The spread of Islamic Sharia law in Germany is far more advanced than previously thought, and German authorities are "powerless" to do anything about it, according to a new book about the Muslim shadow justice system in Germany.

The 236-page book titled "Judges Without Law: Islamic Parallel Justice Endangers Our Constitutional State," which was authored by Joachim Wagner, a German legal expert and former investigative journalist for ARD German public television, says Islamic Sharia courts are now operating in all of Germany's big cities.

This "parallel justice system" is undermining the rule of law in Germany, Wagner says, because Muslim arbiters-cum-imams are settling criminal cases out of court without the involvement of German prosecutors or lawyers before law enforcement can bring the cases to a German court.

Settlements reached by the Muslim mediators often mean perpetrators are able to avoid long prison sentences, while victims receive large sums in compensation or have their debts cancelled, in line with Sharia law, according to Wagner. In return, they are required to make sure their testimony in court does not lead to a conviction.

German police do investigate cases involving serious crimes. But parallel to that, special Muslim arbitrators, also known as "peace judges," are commissioned by the families concerned to mediate and reach an out-of-court settlement.

In an interview with the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Wagner said political correctness in Germany is contributing to the problem: "I've studied 16 recent crime cases here with Muslim citizens involved. In almost 90% of all cases where Muslim arbitrators were commissioned, the perpetrators were acquitted by German courts or the cases were dropped altogether by the prosecution for lack of evidence. It's an alarming finding, and it throws a bad light on our courts."

In fact, German judges often refer and/or defer to Sharia law. For example, the Federal Social Court in Kassel recently supported the claim of a second wife for a share of her dead husband's pension payments, which his first wife wanted to keep all to herself. The judge ruled they should share the pension.

In another case, the Administrative Appeals Court in Koblenz granted the second wife of an Iraqi living in Germany, the right to stay in the country. She had already been married to him and living in Germany for five years, after which the court said it would not be fair to send her to Iraq alone.

A judge in Cologne ruled that an Iranian man should repay his wife's dowry of 600 gold coins to her after their divorce – referring to the Sharia which is followed in Iran. A court in Düsseldorf arrived at a similar verdict, forcing a Turkish man to repay a €30,000 ($43,000) dowry to his former daughter-in-law.

In March 2007, Judge Christa Datz-Winter, a judge at Frankfurt's family court cited the Islamic Koran in a divorce case involving a 26-year-old German woman of Moroccan origin, who was terrified of her violent Moroccan husband, a man who had continued to threaten her despite having been ordered to stay away by the authorities. He had beaten his wife and he had allegedly threatened to kill her.

Judge Datz-Winter refused to grant the divorce, arguing that a woman who marries a Muslim should know what she is getting herself into. In her ruling, the judge quoted Sura 4, verse 34 of the Koran. She wrote that the Koran contains "both the husband's right to use corporal punishment against a disobedient wife and the establishment of the husband's superiority over the wife."

In February 2011, Germany's Federal Labor Court ruled that a Muslim supermarket employee can refuse to handle alcohol on religious grounds. The case in question involved a Muslim man who was employed in a supermarket in the northern German city of Kiel. He refused to stock shelves with alcoholic drinks, saying that his religion forbade him from any contact with alcohol, and was dismissed as a result in March 2008.

In an interview with the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Wagner described the Islamic shadow justice system in Germany as "very foreign, and for a German lawyer, completely incomprehensible at first. It follows its own rules. The Islamic arbitrators aren't interested in evidence when they deliver a judgment, and unlike in German criminal law, the question of who is at fault doesn't play much of a role."

When Der Spiegel asked why it was wrong for two parties to try to resolve a dispute between themselves, Wagner replied: "The problem starts when the arbitrators force the justice system out of the picture, especially in the case of criminal offenses. At that point they undermine the state monopoly on violence. Islamic conflict resolution in particular, as I've experienced it, is often achieved through violence and threats. It's often a dictate of power on the part of the stronger family."

Wagner's findings largely confirm a report published by the German Interior Ministry in 2009 which warned that Islamic groups in Germany want to live under Sharia law in Germany.

Wagner's book comes at a time when Germany is immersed in a heated national debate over Muslim immigration. That debate was launched in August 2010 with the publication of a best-selling book titled "Germany Does Away With Itself," which broke Germany's long-standing taboo on discussing the impact of Muslim immigration.

Authored by Thilo Sarrazin, a renowned German banker who is also a long-time member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), the book is now on its 20th edition. At last count, more than 1.5 million copies have been sold, making it one of the most widely read titles in Germany since the Second World War.

Sarrazin's book has resonated with vast numbers of ordinary Germans who are becoming increasingly uneasy about the social changes that are transforming Germany, largely due to the presence of millions of non-integrated Muslims in the country.

German President Christian Wulff has tried to defuse the row ignited by Sarrazin. During a keynote speech to mark the 20th anniversary of German reunification on October 3, 2010, Wulff proclaimed that "Islam belongs in Germany" because of the four million Muslims who now live there. Germany has Western Europe's second-biggest Islamic population after France, with Turks the single biggest minority.

Opinion polls, however, show broad public support for Sarrazin's argument that many Muslim immigrants shut themselves off from Germany, do not speak German and do not share the German, European or Western worldview.

According to a poll conducted by the mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag, 89% of those surveyed say Sarrazin's arguments are convincing. "For them, Sarrazin is somebody who is finally saying what many are thinking," according to the pollsters.

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a think tank linked to the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), recently published a survey which found that many Germans believe their country is being "overrun" by Muslim immigrants. It also found that these views are not isolated at the extremes of German society, but are to a large degree "at the center of it."

An opinion survey, "Perception and Acceptance of Religious Diversity," conducted by the sociology department of the University of Münster, in partnership with the prestigious TNS Emnid political polling firm, shows that only 34% of West Germans and 26% of East Germans have a positive view of Muslims. Fewer than 5% of Germans think Islam is a tolerant religion, and only 30% say they approve of the building of mosques. The number of Germans who approve of the building of minarets or the introduction of Muslim holidays is even lower.

Fewer than 10% of West Germans and 5% of East Germans say that Islam is a peaceful religion. More than 40% of Germans believe that the practice of Islam should be vigorously restricted.

Only 20% of Germans believe that Islam is suitable for the Western world. Significantly, and more than 80% of Germans agree with the statement "that Muslims must adapt to our culture."

As the political winds shift, so are German politicians. After initially distancing herself from Sarrazin's views, German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently said Germany's roots are Judeo-Christian. She also said: "Now we obviously have Muslims in Germany. But it is important in regard to Islam that the values represented by Islam must correspond with our constitution. What applies here is the constitution, not Sharia law."

But the proliferation of Sharia law in Germany suggests Merkel is mistaken: Sharia law now does apply in Germany.

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