The in-laws


And then, speaking of where you’d prefer to live, there’s life with Ismail Belghar of somewhere in New South Wales.

Belghar, who has been married to his wife for 11 years, became aware she had been to the beach in late 2009 because her shoulders were slightly sunburned.

He rang his sister-in-law and said: “You slut, how dare you take my wife to the beach.”

Just before Christmas, 2009, Ms Kokden came face to face with Belghar while out shopping with her brother at the Broadway Shopping Centre.

Belghar slapped her across the face then carried her to the railing around the car park where he held her out over it.

She was freed when her brother tackled Belghar.

Family life, eh?

The court heard, because of his religious beliefs and because he thought he had absolute authority over her, Belghar felt it “abhorrent” that his wife, Hanife Kokden, had been to the beach where she “displayed her body”.

In March, Judge Ronald Solomon had granted Belghar a trial before a judge sitting alone after agreeing he may not receive a fair trial with a jury.

“The attitude of (Belghar) … is based on a religious or cultural basis. In light of the fact there has been adverse publicity regarding people who hold extreme Muslim faith beliefs in the community, I am of the view that the apprehension by (Belghar) that he may not receive a fair trial is a reasonable apprehension,” Judge Solomon said.

Nicely circular, innit. Belghar has disgusting religious beliefs, along with an opinion that he has absolute authority over his wife. He might not get a fair trial because a jury might dislike his disgusting religious and spousal beliefs. Therefore he can get a judge all to himself.

So the more disgusting your beliefs (and their resulting actions) are, the more special treatment you should get? Is that the logic?

An appeals court overruled the judge, so if that is the logic I guess the court didn’t accept it.

Comments

  1. John C. says

    He’s an immigrant. Can’t he be deported whence he came, whose customs and mores and mores he obviously seems to prefer?

  2. Trebuchet says

    He’s an immigrant. Can’t he be deported whence he came, whose customs and mores and mores he obviously seems to prefer?

    Probably his wife would have to go with him. Not so good.

  3. says

    This story is awful. He doesn’t own his wife, nor does he have the right to abuse his sister-in-law. Let him be punished with the full weight of the law.

    Belghar has disgusting religious beliefs, along with an opinion that he has absolute authority over his wife. He might not get a fair trial because a jury might dislike his disgusting religious and spousal beliefs.

    No, Ms Benson. This is not about the jury disliking his particular religious beliefs (which are disgusting). This is about the jury being ignorant about or prejudiced against Islam as a whole, and being unable to judge his case objectively because he is a Muslim. If this case were about a fundamentalist Christian man who abused his wife and sister-in-law, there would be less chance of bias, because the average Australian has more contextual knowledge about the Christian religion, and our media do not routinely portray all Christians as weird, foreign, evil, anti-democratic, un-Australian terrorists.

    I’m not saying that the trial by judge was necessarily justified (obviously the appeals court felt the same way as you), but I don’t think it was so clear cut.

    John C:

    He’s an immigrant. Can’t he be deported whence he came, whose customs and mores and mores he obviously seems to prefer?

    I don’t know if this was a serious question. Why should he face deportation simply because he’s an immigrant? Presumably he’s a PR or citizen now, entitled to the same rights as any other Australian. Many Australian-born people commit acts of violence and they are not threatened by deportation, yet whenever a person of immigrant background commits such an offence, the calls of “let’s kick ‘em out of the country” emerge from the crowd. I’m an immigrant myself, and I’m entitled to the same rights as anyone else. Let him be punished as any other Australian would, neither more nor less.

  4. Alex SL says

    Let him be punished as any other Australian would, neither more nor less.

    That’s the same I always said when this came up in my home country. Never understood why an ethnic German thief in Germany should go to prison but an ethnic, say, Romanian thief in Germany should be deported to Romania.

  5. Ysanne says

    Thanks, Winterwind and Alex SL.

    Even on this blog, the jump from “guy with disgusting attitude (that he justifies by what he calls religion)” to “muslim, therefore immigrant, let’s kick him out” is awfully short (even though the guy could well be an Australian citizen). Having lived as an immigrant in various countries for most of my life, I’m very aware of how the next logical step for many is “all immigrants, muslims and generally all brown-looking people are uncivilised lazy criminals with disgusting views and should be deported asap”. (Especially lovely to listen to when the speaker happens to be my taxi driver at 11pm in Australian suburbia, and will probably notice I’m an immigrant myself the second I open my mouth.)
    Which is why it’s not all that far-fetched to give the question a thought whether a jury would be prejudiced against Belghar because of his religion. In this particular instance, I completely agree with the appeals court and Ophelia that there’s no reason for special treatment, as the disgusting religious beliefs are not a prejudice, but his actual reason for assaulting his sister-in-law.

  6. says

    Ysanne,

    Agreed, except that in my experience the last person to be driving the taxi would be a native-born Australian like myself. Thus the judgements the taxi drivers come out with might represent mainstream opinion, or might be frankly stated minority views.

    Part of the problem is due to the understandable desire of immigrants to leave behind whatever it was that caused them to leave or drove them out of their old country, only to continue their ‘normal’ Muslim life here. The last thing they want to do is adopt the values and norms of mainstrem Australia. So it’s down to the beach in sharia costume: the full beach bourker, which leaves the neck-to-knee bathers of the 1890s looking like a bunch of naked hippies.

    Then it’s probably round to the mosque for a tirade from the imam on the shameless society they have to live in here; but never mind, Islam is on the way to total victory over the unbelievers.

    As we used to say the the ‘whingeing Poms’ who preceded them: if its all so bloody crook here, why don’t you go back to where you came from? In the circumstances, it was a reasonable question.

  7. says

    Point of clarification re #7:

    A ‘whingeing Pom’ is a disgruntled English person. The term for some reason has never included the Scots, Welsh and Irish.

    ;-)

  8. julian says

    This is about the jury being ignorant about or prejudiced against Islam as a whole, and being unable to judge his case objectively because he is a Muslim.

    If the jury is prejudiced against Islam wouldn’t they similarly be prejudiced against religions they perceive to be extreme? Like a fundamentalist Christian beating his daughter because she spoke rudely to him? Wouldn’t the same disdain and prejudice also apply?

  9. says

    Winterwind –

    This is not about the jury disliking his particular religious beliefs (which are disgusting). This is about the jury being ignorant about or prejudiced against Islam as a whole, and being unable to judge his case objectively because he is a Muslim.

    But the two are not mutually exclusive. That was my point – to bracket the specifics in order to point out how stupid the core idea is.

    Voire dire is supposed to be able to weed out people who are prejudiced against various items relevant to the case. The opposing lawyers ask questions for that purpose. Jurors can of course dissemble, but that’s a general problem, not one specific to this case.

  10. says

    Even on this blog, the jump from “guy with disgusting attitude (that he justifies by what he calls religion)” to “muslim, therefore immigrant, let’s kick him out” is awfully short

    Well, when you say “on this blog” you must mean in comments on this blog, because I don’t say things like that. Just for one thing, I don’t think kicking someone out solves anything at all, it just transfers it. I don’t want to deport reactionary misogynist men so that they can abuse women somewhere else, I want them to stop abusing women anywhere.

  11. ttch says

    I’m confused as to why the prosecution opposed this since bench trials tend to be cheaper and faster than jury trials. Was the prosecution especially wary of this judge for some reason?

    Regardless, you neglected to note the end of the story: That, after the Appeals court nixed the defendant’s request, he pled guilty to a lesser offense and is due to be sentenced.

  12. says

    @julian:

    Most members of the public would view any fundamentalist religion in a negative light. However, a case can be made that they are more likely to be biased against fundamentalist Islam than Christianity. The average Australian is exposed to more positive images of Christianity (church with their parents and grandparents, Christmas presents, Easter holidays, ideas of love and forgiveness) compared with images of Islam (as I said in my post, “… our media do not routinely portray all Christians as weird, foreign, evil, anti-democratic, un-Australian terrorists.”)

    However, using this reasoning, any group that is regularly vilified by the media could claim protection: paedophiles, investment bankers, politicians, sexual predators etc. I haven’t quite made up my mind. I believe the law should take into account circumstances including prejudice, but equal treatment and the right to be tried by a jury are obviously important.

    Ian MacDougall:

    As we used to say the the ‘whingeing Poms’ who preceded them: if its all so bloody crook here, why don’t you go back to where you came from? In the circumstances, it was a reasonable question.

    But this man didn’t complain about Australian values or whinge about how bad things are over here. He assaulted his sister-in-law and wife. When Matthew Newton bashed his girlfriend, I didn’t hear anyone saying we should ship him back to Britain where his ancestors came from, because he obviously doesn’t treat women with respect the way real Australians (TM) do. Maybe the fact that Newton has blond hair, blue eyes and a baby face has something to do with it? When swimmer Nick D’Arcy smashed Simon Cowley’s face open, I didn’t hear anyone say, “Bloody whites. If they want to act like thugs and brawl in public, why don’t they go back where they came from?” Did you?

    People are making assumptions about this man and suggesting deportation simply because he’s a migrant of non-European background.

  13. Ysanne says

    Firstly, @Ophelia,
    I’m sorry for the ambiguous wording: I absolutely did not mean you at all with “on this blog”, but the comments, specifically #1. I was really taken aback that even in the presumably quite liberal readership of your blog, such a comment would pop up right away. My apologies, I didn’t want to imply you said anything like that.

    @Ian,
    yep, this was my only native Aussie taxi driver since I moved here 2 years ago.
    And I definitely disagree on immigrants generally not wanting to adopt Australian (or whatever) values. It’s only that one doesn’t notice the ones that do, because they’re just, well, normal, and blend in with the rest of the non-reddish-blond crowd. (Including my Iranian co-worker, who celebrates muslim holidays, while currently experimenting with the subtler points of cooking perfect bacon.) Of course it’s the fully veiled women who stick out like a sore thumb. But when I meet some of them (or their husbands) at kindy during drop-off and pick-up, they are completely ok people just like the other parents, and so are their kids, including daughters. I guess I don’t mind if people live in a “weird” way, as long as it’s their voluntary choice and they don’t force it on anyone (including family members).

  14. says

    Winterwind: “But this man didn’t complain about Australian values or whinge about how bad things are over here. He assaulted his sister-in-law and wife….” For going to the beach without his permission.

    So what is he doing in a country where only kids need someone’s permission to go to the beach, or anywhere else?

    Presumably he came to Australia because he found something about it considerably preferable to his native Islamistan. So IMHO the best advice is that which St Augustine would give him: when in Australia, do as the Australians do.

    Ysanne: suggest you keep that advice handy for the next disgruntled Islamic migrant, taxi driver, whingeing Pom… whatever.

  15. says

    Ian MacDougall:

    So what is he doing in a country where only kids need someone’s permission to go to the beach, or anywhere else?

    The same thing Craig Thomson was doing when he committed fraud in a country where people don’t abuse others’ money? The same thing Matthew Newman was doing when he bashed his girlfriend in a country where domestic violence is unacceptable? i.e., living here? The mere fact that a person lives here doesn’t mean they’ll share mainstream Australian values or that they’ll always follow the law. Does that mean we should deport them? Only if they’re migrants, it seems.

    I support same-sex marriage, unlike the majority of Australians. I also oppose mandatory detention of asylum seekers, am opposed to taxpayer-funded chaplains in public schools, and support a carbon tax. Using your argument, because I don’t share mainstream Australian values, I should move to a country like Holland. Does that sound fair or reasonable to you?

    If domestic violence is not punishable by deportation for a native-born Australian, it should not be punishable by deportation for an Australian of migrant background.

  16. says

    Winterwind:

    “…The same thing Craig Thomson was doing when he committed fraud in a country where people don’t abuse others’ money? The same thing Matthew Newman was doing when he bashed his girlfriend in a country where domestic violence is unacceptable? i.e., living here? The mere fact that a person lives here doesn’t mean they’ll share mainstream Australian values or that they’ll always follow the law. Does that mean we should deport them? Only if they’re migrants, it seems….”

    I have trouble following your logic.

    If he came here from Islamistan expecting to be able to continue behaving according to the norms of Islamistan, then he has had his inevitable shock.

    If Belghar has neither permanent residency nor a desire to obey the law (he does not have to support it philosophically) then I suppose the number of people favouring his eventual deportation can only grow. It would probably finish up including me.

    “… I support same-sex marriage, unlike the majority of Australians. I also oppose mandatory detention of asylum seekers, am opposed to taxpayer-funded chaplains in public schools, and support a carbon tax. Using your argument, because I don’t share mainstream Australian values, I should move to a country like Holland. Does that sound fair or reasonable to you?”

    Have you given Holland fair consideration? It could be an answer to one or two of your possible problems.

    As for me, I support immigration and border controls, have reservations about same sex marriage, do not believe in state-support for religion, and have been campaigning for years for a carbon tax.

    Of all the places overseas countries that I have visited so far, my favourites are Switzerland, France, the US and Tasmania. I visit them for what they are, not what I might hope to push them towards becoming.
    ;-)

    (http://noahsarc.wordpress.com/carbon-abatement-submission-condensed/ )

  17. says

    Ian MacDougall:

    I have trouble following your logic.

    As simply as possible: locally born Australians and migrant Australians should receive similar punishments for similar offences.

    Migrants include citizens, PRs and those on temporary visas such as student, work, humanitarian, etc.. Migrant citizens and PRs should be treated exactly the same as locally born citizens (except where citizenship and permanent residence entail different rights and responsibilities). Holders of temporary visas may have special conditions like study or work requirements, which, if breached, may result in loss of visa and deportation.

    If he came here from Islamistan expecting to be able to continue behaving according to the norms of Islamistan, then he has had his inevitable shock.

    Yes. Sometimes new migrants have trouble adjusting to the culture of their new country. The question is whether they should be deported for committing a crime when a locally born Australian would not be deported for the same offence.

    If Belghar has neither permanent residency nor a desire to obey the law (he does not have to support it philosophically) then I suppose the number of people favouring his eventual deportation can only grow. It would probably finish up including me.

    The article refers to him as an immigrant from Morocco. We don’t know if he’s a citizen, PR or holder of a work/student visa. I’m assuming he’s a PR or citizen, because presumably if he were on a temporary visa it would have been mentioned, and committing a crime would probably invalidate his visa.

    I would not support deportation of anyone unless they had breached the conditions of their visa or committed something like high treason.

    If you’re going to make disrespect of women’s autonomy a deportable offence, you’d have to deport a significant number of Australians. If you wanted to go further and deport all the racist, homophobic, sexist, misogynistic and otherwise prejudiced people, the remaining population of Australia would be about 500 and consist entirely of newborn infants and people in comas.

    Have you given Holland fair consideration? It could be an answer to one or two of your possible problems.

    How rude. My having different values and/or political opinions from you is not a “problem” that makes me unfit to continue living in my own country.

    I suppose if this were 1900 and I supported female suffrage, you would tell me to move to New Zealand rather than change “Australian culture.”

    No, I haven’t seriously considered moving to Holland. I don’t see why I should uproot my life and leave all my friends, family and happy memories behind. Not to mention the enormous expense. I don’t think that wanting to make my country a fairer and more compassionate place is a “possible problem.”

    No doubt this is an example of Australian humour, a phrase like “Australian values,” which means all things to all people (in this case flippancy in the face of a serious issue).

    Of all the places overseas countries that I have visited so far, my favourites are Switzerland, France, the US and Tasmania. I visit them for what they are, not what I might hope to push them towards becoming.

    Mainstream values change from generation to generation. Often this is a good thing. 300 years ago in the US one could keep slaves. It is not my intention to push Australia into anything, only to be a good, thoughtful and responsible citizen. If that includes “pushing” our society towards a more ethical, responsible place, at the cost of a little social friction, that can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

    There are people with your view in Afghanistan, saying to women, “If you want female equality, education and suffrage, go to a Western country. Don’t push our society into something it’s not.” There are people all over the world saying, “We can’t stop genital mutilation/homophobia/child marriage/denying women the right to vote… this is our culture, our country, the way we’ve always done things. If you don’t like it, don’t try to change us, just go somewhere else.” No thoughtful person can buy this argument. Social change is a reality, often a positive one.

  18. says

    Winterwind:

    “Migrant citizens and PRs should be treated exactly the same as locally born citizens (except where citizenship and permanent residence entail different rights and responsibilities).”

    This is precisely the point I am making. Native-born citizens of any country cannot normally be deported, except from somewhere like Stalin’s Russia. But it has long been generally regarded as objectionable for people to come here ‘seeking a better life’ and then start complaining like buggery that this country lacks social customs, geographical phenomena and whatever of the country they left behind. If their thoughts turn to actions, they may well be deported.

    The precise issue in Belghar’s case is whether or not he has or should have property rights over his wife that he would have back in Islamistan. Though he appears to think otherwise, he is not free to behave here as if he were back there. End of story.

    If people do not have status that stops them being deported, they may find themselves outward bound, and on a one-way trip. Gone.

    From your post #18: “…Using your argument, because I don’t share mainstream Australian values, I should move to a country like Holland. Does that sound fair or reasonable to you?”

    My response to this was a thought in jocular, somewhat ironic, sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek lateral vein: “Have you given Holland fair consideration? It could be an answer to one or two of your possible problems.”

    But you chose to take it another more serious way: “How rude. My having different values and/or political opinions from you is not a problem that makes me unfit to continue living in my own country.”

    Holland, with all its wintry winds, Winterwind, was your own suggestion.

    On the other hand, some would maintain that the message received is the message sent. But not me.

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