“‘Oh, now that they've left Christianity, they're fair game for us’ – that's not the moderate position, but that is the radical position,”Schwartz explained.
Schwartz’s concerns are echoed by a leading European expert on culture and religion.
“The idea that Muslims in Malta may benefit from the divorce law is not among the main topics on the agenda,” said Massimo Introvigne, founder of the Center for Studies on New Religions in Turin, Italy. “Nonetheless, some portions of the Muslim community are quite quick in taking advantage of legal innovations which have nothing to do with Islam.”
Introvigne said radical Muslims have already taken advantage of liberalizing trends in other European countries to push for a recognition of Sharia law.
He pointed to a case several years ago in the European Court of Human Rights. Muslim organizations petitioned the court to recognize polygamy in the United Kingdom, arguing that laws against the practice violated their religious liberty.
At the time, the U.K. had not yet introduced its same-sex “civil partnerships,” and the Muslim organizations lost their case.
However, same-sex partnerships have since been legalized in the U.K., so the Muslims are once more pursuing their claim. As Introvigne summarizes it, their argument is based precisely on the breakdown of traditional definitions of marriage: “That time, we lost the case because it was said that in the U.K. there is traditionally only one form of marriage. But now that there are two, with the inclusion of same-sex marriage, why not three?”
A similar situation could follow for Malta, if it chooses to permit divorce, Introvigne said.
“Some Muslim organizations may eventually take advantage of this for recognizing the practice of ‘repudiating’ women, which prevails under Islamic law.” The practices involves automatic divorce, by a husband's decree.
“I'm personally very much against the referendum on divorce in Malta, and I feel very strongly in favor of those who resist it,” Introvigne said. “I see the merit of those who are afraid that recognizing divorce in Malta may open the way for Islamic divorce.”
Introvigne said that Europe has followed a pattern of first legalizing divorce, then abortion, then same-sex marriage. Eventually, countries have no grounds to object when radical Muslims push for the practice of Sharia law as a form of legal “diversity.” That idea has already met with approval in some places in the U.K. and Australia.
(Story continues below)
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Although he stressed that not all Muslim immigrants to Europe are extremists, many do desire “the possibility for Muslims to live according to Sharia.”
Introvigne pointed out that one of the founders of modern radical Islam, Muslim Brotherhood founder Sayyid Qutb, had developed his vision of a global return to Islam's seventh-century roots by observing Western culture's loss of Christian morality.
“Qutb became a radical leader by being sent as an exchange student to the United States in the 1950s,” Introvigne said. He saw the state of Western culture as “evidence for Muslims, that they should move as far away as possible from ‘corrupted’ European civilization, and embrace Islamic radicalism.”
Divorce supporters who call for a more modern and “European” Malta should consider how contemporary European culture serves to radicalize Muslim immigrants, Introvigne said.
“Qutb already saw this ‘decadence’ in the America of the 1950s,” he pointed out. “It's much easier for radical Muslims to see this in the Europe of the 2010s.”
Anjem Choudary, an admirer of Osama Bin Laden who led the“Islam4UK” organization before it was banned, is among those Muslims who believes strict Islamic law is the answer to Europe's problems.