Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Outcry after French Court Ruling

PARIS - The bride said she was a virgin. When her new husband discovered that was a lie, he went to court to annul the marriage -- and a French judge agreed.

The ruling ending the Muslim couple's union has stunned France and raised concerns the country's much-cherished secular values are losing ground to religious traditions from its fast-growing immigrant communities.

The decision also exposed the silent shame borne by some Muslim women who transgress long-held religious dictates demanding proof of virginity on the wedding night.

In its ruling, the court concluded the woman had misrepresented herself as a virgin and that, in this particular marriage, virginity was a prerequisite.

But in treating the case as a breach of contract, the ruling was decried by critics who said it undermined decades of progress in women's rights. Marriage, they said, was reduced to the status of a commercial transaction in which women could be discarded by husbands claiming to have discovered hidden defects in them.

The court decision "is a real fatwa against the emancipation and liberty of women. We are returning to the past," said Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara, the daughter of immigrants from Muslim North Africa, using the Arabic term for a religious decree.

The outcry has been unrelenting since word of the April 1 decision in the closed-door trial in Lille was made public last week by the daily newspaper Liberation. In its judgment, the tribunal said the 2006 marriage had been ended based on "an error in the essential qualities" of the bride, "who had presented herself as single and chaste."

Justice Minister Rachida Dati, whose parents also were born in North Africa, initially shrugged off the ruling -- but the public clamor reached such a pitch that she asked the prosecutor's office this week to lodge an appeal.

What began as a private matter "concerns all the citizens of our country and notably women," a statement from her ministry said.

The appeal was filed Tuesday and three judges could hear the case sometime this month, said Eric Vaillant of the appeals court in Douai, near Lille.

The hitch is that both the young woman and the man at the center of the drama are opposed to an appeal, according to their lawyers. The names of the woman, a student in her 20s, and the man, an engineer in his 30s, have not been disclosed.

The young woman's lawyer, Charles-Edouard Mauger, said she was distraught by the dragging out of the humiliating case. In an interview on Europe 1 radio, he quoted her as saying: "I don't know who's trying to think in my place. I didn't ask for anything. ... I wasn't the one who asked for the media attention, for people to talk about it, and for this to last so long."

The issue is particularly distressing for France because the government has fought to maintain strong secular traditions as demographics change. An estimated 5 million Muslims live in the country of 64 million, the largest Muslim population in Western Europe.
Read on here. Wow...What is your opinion on this?


the non-cho nadia said...

...and yet, there are probably still muslims out there who think that the california supreme court ruling on gay marriage is more detrimental to the state of the ummah.

pj said...

I don't understand what all the fuss is about...and, I wish people would stop using "fatwa" right and left!

Anonymous said...

It's definitely not a happy situation...

My initial thoughts:

1. Was it that he discovered a hidden defect in her or that she perpetuated fraud for the purposes of luring him into the contract? In other words, did she out and out lie to him about her virginity?

2. Who wants to stay w/a guy who would put a woman thru such humiliation?

3. How did she lose her virginity? You can lose a hymen while horse back riding. And how did he find out the truth?

4. Is the contract analysis necessarily a bad thing? If I married a guy who lied about say having an STD or a child (actual big issues vs. his virginity), I would want a way out of the contract.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of comments there, and how this is a sad situation, but I don't think it's right to rule one concern "more right" than the other. I think it's very subjective to say that a person's concern over their spouse being a virgin is necessarily so much "more right" than whether he had a previous child.

Anonymous said...

If you continue reading, the article states that it's not the fact that she lost her virginity - it's the fact that she lied.

Only Allah swt knows what happened, there have been cases reported that women still have their hymen even after their relations with their husbands and it breaks a while after (a couple days or more)

I don't think this is the issue here. How or why things happened- it's not stated in the article.

How do we know that this could have been a mistake which she may have repented? She may have lied to cover up the shame from the past and make her future brighter and better? Wouldn't she have that right?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above statement. Regardless of how the government got involved in this, the biggest mistake is from the woman. If it is in fact true that she lied about her virginity - she deceived her fiance and this was wrong of her. I would be upset too if my fiance did the same thing to me.

But again, if we truly repent, Allah (swt) gives us the right to cover up our sins. So does this allow one to lie to their fiance about their virginity since they have a "clean slate" from repentance?

Bean said...

oh my goodness!! what the hell is wrong with all these ignorant fools!! there is NO WAY IN THE WORLD to biologically prove whether or not a woman is a virgin or not...a hymen is NOT an indicator because some women are born without one, have it broken in childhood, and/or it is no longer intact by the time they are older... whether or not a woman OR A MAN are virgins is between them and God unless they choose to say otherwise.

Feminist Muslimah said...

Here is some food for thought on lying in this case:

-Imam Abu Hammid Ghazali says: "Speaking is a means to achieve objectives. If a praiseworthy aim is attainable through both telling the truth and lying, it is unlawful to accomplish through lying because there is no need for it. When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible." (Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, The Reliance of the Traveller, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, amana publications, 1997, section r8.2, page 745)

*Couldn't we say that maybe this woman deemed marriage to this man a praiseworthy aim?

Additional reading material on not revealing sins (which sadly this man essentially did to his wife):

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, people really have too much time on their hands. The husband and wife both do not want to be in this marriage anymore. The husband has the right to ask for a divorce. He feels she was not a virgin and her statement is not stated so we take it as that. In the comments someone said that the husband uncovered her past sins, in this case it is allowed for a husband to go to a judge and state the facts. He did not go to the public he went to a judge! This case is silly... an appeal is happening even when both parties are perfectly fine with the decision. STRANGENESS!

Ahmed Ibn Aslam said...

As Salaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu!

To be honest I am extremely disturbed by all this nonsense. But it is not the story that disturbs me, it is the comments that people have posted.

Before I give my thoughts, please let me remind myself and the rest of you of a few sayings of the Prophet (SAW).

"A Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

"Part of someone's being a good Muslim is his leaving alone that which does not concern him." (Tirmidhi)

Both our Muslim brother and sister that are being talked about in this article have gone through enough, do you think they really want more people talking about their case? If you don’t agree with man's decision to annul the marriage, well then you are entitled to your opinion. If in this case it is actually true that she made a mistake and “lied”, then we must realize that we are all human and we all make mistakes.

But do we really need to post this article in the first place? Do we really need to give our comments about what we think? If you were the woman or even the man in this case, would you like if your own Muslim brothers and sisters were talking about your "virginity"? Or if what you did was right or wrong? It’s done. You cannot change the outcome. What happened is between them and Allah. Your opinions and comments only help continue the spreading of this case. This is their honor that we are talking about. Please, I advise that whatever you have to say, just keep it to yourself.

What can you do? Make dua for BOTH your Muslim brother and sister. Make dua that their matter is settled, that they are granted what is best for them in this dunya and the akhira. Make dua that Allah makes it easy on them. Simply the "kuffar" are trying to humiliate Muslims, why are we helping them? Why? What happened to covering the faults of your Muslim brothers and sisters? Fine the "kuffar" want to talk about it, then let them, but please don’t help them.

Don’t ask about details in the case, it doesn’t do anyone any good. Don’t pass your judgment on the brother or the sister, Allah SWT is the only judge that matters.

Just to clear up a few misconceptions:
1. If the woman did "lie", then the man has an Islamic rite to annul the marriage. Yes in certain situations lying may be deemed okay, but when contracts are involved, it is NOT permissible to lie. We are not allowed to look down upon our Muslim brother for his decision.

2. If the woman did "lie", we are not allowed to look down upon her. We are all human and all of us make mistakes. We must remember Allah forgives all sins except shirk.

3. We are NOT allowed to speak about what is right and wrong in Islam just based on our whims and desires. We are to turn to the Book of Allah and to the Sunnah of his Messenger in all issues of religion. If we do not find the ruling in either of the two sources, then we must turn to the sayings of the Companions, then the Tabieen, and then the scholars of Islam (i.e. Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Shafiee, Imam Ahmad, Ibn Taymiyah, etc.).

I know this is a blog, and people are allowed to give their ideas, opinions, and all that other fun stuff, but please defend the honor of your Muslim Brother and Sister. If you wish to learn from the issue and develop your own opinion then I recommend you go talk to your local Shaykh about it, and inshaAllah it can be a learning experience.

Just to gain basic knowledge about marriage in a general sense I recommend a book called, "The Concise Presentation of the Fiqh." The book was originally written in Arabic but Alhamdulilah was translated by Sheikh Jamal Zarabozo and is published by the International Islamic Publishing House (IIPH). It is an extremely beneficial book and covers many aspects of fiqh.

I apologize for the lengthy response but inshaAllah it serves as a reminder to all of us. Please take what I said with a grain of salt, and forgive me if I sounded harsh. It was not my intention. Like I have already stated, I know we all have opinions, ideas, and comments but sometimes it is best to keep those to ourselves when it has to do with the honor of our brothers and sisters. Wa Allahu ta'3al A'3lam.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the issue is whether she is a virgin or not. It is more about being honest. Reasons for a marriage anulment include fraud. If she misrepresented herself in anything, finances, virginity, etc. the husband has a right for an anulment. I think people are making it a bigger deal then it is because it has to do with Muslims. She lied and misrepresented herself, end of story.

Just Trying said...

-"In the comments someone said that the husband uncovered her past sins, in this case it is allowed for a husband to go to a judge and state the facts. He did not go to the public he went to a judge!"

Going to a judge is the same as going to the public. There is no judge-citizen privacy privilege. If he had gone to an imam it may have been different, but taking a matter to court makes it PUBLIC RECORD.

-"This case is silly... an appeal is happening even when both parties are perfectly fine with the decision."

Agreed. I wonder what the technicalities of this are.

-The contract analysis that seems to be a theme here, where we treat marriage as nothing more than a legal contract voidable for fraud, seems to make sense. It's sad that we have reached a place where people would put love and mercy aside but at the same time there are benefits for all parties involved if we can remove emotion from the equation. I'd be curious to know if there were any social science studies available that maybe collected data on the ability of each gender to separate out emotion.

Huda Shaka` said...

Moderator's comment:

In order to encourage discussion all comments on this post were approved – thank you to all who took the time to comment and share their thoughts.

In the future, it would be appreciated if visitors could refrain from questioning the posting or commenting of others on the blog and focus on sharing their personal thoughts and opinions. Mutual understanding and respect outside as well as within the Muslim community is something the Muslamics team strives to promote through our humble efforts.

At the end of the day, the point of this post was not to judge the brother or sister, or to discuss their mistakes, but to raise the issue of the interaction between Muslim marriages and the Western secular law. There may be a larger lesson to be learnt from this incident.

Anonymous said...

Someone said: Going to a judge is the same as going to the public. There is no judge-citizen privacy privilege. If he had gone to an imam it may have been different, but taking a matter to court makes it PUBLIC RECORD.

This statement is true in a sense.. however was an Islamic Judge (not all imams are qualified Judges) available, also maybe that had a marriage that was recognized by court and thus it can only be annulled a certain way... and that is through court. Maybe there was other situations involved like money or something and there was a risk of one of the parties not upholding to rights given in islam to both parties.... i mean the list goes on... yes it would have been better to go to an islamic judge but I know many circumstances where it is needed to go to the judges of the government (unfortunately) to get your due rights that islam have given us... etc. So in the end we can not judge them if they did anything right or wrong as we do not know the details.

Zahra Billoo said...

More details from the French case, and how exactly the wife's "fraud" was made PUBLIC, are available in the NY Times piece on hymen reconstruction surgery: