Judicial Multiculti-ism Gone Awry

A judge’s shockingly inept attempts at “multicultural understanding” have landed her in some very hot water in Germany. According to the New York Times, the judge cited “cultural differences” between Muslims and Westerners in refusing to grant a German Muslim woman’s request for a fast-track divorce from her wife-beating husband. The woman, a German citizen, had requested that she be allowed to divorce her husband without waiting for the one-year separation ordinarily required by law, on the ground that her husband had physically abused her and was threatening her life. (In fact, the same judge had previously ordered the husband to move out of the couple’s home and had entered a restraining order against him.)

The judge refused her request, ruling that the woman was not suffering an “unreasonable hardship” because – are you ready for this? — both she and her husband were of Moroccan descent. “In this cultural background,” she wrote, “it is not unusual that the husband uses physical punishment against the wife.” Moreover, in explaining her ruling, the judge pointed to a verse in the Koran that permits a husband to use physical punishment to “discipline” his wife. And just in case the wife was still under the misimpression that she might be entitled to at least a few of the rights that other German women enjoy, the judge delivered the final blow, suggesting that the wife’s Western lifestyle might have given her husband reason to claim that his “honor” had been sullied.

To be sure, Germany, like the rest of Western Europe, is navigating some tricky waters when it comes to reconciling Western values with the more traditional values of some members of its Muslim population. But this is ridiculous. Thankfully, the ruling has been roundly condemned by just about everyone in Germany — including German Muslim leaders, who point out that mainstream Muslims long ago rejected wife-beating “as a relic of the medieval age.” The judge has been removed from the case. But it almost – not quite — makes me re-think my firm belief (expressed in earlier posts) that we can usually trust judges to get it right.

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1 Response

  1. D Cheifetz says:

    A Canadian example of judical multiculturalism gone awry was only financially and doctrinally shocking – in addition to being humorous fodder for all sorts of water-cooler discussion – but has since been corrected at the appellate level.

    In Ontario, Canada’s (reasonably) notorious fly-in-the-water-bottle decision [Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd., 2005 CanLII 11990, reversed Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd., 2006 CanLII 41807 (Ont. C.A.)] the trial judge wrote:

    [211] What was not mentioned by Dr. Ellis, but had been mentioned by Dr. Rai, was the background of Mr. Mustapha in the Middle East, where the devotion to and concern for the family is at a higher level than is found in North America, and the higher level of cleanliness and avoidance of insects practiced by this family than is usual, including taking food to and from an outdoor barbecue in covered containers, and covering the depressed top of the Culligan water dispenser with a plate, to preserve cleanliness when the bottle was removed. These things, in my view predisposed Mr. Mustapha for the reaction that occurred.