ahead and summoned to the Hotel Matignon to see the prime minister’s chief of staff; I refused to go. The next day, summary proceedings were initiated by the Grand Mosque of Paris and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France to stop this issue of Charlie Hebdo from hitting newsstands. The government encouraged them, but their suit was dismissed.
After the cartoons appeared, the Muslim groups attacked me by filing suit against me on racism charges. President Jacques Chirac, who campaigned for this just-completed trial, offered them the services of his own personal lawyer, Francis Szpiner. Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Grand Mosque, who always took orders from the Elysee, was apparently not convinced this case was necessary; he told me as much several times. But Mr. Boubakeur was under pressure from the fundamentalists at the UOIF (Union of Islamic Organizations of France), who had come to dominate the French Council of Muslim Worship, which he heads, and Mr. Chirac. Why? Only he knows. We can only guess. Probably to nurture his friendships in the Middle East and win arms contracts for France, while at home playing to Muslim public opinion that’s supposedly in thrall to fundamentalism.
Since it is hardly thinkable that the French parliament could be persuaded to re-establish the crime of blasphemy, the plaintiffs chose the legal path to try to obtain a ruling condemning all criticism of religion. But in order to survive, democracy needs to confront dogmas. We saw this happening when rights for women and homosexuals were established; we see it again today in defending genetic research on stem cells, for instance.
This trial is important for all the forms of expression that should flourish in democracy: painting, cinema, literature, journalism, scientific research, and even the free speech exercised in everyday life. The limits to this freedom are already fixed by laws that protect life, and that penalize racism, insults and defamation. In publishing the Danish cartoons, no one broke any of them.