Thursday, May 15, 2008

Courts soft on crims who use religion as a defence

An Assyrian Christian has been convicted after hitting his 20-year-old daughter.

The reasons behind Ishak Ishak (pictured above) dishing-out his hiding to his daughter was that she was going out with a Muslim.

His daughters choice in suitor would have bought shame on his family and that was sufficient enough for him to act in what would be construed as a 'crime of honour'.

We are all familiar with 'Honour Crimes' from overseas, where male relatives pursue and sometimes kill female members of their family, but in this case, the crime occurred in suburban Wellington.

This wasn't Pakistan.

The Judge in the case told Ishak he had to comply with the laws of New Zealand and that she was concerned at his behaviour. But not apparently concerned enough to actually imprison him, instead sentencing him to come up for sentence if called upon within nine months.

In other words he was allowed to walk free from the court, setting either a dangerous precedent or merely re-enforcing religions status in 'the eyes of the law'?
It appears, at least looking at this case, religious beliefs can be used effectively as a defence against the full force of the law in terms of punishment at least. One's religious/cultural beliefs are evidently mitigating factors and will be taken into account when sentencing.

What other conclusion can be reached?

It was outlined in court Ishak had gone to his daughter's room while she was in bed to confront her about going out with a Muslim. He became angry and abusive and hit out at her several times while she cowered under a blanket.

Now let's see what would happen if we take the religious factor out of the case completely.

1.) Ishak,returns home from works, gets into an argument with his daughter,assaults her. He says in his defence "I was angry" & offers profuse regrets for his actions. It's likely the court would ensure he get's anger management to treat his problem.

2.) Ishak, comes home from the pub intoxicated and assaults his daughter. Doubtless in this example some drug & alcohol rehabilitation would be issued by the court.

Looking at these scenario's it's therefore prudent to ask - why didn't the judge restrict Ishak from practicing his religion?

He was open to the court his 'beliefs' were behind the attack, so the judge was in a position in this case to strike at the issue behind his criminal behaviour, in the same way were his defence team to blame alcohol as the catalyst.

But an individuals rights to practice their faith is sacresent, even when it leads to practices deemed criminal.

This we see, time after time.

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