Court Reverses Decision by U.S. Judge Who Applied Sharia Law to Domestic Violence Case

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

A New Jersey appellate court has overturned the decision by a judge who ruled that a Muslim man who committed sexual assault against his wife was not guilty because he was acting on his Islamic beliefs.

According to Jihad Watch, the ruling reversed an earlier decision by a judge who refused to charge a Moroccan man with the repeated sexual assault of his teenaged bride.

“This court does not feel that, under the circumstances, that this defendant had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault or to sexually contact the plaintiff when he did,” the judge ruled. “The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited.”

The ruling is based on a Muslim belief which says that “If a husband calls his wife to his bed [i.e. to have sexual relation] and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning” (Bukhari 4.54.460).

According to court records, the couple were wed in Morocco in July, 2008, when the wife was only 17 years old. The parties did not know each other prior to the marriage. A month later, they came to New Jersey where the husband was employed as an accountant.

The record reflects a long list of allegations of abuse by the wife who said she was forced into nonconsensual sex several times, as well as suffered other abuse, at the hands of her husband. He would simply tell her that “this is according to our religion. You are my wife, I can do anything to you. The woman, she should submit and do anything I ask her to do.”

At one point, the husband took his wife to a travel agency to buy her at ticket back to Morocco, but she did not go through with the flight. Instead, the couple returned to their home where the husband threatened to divorce her and once again forced her to have sex. Afterward, the defendant and his mother took the young wife to the home of the local Imam where he verbally divorced her.

The first judge who heard the case acknowledged that this was a situation in which religious custom clashed with the law, and that under the law, plaintiff had a right to refuse defendant’s advances. However, because the husband did not act with criminal intent but on the tenets of his religion, he refused to issue a restraining order and dismissed the wife’s charges of domestic violence.

The appellate court reversed the decision, saying:

“As the judge recognized, the case thus presents a conflict between the criminal law and religious precepts. In resolving this conflict, the judge determined to except defendant from the operation of the State’s statutes as the result of his religious beliefs. In doing so, the judge was mistaken.

Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, calls the case “a close call” and warns that this will not be the last Sharia-type court decision to be made in a U.S. court.

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