3/23/2007

When Secular Law Confronts Religious Law

How do we respond when secular legislation runs counter to religious law? Well, it obviously depends. If there is legislation which specifically targets Jewish practice, even if it’s not obligatory, we say yehareg ve-al ya’avor. If it’s not specifically against Jewish practice, but nevertheless flies in the face of our obligations, we lobby, fight, and often just do it anyway. An example would be a law against circumcision.

But if it’s a general law against something non-obligatory, then it must be observed. Swiss Jews have learned to live with imported meat. Jews in Western countries have adapted quite nicely to regimes that prohibit slavery and polygamy. We’ve gotten over the fact that American law won’t let men marry their nieces or very young girls. Whether it’s ideal or not, the fact that we obey the law of the land – indeed, are obligated to obey it- is a foregone conclusion.

Apparently, however, this is not so obvious to our monotheistic cousins. This fact alone should not be terribly shocking, especially coming from a religion that aspires to global domination (don’t we all). [Though, as Larry points out, this doesn't really say anything about the Muslim position either. It's about one jerk hiding behind the Koran and one wacky judge buying it.]

What’s surprising, even shocking, is that a German court upheld this worldview. This is absolutely incredible! A woman is denied a divorce from a husband who beats her because the Koran says it’s muttar (is sharia the Arabic word for muttar? In Aramaic it’s shari)? The Koran also says it’s muttar to kill infidels. Maybe the judge is not saying that it’s muttar, just not grounds to sue for a religious divorce. You sleep in the bed you make. But here the issue is not just divorce, but the safety and wellbeing of the woman’s kids. Send hubby back to Morocco.

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