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Posted in: Rape, Religion

Published on Jul 27, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for NewsRealBlog

"Normal" Domestic Violence in Morocco is a Crime in the United States


So sayeth the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division.

On July 31, 2008, a couple was married by arrangement in Morocco when the bride was 17 years old. They moved to Bayonne, New Jersey, where the new husband found work as an accountant. The husband's mother came to live with them.

On November 1st of that year, "acts of domestic abuse" commenced. The young girl finally called the police who, on November 22, 2008 (three weeks later) were still able to photograph numerous, visible bruises all over her body, including on her breasts. Her first punishment session lasted for one hour, during which time she cried all the time. This did not stop her husband. He said that he was doing this "to correct her." The second time, he attacked both her breasts and genitalia, including pulling her pubic hair. Her vagina was very red and swollen—and that is when he administered his ultimate "pedagogical" punishment: He raped her. In addition, on a separate occasion, he slapped her face, "causing her lip to swell and bleeding to occur." At that time, she escaped "without shoes or proper clothing" through a window and was taken to a hospital by the police.

Sadly, this kind of routine and systematic domestic super-violence is not at all unusual among many Arab and Muslim couples, or among Muslim immigrants in the West. David Ghanim, in Gender and Violence in the Middle East, Nonie Darwish in Cruel and Usual Punishment, Cassandra in Escape From an Arab Marriage, Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Infidel, as well as my own work about honor killings all confirm the normalization of daughter- and wife-battering in Muslim Third World countries. Studies also confirm a very high rate of domestic violence in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Back in Bayonne: Thereafter, the young woman (hereafter known as S.D.), filed a domestic violence complaint and a temporary restraining order was issued. She stayed with a Moroccan nurse from the hospital. However, after she discovered that she was pregnant, an imam persuaded the couple to reconcile on the condition that the domestic violence cease. That very night, after this alleged reconciliation, her husband raped her repeatedly—and then locked her in, thus depriving her of "food, (there was no refrigerator) or a phone for many hours."

In response, she broke dishes. The defendant, (hereafter known as M.J.R.), called his wife's parents in Morocco and demanded that they pay for her to return to Morocco. On January 22, 2009, after this phone call, the husband forced S.D. to have sex against her will again. As usual, she cried the entire time. This time, he explained that "this is according to our religion. You are my wife and I can do anything to you."

And then, her Knight in Shining Armor took her to a travel agency to purchase a ticket. He did not do so. Instead, he took her home again and raped her—after which he collected his mother, (who was not her daughter-in-law's friend), went to the imam, and divorced her. Yes, even though she was pregnant. And, when this poor soul tried to get a restraining order, a lower court judge was, indeed, blind.

On June 30, 2009, a New Jersey judge first "rendered an oral opinion," then a written record which, while not available, is quoted in the Appeal decision. While S.D. had "proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant had engaged in harassment, and assault … the plaintiff had not proven criminal restraint, sexual assault or criminal sexual contact." In fact, the judge felt that this husband was "operating under his belief that (sexual contact) was consistent with his practices and was not something (these practices) prohibited."

Last week, more than a year later, on July 23, 2010, a New Jersey appellate decision overturned this lower court decision. They rejected the lower court's conclusion which allowed "religious custom (when it) clashed with the law" and reversed and remanded the case for a new hearing. Part of their argument is based on a wide variety of cases including the decision which outlawed the Mormon Church's "religious" practice of polygamy and based on other cases where religious rights were brought in opposition to U.S. law, particularly in the area of employment. Writing for the bench, Judge Edith K. Payne writes:

The trial court abused its discretion by finding that domestic violence had been committed but failing to issue a final restraining order; the trial court abused its discretion by finding that defendant lacked the requisite intent to commit sexual assault and criminal sexual contact based on his religion. We are satisfied that the judge was mistaken in determining not to issue a final restraining order in this matter in order to protect plaintiff from future abuse and in dismissing plaintiff's domestic violence complaint.

The criminal law is the criminal law and cannot be superseded by any religion's law. Domestic violence, including sexual violence, requires a restraining order, even if the parties live apart and are divorced. In this case, S.D. now has a child by her tormentor and is still living in the United States.

Bravo to lawyers Jennifer J. Donnelly and Michelle J. McBrian of Northeast New Jersey Legal Services who argued the case for S.D. and bravo to the Superior Court of New Jersey (Appellate Division) which did so; Judge Payne wrote the decision.

Thus, this decision is not really about the more sensationalized marital rape but rather about whether, based on all the domestic violence, including the repeated, violent and non-consensual rapes, this woman may continue to need a restraining order especially since she has given birth to her ex-husband's child.

Yes, the lower court judge was exceptionally unjust—but many of those who have written about this case have focused more on the lower court decision than on the triumph of its reversal. However, they are also right: We, the American people, are in danger in terms of creeping shariah law being respected, feared, privately turned to, and even legally upheld by our court system.


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