She didn't know it, nor did she even expect it. She had good intentions.
Perhaps it was a mistake. In fact, it was most certainly a mistake.
The best thing to do would be to wipe the slate clean.
Last week, in the middle of the storm, Christa Datz-Winter, a judge
on Frankfurt's family court, was speechless. But Bernhard Olp, a spokesman
for the city's municipal court, was quick to jump in. Olp reported that
the judge had been under emotional stress stemming from a murder that
had been committed in her office 10 years ago, and that she was now
planning to take a break to recuperate. He also mentioned that she was
"outraged" -- not about herself or her scandalous ruling,
but over the reactions the case has triggered.
The reactions were so fierce that one could have been forgiven for mistakenly
thinking that Germany's Muslims had won the headscarf dispute and the
controversy over the Mohammed cartoons in a single day and, in one fell
swoop, had taken a substantial bite out of the legal foundations of
The ensuing media furor came from both sides of the political spectrum.
The left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung ran a story on the case titled:
"In the Name of the People: Beating Allowed," while the right-wing
tabloid Bild called it "An Outrageous Case!" The same unanimity
across party lines prevailed in the political realm. "Unbearable,"
was conservative Bavarian Interior Minister GÃ¼nther Beckstein's
ruling, while Lale AkgÃ¼n, a member of parliament of Turkish
origin and the Social Democratic Party's representative on Islamic issues,
commented that the Frankfurt judge's ruling was "worse than some
backyard decision by an Islamist imam." Even the deputy head of
the Green Party's parliamentary group, Hans-Christian StrÃ¶bele,
noted that a German judge is obligated to uphold German law.
The original purpose of the case was not to carry the clash of cultures
into the courtroom. Instead, the case brought before Frankfurt's family
court was that of a 26-year-old German woman of Moroccan origin who
was terrified of her violent Moroccan husband, a man who had continued
to threaten her despite having been ordered to stay away by the authorities.
He had beaten his wife and he had allegedly threatened to kill her.
But German law requires a one-year separation before a divorce can be
completed -- and exceptions for an expedited process are only granted
in extreme situations. When the woman's attorney, Barbara Becker-Rojczyk,
filed a petition for an expedited divorce, Judge Christa Datz-Winter
suddenly became inflexible. According to the judge, there was no evidence
of "an unreasonable hardship" that would make it necessary
to dissolve the marriage immediately. Instead, the judge argued, the
woman should have "expected" that her husband, who had grown
up in a country influenced by Islamic tradition, would exercise the
"right to use corporal punishment" his religion grants him.
The judge even went so far as to quote the Koran in the grounds for
her decision. In Sura 4, verse 34, she wrote, the Koran contains "both
the husband's right to use corporal punishment against a disobedient
wife and the establishment of the husband's superiority over the wife."
A disturbing pattern of rulings
Put plainly, the judge argued that a woman who marries a Muslim should
know what she's getting herself into. In Germany, no less. Leading German
feminist Alice Schwarzer argued that this was tantamount to a "softening
of our legal system" that is "by no means a coincidence."
Germany's only minister of integration at the state level, Armin Laschet,
a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from the
state of North Rhine Westphalia, sees the Frankfurt ruling as the "last
link, for the time being, in a chain of horrific rulings handed down
by German courts" -- rulings in which, for example, so-called honor
killings have been treated as manslaughter and not murder.
This, says Berlin family attorney and prominent women's rights activist
Seyran Ates, is part of the reason one should "be almost thankful
that (judge Datz-Winter) made such a clear reference to the Koran. All
she did was bring to the surface an undercurrent that already exists
in our courts." Out of a sense of misguided tolerance, says Ates,
judges treat the values of Muslim subcultures as a mitigating circumstance
and, in doing so, are helping pave the way for a gradual encroachment
of fundamentalist Islam in Germany's parallel Muslim world. It's an
issue Ates often runs up against in her cases. "In Frankfurt,"
she says, "someone expressly openly for the first time what many
are already thinking."
Ursula Spuler-Stegemann, an Islam expert from the central German university
town of Marburg, has a similar take on the matter. "Do we already
have Sharia here?" she asks, adding that the Frankfurt case shows
that "things are getting out of hand here."
Does the unspeakable decision by a single Frankfurt family court judge
truly mark a new stage in the German judiciary's unspoken policy of
appeasement toward aggressive Muslims? Or is the collective outcry so
loud and nonpartisan this time because the case is so clear? Is it because
everyone believed that the debate, raging for years and still unresolved,
over the issue of how much immigration the Germans should tolerate and
how much assimilation they can expect was finally coming to an end?
And because this particular case was about violence, the lowest common
denominator on which everyone from left-leaning feminists to neoconservatives
And now that the danger has been recognized, is it being addressed quickly?
An abuse of the liberal state
Frankfurt family court judge Datz-Winter was removed from the case and
the courts proved themselves capable of acting responsibly. In many
other cases in Germany, however, the liberal nature of the constitutional
state has been misused -- and a misguided approach to tolerance has
been turned into self-sacrifice. But isn't it the court's job to protect
the liberalism that has taken Germans so long and so much effort to
achieve -- and with zero tolerance for intolerance, if need be?
The questions this raises in the context of social reality are agonizingly
difficult, even insulting to many, and they lead us into a web of taboos
that has developed over time. Those who move within this web often cannot
help but rub someone the wrong way.
The debate that Judge Christa Datz-Winter has now revived once again
seems to afflict Germans like bouts of fever. It revolves around the
question of how much assimilation the constitutional state can or must
demand from immigrants. Will the Germans accept the sometimes outmoded
customs of other cultural groups? In other words, will they permit groups
to not just live in a society that parallels German society, but to
also live their lives in an entirely different age and at a completely
different pace? Is Germany not obligated to integrate those who are
foreign to its society and bring them into the present?
Just as battles are often waged around flags, social conflicts tend
to erupt around symbols -- the headscarves worn by female teachers,
the minarets that are changing the appearance of some towns, the severed
head of the Prophet Mohammed in the Berlin production of the opera "Idomeneo,"
and the harmless Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed, triggering an outcry
that led to the torching of Western flags and embassies worldwide in
2005. But social conflicts also arise over seemingly minor issues. For
example, if churches can ring their bells, why shouldn't the muezzin
be allowed to call the Muslim faithful to prayer -- at 5:45 in the morning?
Because Germany became a country open to immigration some time ago,
it now urgently needs guidelines on how rigidly it should enforce its
standards and how it should treat its new arrivals -- as well as how
the country expects them to behave.
As this debate becomes more and more urgent, Germans ought to be thankful
to the Frankfurt judge for naively stepping into the web of taboos.
The problem Germany faces with its deeply religious Muslim immigrants
is not unlike the challenge modern Israeli society faces in dealing
with orthodox Jews. Fundamentalists -- including Muslims in Germany
--- tend to produce large families, so that the men and women of the
past could very well lay claim to a substantial share of the future.
According to a study by the University of TÃ¼bingen, the
number of fundamentalist Muslims in the country will have more than
doubled by 2030.
For far too long, Germany's muslim immigrants were not asked to put
much effort into integrating. For decades, German judges essentially
paved the way for Islamic fundamentalists to form a parallel society.
They raised little opposition to the strategy employed by Islamic groups
to demand their supposed religious freedom in court until they got it.
But the judges must have known, argues Johannes Kandel, that "giving
preferential treatment to groups violates the principle of equal treatment
in a secular legal system." Kandel heads the intercultural dialogue
group at the political academy of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which
is closely alligned with the center-left Social Democrats.
Citing the freedom of religious expression guaranteed under the German
constitution, judges in Germany permitted Muslims to withdraw their
children from swimming lessons or to forbid them from taking part in
school celebrations or school trips. This allowed outdated concepts
of chastity from places like Turkey's highly traditional eastern Anatolia
region to survive in an otherwise enlightened Europe. But religious
freedom, says Udo Di Fabio, a judge on Germany's Federal Constitutional
Court, the country's highest judicial institution, is no "basic
right deluxe," but rather one of many constitutional rights --
and one that constantly has to be weighed against other rights.
"We were far too negligent for much too long," says Andreas
Jacobs, the coordinator for Middle East policy and Islamic countries
at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which is aligned with the conservative
Christian Democrats. Wolfgang Bosbach, the deputy chairman of the CDU's
parliamentary group says he sees the ruling as an indication "that
we are gradually putting our own concepts of the law and values up for
grabs." But Jacobs believes it is instead a kind of aftershock
of the naÃ¯ve multicultural illusions of recent decades.
A much-delayed wake-up call
"Finally the reactions to this nonsense are showing that sensitivity
has become much greater than it was in the past," he says. The
murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, he believes, served as a much-delayed
wakeup call for most German judges and politicians.
In the autumn of 2004 Mohamed Bouyeri, the son of Moroccan immigrants
who was born in Amsterdam and attended school there, slit van Gogh's
throat as if he were slaughtering an animal on an Amsterdam street.
He felt that van Gogh's film "Submission," about the oppression
of women in Islam, was offensive to him and his religion. Van Gogh had
shot the film together with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Dutch who
is one of the most prominent critics of Islam. The murder set the Netherlands
into a deep state of shock. Suddenly the country was faced with the
wreckage of its much-touted tolerance. Before long mosques and Koran
schools were going up in flames, followed by retaliatory acts against
The clash of cultures in the neighboring Netherlands also drew Germany's
attention to conditions that many had preferred to play down as "cultural
diversity." Suddenly Germans were waking up to the creeping Islamicization
on the fringes of their society, and to the existence of parallel worlds
in German cities. Ironically, until only a few years ago all of this
was happening with the enthusiastic support of the constitutional state
and its servants.
German judges were accommodating to Muslims in many minor rulings, and
often with good reason. In 2002, the state labor court in the northern
city of Hamm ruled that prayer breaks are permissible during working
hours, but must be coordinated with the employer. The case had come
to the fore after a company reprimanded a Muslim worker who wanted to
pray several times a day. The worker demanded his rights, citing religious
In a number of cases dealing with halal butchering, German courts were
forced to grant exceptions to Muslim butchers similar to those applied
to butchers who adhere to Jewish kosher butchering rituals. In 2002,
the Federal Constitutional Court issued a landmark decision allowing
butchering according to Muslim ritual, after RÃ¼stem AltinkÃ¼pe,
a butcher in the eastern city of Wetzlar, had filed a lawsuit.
Muslims can also often count on the support of German courts when it
comes to building mosques. As far back as 1992, the Federal Administrative
Court ruled that neighbors must "fundamentally accept" being
woken before sunup.
The muezzin, who calls the faithful to prayer from the minaret in traditional
mosques, can also usually look to German judges to support his cause.
Attempts by cities to appeal decisions favoring mosques have rarely
In Dillenburg, a town in the state of Hesse, a rural district office
attempted to use the highway code to silence the local muezzin, arguing
that his devout calls to prayer could irritate drivers. The Giessen
Administration Court overturned the decision.
In theory, the Muslim call to prayer could be enforced in court in all
German communities, the logic being that where Christians can sing their
hymns the Muslims must be allowed to call the faithful to prayer.
As the courts saw it, the principle of equal treatment also applied
to those with little interest in equality. But most mosques voluntarily
waive this right to equal treatment.
Muslims can also often depend on courts that deal with the laws governing
the press. The outcome of a legal dispute last May between the former
imam of Berlin's Mevlana mosque, Yakub Tasci, and the ZDF public television
network before the district court in Potsdam outside Berlin was especially
absurd. Judge Klaus Feldmann barred the network from referring to the
imam as a "hate preacher" on its Web site. And yet Tasci,
according to an investigative piece in the magazine Frontal21, had characterized
Germans during his sermons as the equivalent of stinking infidels. According
to the court, Tasci had not been referring to Germans in particular
but atheists in general, and had only preached about Germans' alleged
lack of hygiene and apparent body odor outside of the mosque.
Issues of fundamental importance
While these cases may seem trivial, the matter becomes more sensitive
when cases revolve around issues of fundamental importance. In some
cases German courts choose to do little more than dabble, as with the
headscarf dispute. In 2003, Fereshda Ludin, a teacher in the southern
state of Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg, sued for the right to wear
the headscarf in the classroom. Her case was referred to the Federal
Constitutional Court, which ruled that schools are the business of the
states. In other words, it would be up to the states to enact the appropriate
legislation if they wanted to ban teachers from wearing the headscarf.
This hasn't happened yet in many German states, and the debate continues.
In some cases German courts are even more accommodating to Muslims than
those in secular Turkey. In 1984, the Wiesbaden Administrative Court
upheld a Muslim woman's demand that she be allowed to wear her headscarf
on photos for official identification documents. In the grounds for
its decision, the court wrote: "The Islamic faith requires the
plaintiff to cover her head in public." Even though the ruling
is not legally binding, Muslims have used it to support their arguments.
Experts view a 1993 decision by the Federal Administrative Court as
one of the most blatant mistakes on the road to establishing a legal
framework to protect Islamic parallel words. The judges decided to allow
a 13-year-old Turkish girl to be excused from physical education and
swimming instruction if it could not be offered in a way that kept boys
and girls strictly separated. The girl's family had argued that the
headscarf could very well slip off during these activities.
The court was not even swayed by the school district's objection --
which now seems downright prophetic -- that granting special rights
would make it increasingly difficult for schools to offer class trips,
sex education classes and outings to the theater. The judges ruled that
it was "unreasonable" to require pupils to take part in physical
education classes. They decided in favor of the parents' religious freedom
and against the development opportunities and rights of personal liberty
of the child -- and of many other children.
In a similar case, a judge argued that whether the Koran does in fact
require certain behaviors is immaterial, and that a perceived precept
is already sufficient. In fact, the judge continued, it could not be
argued that these religious rules "are, according to Western standards,
one-sided and do not favor adolescent women."
This was an attitude that still prevailed in the minds of German judges
one year after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
At the time, the higher administrative court in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia
ruled that a female Muslim student in the 10th grade should be permitted
not to take part in a school trip. The family had argued that Islam
prohibits allowing girls to go on such trips without being accompanied
by a male family member. The family also insisted that the girl was
constantly worried about losing her headscarf. The judges found that
such fears were "comparable with the situation of a partially mentally
impaired person who, because of her disability, can only travel with
a companion." This assessment was devastating because it accepted
the rules of a camel drivers' society in the modern age -- literally,
because a few years earlier, an Islamic legal opinion dubbed the "camel
fatwa" had been added to the professional literature.
Amir Zaidan, the then chairman of the Islamic Religious Community in
the state of Hesse, wrote the opinion. He argued that a Muslim woman
could travel no more than 81 kilometers (50 miles) from the home of
her husband or parents without being accompanied by a male blood relative.
The opinion came to be known as the "camel fatwa," because
this was the distance a camel caravan could travel within 24 hours in
the days of the Prophet Mohammed.
Zaidan even defended this position at a 2001 conference of Germany's
protestant churches in Frankfurt. His argument was that a woman who
traveled farther would run the risk of being raped. Apparently one could
spout such nonsense to the good church people who had gathered in Frankfurt
without running the risk of being run off the premises for committing
rape against religious freedom.
A bonus for polygamists
In another letter from Absurdistan, the Federal Ministry for Social
Affairs issued the following announcement to German health insurance
agencies in the summer of 2004: "Polygamous marriages must be recognized
if they are legal under the laws of the native country of the individuals
What the policy statement boiled down to was this: In certain cases
Muslim men from countries where polygamy is legal -- like Morocco, Algeria
and Saudi Arabia -- could add a second wife to their government health
insurance policies without having to pay an additional premium.
Such excesses are rare today. Judges are increasingly accepting the
responsibility that legal expert and Islam scholar Mathias Rohe demands
of them: to use the law "to signal to a society what is allowed
and what is not."
For example, in 2005 a DÃ¼sseldorf judge ordered that
a Muslim boy could be required to attend school swimming sessions together
with girls. In his grounds, the judge argued that in Germany Muslims
are "confronted with more liberal values, which they must be able
to handle. The same applies to required swimming instruction."
But this change of heart within the judiciary has not brought about
fundamental social change. On the contrary, the genie that the courts
once let out of the bottle continues to shape social reality. "More
and more girls are not taking part in swimming instruction or are not
going on class trips," says Christa Stolle of Terre des Femmes,
a women's rights group. "Or they are simply taken out of school."
The wearing of headscarves has also increased tremendously, says Stolle,
who is convinced that "it's getting more difficult for girls."
Experiences in urban German schools show just how much integration has
suffered as a result of the decisions of timorous judges in past years.
At the Carlo Mierendorff School in Preungesheim, a Frankfurt neighborhood,
about one-third of students in the upper grades are permitted to not
attend class trips for religious reasons, says Alexander Zabler, the
school's principal. To prevent their daughters from traveling with schoolmates,
many Muslim parents have either called the girls in sick or simply ordered
them not to show up. Zabler tried many approaches, including talking
to the parents, visiting them at home, offering special meals for Muslims
during travel -- but all to no avail. Finally he turned to the government
and asked the local school board for help -- also to no avail. He has
Last month parents, teachers and students at the Carlo Mierendorff School
decided to cancel future class trips altogether if more than 10 percent
of students could not attend. "On this issue integration has failed
here," complains Zabler.
That failure is at least partly attributable to the activities of people
like Yavuz and GÃ¼rhan Ãzoguz, two brothers
who offer sample letters for parents seeking to exempt their children
from swimming instruction on their Web site, Muslim-Market.de. The parents
then use the letters to demand special rights for their children from
teachers and principals.
"Doing their best to survive"
If the parents' strict faith expresses itself as an extreme form of
modesty in girls, then it often leads to rowdiness in Muslim boys. Paul
Reiter, 47, an English and French teacher at a school in the western
city of Bochum, constantly experiences the results of self-imposed,
aggressive exclusion in the classroom. Reiter says he knows many "poor
students with gold chains" who routinely use anti-American, anti-Semitic
and sexist language, often addressing German women as "whores."
Reiter says female teachers "are doing their best to survive"
in some classes.
Marie-Luise Bock, the principal of Martin Luther Middle School in Herten,
a city in the industrial Ruhr region, says her efforts to integrate
Muslim girls are torpedoed from two sides: "arch-conservative"
Muslim parents and "macho brothers." About one-third of female
Muslim students wear headscarves, "and one in two are unhappy about
it," says Bock, who has occasionally reserved spots in a women's
shelter for some of her former female students. "It deeply upsets
me that we can do so little for these girls," she says.
Ursula Spuler-Stegemann, the Islam scholar, also has stories to tell
about desperate teachers. "Many have no idea where they are allowed
to draw the line when it comes to Muslims," she says. More dangerous,
says Spuler-Stegemann, is a "dramatic development that is currently
unfolding in the education sector, practically unnoticed by the general
public: There are groups that truly want to establish a separate world."
She is referring to organizations like the Association of Islamic Cultural
Centers, which operates a number of children's centers throughout Germany.
Critics say the children, who often have no exposure to the outside
world, are subjected to religious indoctrination -- an allegation the
association's leadership denies. Milli GÃ¶rÃ¼s
and the Islamic Community of Germany -- two groups that are under observation
by Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany's
domestic intelligence agency -- are also heavily involved in working
with youth. Muslim organizations in Germany, Interior Minister Wolfgang
SchÃ¤uble warns, must behave in a way "that indicates
partnership with us" -- at least if they hope to steer clear of
investigators and the courts.
Muslim organizations are also beginning to establish their own schools,
arguing that Christian nuns teach at some German schools. The Muslims
tout their concepts as being integrative, and education officials believe
them and approve the schools. But then, far from being integrated, the
schools end up attracting only Muslims.
Domestic intelligence kept a close watch on the King Fahd Academy in
Bonn for years. The mosque and associated school were criticized because
some of the schoolbooks they used glorified jihad. But even the ordinary
Koran schools, which exist at practically every German mosque, often
forcefully draw their roughly 70,000 children and adolescents back into
the world of their grandfathers.
Of course, in many families there is no escaping the closeness justified
by Muslim traditions and rules. Women are brought up to serve and obey.
Boys are alternately spoiled and beaten, as custom requires. According
to a study conducted by the Lower Saxony Criminology Research Institute,
physical abuse of boys is more than twice as common in Turkish families
than German families. And "girls from conservative families say
that their fathers and brothers have the right to hit them," reports
Judith Gerling-Tamer, an educator at the Elisi Evi Support Center for
women and girls in Berlin's heavily Muslim Kreuzberg district.
The authorities are generally aware of little of what happens in families.
Nevertheless, laws and court decisions do send signals. If the wrong
signals are sent, as was the case in many past court rulings, this also
affects families. And lawmakers' failure to enact legislation that is
urgently needed can also have devastating effects.
Young women routinely come to support centers after being married off
against their will, but such arranged marriages are neither illegal
nor regulated in Germany.
According to a 2004 study commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Family
Affairs, 17 percent of Turkish women surveyed considered their marriage
forced. The Turkish twins Ayse Auth and Hatice Nizam know what it's
like to be forced into an arranged marriage in Germany. They were born
in the state of Hesse into a large Turkish guest worker family. Both
girls did well in school and trained to become hairdressers. But then,
the twins say, their parents insisted that it was time for them to marry.
Hatice was married at 18, Ayse at 19. The two sisters spent four years
trying to separate themselves from their husbands they neither loved
nor wanted. When they finally succeeded, the family treated them as
Unlike many other girls with similar stories, the girls have now confidently
made a life for themselves in Germany. They own two hairdressing salons
and both live with their German partners. Arranged marriages, says Hatice
Nizam, are "unfortunately still" part of everyday life for
many women of Turkish origin in Germany, "and it's incredibly difficult
to extract yourself from them."
Ayten KÃ¶se, 42, who manages a shelter in the NeukÃ¶lln
Rollberg district, tries to help. She doesn't resemble most of the Muslim
women here. Instead of a headscarf, she wears her hair uncovered. KÃ¶se
knows how difficult it is for Muslim women in Germany to be courageous
and rebel. But she is constantly reminding women that the German state
will not let them down. "But what should I tell them now, after
this Frankfurt ruling?" KÃ¶se asks furiously. "That
it can happen sometimes?" Trust in the constitution and the hope
that it will be enforced, says KÃ¶se, is sometimes the only
thing Muslim women can rely on for encouragement.
The problem for many women, says KÃ¶se, is that they are
completely alone, alone against their own family or their husband's
family. "And if they haven't attended school in Germany,"
KÃ¶se explains, "they usually don't even know about
A political system too paralyzed to act
Chances are slim that they can expect much help from the political end
anytime soon. German lawmakers have repeatedly considered raising the
age at which guest workers are allowed to come to Germany as a way of
protecting young girls against forced marriages. Many immigrants are
very young when they are forced into arranged marriages. A law outlawing
forced marriages still doesn't exist today, although the German criminal
code has been updated somewhat to deal with the problem. Even some of
the measures other countries established are nonexistent in Germany.
In Britain, for example, women who are worried that they could be forced
into hastily arranged marriages while on vacation can leave information
with the authorities before leaving the country. If they fail to report
back by a prearranged date, officials, including those at the British
Foreign Office, begin searching for them.
Germany is still a long way off from such well-meaning approaches and
the symbolism they convey. In fact, some of the women who contact the
women's rights group Terre des Femmes do so because they feel stabbed
in the back by the constitutional state. If they are taken to their
native countries against their will for forced marriages, the door often
slams shut behind them -- permanently. If the brides are unable to extricate
themselves and return to Germany within six months, their residency
permits automatically expire in most cases.
Berlin attorney Seyran Ates says: "We are at a crossroads, everywhere
in Europe. Do we allow structures that lead straight into a parallel
society, or do we demand assimilation into the democratic constitutional
The answer is clear, at least if one studies the literature of conservative
Muslims. For example, in his book "Women in Islam," Imam Mohammed
Kamal Mustafa of Spain recommends how women should be beaten. If you
beat their hands and feet with "whips that are too thick,"
he warns, you risk leaving scars. Abdelkader Bouziane, an Algerian imam
who calls two women his own, recommends handing out beatings in such
a way that the consequences are not apparent to infidels.
Although Islamic groups do their best to condemn marital violence, there
are clear indications of how ubiquitous beatings are in many Muslim
marriages. Experts say that a disproportionately high percentage of
women who flee to women's shelters are Muslim. This sort of domestic
violence in the family has even ended in death for more than 45 people
in Germany in the last decade. According to an analysis by the Federal
Office of Criminal Investigation on the "phenomenon of honor killings"
in Germany, woman are often slaughtered in the most gruesome of ways
for violating archaic concepts of morality. In many cases an entire
family council has ruled on the execution of a rebellious female family
In 2005, Hatun SÃ¼rÃ¼cÃ¼,
a young Berlin woman, was killed because she was "living like a
German." In her family's opinion, this was a crime only her death
could expiate. Her youngest brother executed her by shooting her several
times, point blank, at a Berlin bus stop. But because prosecutors were
unable to prove that the family council had planned the act, only the
killer himself could be tried for murder and, because he was underage,
he was given a reduced sentence. The rest of the family left the courtroom
in high spirits, and the father rewarded the convicted boy with a watch.
It is by no means unusual for people put on trial for honor killings
in Germany to be convicted on the lesser charge of manslaughter in the
end. In 2003 the Frankfurt District Court handed down a mild sentence
against a Turkish-born man who had stabbed his German-born wife to death.
She had disobeyed him and was even insolent enough to demand a divorce.
Muslim moral precepts as mitigating factors
The court argued that one could not automatically assume that the man's
motives were contemptible. He had, after all, acted "out of an
excessive rage and sense of outrage against his wife" -- who he
had regularly beaten in the past -- "based on his foreign socio-cultural
moral concepts." According to the court's decision, the divorce
would have violated "his family and male honor derived from his
Anatolian moral concepts." The Federal Constitutional Court reversed
the decision in 2004.
Even though higher courts usually reverse these sorts of rulings, judges
are still handing down sentences based on the same logic. For example,
the municipal court in the western city of Leverkusen sentenced a Lebanese
man to probation in 2005 after he had severely beaten his daughter several
times for resisting his efforts to force her into an arranged marriage.
He hit her on the head with a stick. When it broke he choked her and
threatened to stab her to death. The court argued that the fact that
his actions were based on his Muslim moral concepts served as a mitigating
The district court in Essen was equally lenient when, in 2002, it sentenced
a Lebanese man who had applied for asylum -- and who routinely beat
his children and wife with a belt and also raped his spouse -- to nothing
more than probation. The judge cited the man's cultural background as
a mitigating circumstance. In commenting on his crimes, the man said:
"I am a Muslim, a normal person. I pray, fast and fulfill do my
Both criminal courts and family courts have often gone soft on violent
parents whose concepts of honor were more important to them than the
well-being of their child. In 2000 the Cologne Higher Regional Court
ruled that a couple from Kosovo who had planned to force their 17-year-old
daughter into an arranged marriage at home should be denied custody
of the girl. This was a reversal of a lower court's decision to send
the girl, who had sought protection from the youth welfare office, back
to her parents. It was only the higher court that clarified something
that should have been obvious: that it is completely irrelevant as to
whether "the parents, based on their origin, have different ideas
about family obligation and the duty to obey." Family attorneys
say that social workers have even been known to turn away girls who
have turned to youth welfare officials for fear of being forced into
a marriage. The social workers' response to the girls is that that sort
of thing is, well, "normal with you people."
Jutta Wagner, a family attorney and president of the German Association
of Female Lawyers, says that she is constantly hearing about "attorneys
with a migration background" who have studied law in Germany but
conclude marriage contracts "in which they attempt to adapt a sort
of 'Sharia light.'" According to Wagner the purpose of the contracts,
which are barely acceptable for German courts, is to make Islamic law
acceptable in small steps.
Christa Datz-Winter, the Frankfurt family court judge, argued as if
she had already accepted the basic tenets of Sharia law. In the Koran,
she wrote, "the honor of the man, simply put, is tied to the chastity
of the woman." Therefore, she continued, "for a man with an
Islamic upbringing the fact that a woman is living according to Western
cultural rules is already considered a violation of his honor."
The West, Islam and Islamism (2nd Ed) - http://www.bnp.org.uk/shopping/excalibur/item.php?id=688
Defeating Jihad - by Serge Trifkofic - http://www.bnp.org.uk/shopping/excalibur/item.php?id=673
White Gold - Islam's One Million White Slaves - http://www.bnp.org.uk/shopping/excalibur/item.php?id=465