Ismail Belghar, a 36-year-old Muslim man living in Australia, assaulted, abducted, and nearly killed his sister-in-law. The victim, a 25-year-old Moroccan named Canan Kokden, had dared to take her older sister, Mrs. B, to the beach without Belghar’s permission. This heinous effrontery was amplified, Belghar later recounted for police, when Mrs. B thereupon “displayed her body,” sustaining the shoulder sunburn that tipped him off.
To Australians, this may have been, well, just a day at the beach. For Belghar, though, it was an “abhorrent” offense against sharia, Islam’s legal code and comprehensive societal framework.
The telltale burn is also starting to show on the West’s shoulders, our courts of law. Australia has not changed Belghar, but the Belghars are changing Australia.
Innately, Islam is not moderate — just ask Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, who rejects as “ugly and offensive” the very term “moderate Islam.” Instead, Islam can be moderated, but only by a culture that is self-confident and self-assertive. Alas, that is no longer Western culture. So, the more Muslims immigrate, the less the West is moderating Islam. It is Islam that leaves its mark.
In the usual endearing family way, Belghar telephoned his sister-in-law to convey that he was a tad rankled: “You slut, how dare you take my wife to the beach!” Afterwards, happening upon Ms. Kokden at a shopping mall in New South Wales, he angrily confronted her, slapped her face, and dragged her to the railing of an over-ground parking lot. As he seemed ready to hurl her to the traffic below, her brother (Kokden’s chaperone at the mall) finally stirred himself to intervene, tackling the assailant. Belghar was charged with attempted murder, among other crimes.
As night follows day, Belghar’s defense counsel argued that his client could not get a fair trial because Australians are too Islamophobic: Once informed about the nature of the allegations and the fact that he is a Muslim, jurors would surely leap to the crazy, bigoted conclusion that Belghar was probably guilty of this “honor beating” — which, in fact, he was. Just as he was, precisely, motivated by his Islamic beliefs.
Enter the jurist assigned to the case, the pitch-perfectly named Ronald Solomon. He ruled that, yes, Belghar would be compelled to stand trial, but also that the case would have to be decided by a factfinder Judge Solomon could trust. No doubt you’ll be stunned to learn that this reasonable, objective, and culturally sensitive factfinder turned out to be . . . Judge Solomon himself. After all, ordinary citizens with nothing but their common sense to fall back on lack the juridical acumen needed to weigh what Solomon gently called Belghar’s “attitude,” “based on a religious or cultural bias,” that he had absolute authority over his wife.
This Solomon was splitting not just the baby but the country. As the Australian government contended on appeal, if the judge were correct, an entirely separate system of due process would be required just for Muslims. Every Islamic defendant would be entitled to evade the judgment of the community — that judgment being the whole point of having a judicial system. Muslims would instead get their own system, bringing to bear not the judgment of the community but that of trained lawyers, specially attuned to Islam’s various eccentricities.