Law and Religion Clash in France

June 2, 2008

Author: Katrin Bennhold

Source: The International Herald Tribune

Forty years after the sexual revolution in France, the country is confronted with a question it thought it would never have to ask again: Can a husband annul a marriage because his new wife is not a virgin?

The discovery last week that a court in the northern city of Lille had annulled the union of two Muslims because the husband said his wife was not the virgin she had claimed to be has set off a highly charged and highly politicized debate in a country where religion is not supposed to interfere with public life.

It has also sharpened the focus on much broader questions that all of Europe is grappling with: How much should European countries adapt their moral and legal codes to their growing Muslim communities, and how much should those communities be expected to conform to Western norms?