Here’s a rather odd twist on what one would expect in a case involving a Muslim divorce agreement — one where the Muslim legal principle would actually be better for the wife than what American law provides. But a Kansas court rejected the wife’s attempts to enforce what is called a “mahr contract” because it was contrary to the requirements of American law.
The case involves an Iranian couple, Faramarz (“Fred”) Soleimani and Elham Moghadam. The husband has lived in America for decades, almost all of that time married to another woman. In 2009, he brought Moghadam over from Iran and married her (they were married in Iran first, then in the United States in a civil ceremony). Two years later, she filed for divorce, alleging rape and abuse. And she wanted the court to enforce a mahr agreement that they had signed that would require him to pay her $677,000. But the court refused to do so, on several grounds.
The parties agreed in the Pretrial Order to the application of Kansas law. By urging the Court to adopt and interpret a mahr contract that is written in Farsi and dictated by interpretations of Iranian and/or religious law, the Court would be compelled to apply a contract 1) it cannot read and 2) that is contrary to the public policy of Kansas law….
Another cautionary concern in enforcing a mahr agreement is that they stem from jurisdictions that do not separate church and state, and may, in fact, embed discrimination through religious doctrine. This, in turn, creates an obvious tension between the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses under the federal constitution [and similar state provisions]….Perpetuating such discrimination under the guise of judicial sensitivity to Establishment Clause prohibitions would, in effect, abdicate the judiciary’s overall constitutional role to protect such fundamental rights…. Even assuming this Court could interpret the contract, it would then be put in the dilemma of fashioning a remedy under a contract that clearly emanates from a legal code that may be antithetical to Kansas law.
There’s a lot of other stuff in there about both parties being broke (the husband is unemployed and the wife is now homeless), and the court did order the husband to pay spousal support. But it refused to enforce an agreement written in Farsi (without a competent translation, apparently) and based upon Iranian and Islamic law because it was contrary to the requirements of Kansas law. But I’m sure Pam Geller, Frank Gaffney, Robert Spencer and David Yerushalmi will be along any minute now to declare that this is proof that the courts are enforcing Sharia law. You can read the full ruling here.