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The case for the defence - blame the cultural bogeyman

By Waleed Aly - posted Tuesday, 25 October 2005

Very little of what I was taught in my second-year criminal law class remains in my memory, but I will never forget the day we encountered R v Dincer. This was a homicide case in which a man became so enraged with his daughter's premarital relationship that he killed her.

A straightforward case of murder? Not quite. You see, the father was a Turkish Muslim who had one legal trick up his sleeve: provocation.

Dincer's lawyers implored the jury to consider how offensive his daughter's conduct would have been to her father. They argued that an ordinary Turkish Muslim might be provoked to execute their daughter in these circumstances, and that accordingly, his crime should be reduced from murder to manslaughter. Worst of all, it worked. A rotten exploitation of a rotten defence.


I felt sick and enraged as I sat in that classroom. Here was a man, through his lawyers, using my faith as an excuse for what should rightly have been murder. As if he wouldn't have been such a bad guy if he hadn't been handicapped by his religion and culture. In truth, this man was a barbarian and his local Turkish community agreed. They completely shunned him on his release.

If Dincer's story has a familiar ring to it, you can thank convicted gang rapist MSK. His barrister has just told the NSW Supreme Court that his sentence should be reduced because, like Dincer, his barbarism can also be blamed on the cultural bogeyman. Presumably with a straight face, he argued that MSK's crimes were inevitable because the "cultural conditioning" of his upbringing in Pakistan made him "a cultural time bomb".

Such immoral arguments are becoming all too common. Only last year an African Muslim woman's lawyers told a Melbourne court that she was obliged to carry out her husband's orders to kill another woman. This was pursuant to - wait for it - a religious obligation to obey her husband. Wonderful.

It won't do. No law or moral code of decency, least of all an Islamic one, tolerates the deplorable murder or rape of people, irrespective of the culture or religion of the assailant. One must sink to the depths of egotism and immorality to lay the blame for their barbaric criminality at the door of a rich cultural tradition, or worse still, God.

It's "the devil made me do it" in theological reverse, and it's irredeemably disgusting.

No one benefits from entertaining these depraved excuses. Not Muslims who have had enough of seeing Islam being so unrecognisably distorted and grotesquely abused. Not the millions of Turks, Pakistanis and Africans whose proud heritages are being so thoroughly defamed. Not Australian society, and certainly not the victims of these crimes who deserve justice at the very least.


There is simply no case for putting up with it. Muslims don't tolerate such pathetic excuses for barbarism. Australian law shouldn't either.

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Article edited by Allan Sharp.
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First published in The Australian on October 21, 2005.

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About the Author

Waleed Aly, a Melbourne lawyer, is a member of the Islamic Council of Victoria executive. He is a lecturer in the Global Terrorism Research Centre at Monash Univeristy. His book, People Like Us (Picador), will be published in September.

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