Denmark: Danish law should take Sharia into account, say researchers

Denmark: Danish law should take Sharia into account, say researchers

Before jumping into the comments: Note that they're not saying that Sharia law should be enforced, but rather that cultural elements should be taken into account.

For example, an Arab man kills his daughter. Should Danish law ignore the concept of honor murder? Should the father be prosecuted, as is the case for any 'normal' murder, or should the entire family be held responsible? Is taking culture into account always bad?


Some Muslims in Denmark marry, divorce and live their lives by special religious, cultural and tradition-regulated laws called Sharia. The Danish law system should take that more into consideration, say three professors of law and Islam, who contributed to a new English-language book on the perceptions of Sharia in Europe - a book which argues for that solution.

"It's a question of basic justice. If flexibility is not practiced from case to case, where people's culture, religion and traditions - including elements from Sharia - are also taken into account, some people are excluded in society from equal access to the justice system," says Jørgen S. Nielsen, professor of Islam at Copenhagen University.

As an example he says that many Muslims only marry by Islamic marriage, that their marriage is only contracted religiously and not recognized by any Danish authority. If the woman in such a marriage later wants to divorce, she can't expect any help from the authorities.

Then she's stuck with it, says Jørgen S. Nielsen. The courts should see it like any other partnership and handle the divorce case in a more or less regular manner. Otherwise, it just sanctions the oppression of women - which is totally contrary to Danish basic principles.

But if Danish law doesn't recognize her marriage, what prevents her from just leaving her husband?

The cultural aspects come into play here. If she just leaves her husband, she risks being ostracized and losing her social circle. Most importantly, she it might be impossible for her to find another husband within her own community, since they'll still see her as married, explains Jørgen S. Nielsen.

The Danish legal system can also take cultural and religious differences more into consideration in the area of compensation, he thinks. If a man, for example, accuses his wife of not being a virgin at their wedding, it's a greater insult for a Muslim woman than for a cultural-Christian Danish woman. And it should be reflected in the compensation for a libel case, says Jørgen S. Nielsen, who adds that it's family law in particular where a more flexible judicial system is needed.

That doesn't mean that Sharia should be incorporated as a system, or that there should be special Muslim family courts. Cultural and religious should be given consideration within the existing legal system, he stresses.

Hanne Petersen, professor of law culture at Copenhagen University, and Lisbet Christoffersen, professor of religion, law and society at Roskilde University and professor of Church and religion law at Copenhagen University, agree.

"It's not about us introducing Sharia's penal code with stoning. But we need to deal with the fact that there's people who live on the side of the Danish legal system, who live by regulations and norms that derive from Sharia," says Lisbet Christoffersen and adds:

"We will not recognize these parallel legal systems, but we can't force people not to live by these norms and regulations either. Therefore I opt for middle-solution, where we tray to create some links - naturally only in the areas where it doesn't conflict with Danish legal practice. If we don't do that, we'll exclude some groups in society from basic rights."

Justice Minister Lars Barfoed (K):

"A legal situation where you incorporate giving consideration for Sharia is completely unheard of in Danish society. It would be submission to the oppression mechanisms against women in that culture, that we simply couldn't accept. There are certain basic values in Danish society that we must stick to."

Source: Kristeligt-Dagblad (Danish), h/t Uriasposten

Related articles:
* Denmark: Parliament ready to crack down on unregistered Muslim marriages
* Denmark: Responses to British sharia law idea
* Denmark: Can Islamic law be implemented in Denmark?
* Denmark: 18% of Muslims want to see Sharia law implemented

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