Ignorance of the Law is no Defense unless…

…unless you’re a Bangladeshi Muslim Woman in the UK. Then it’s all good

A BANGLADESHI woman who shook a baby boy so violently that he suffered brain damage walked free from court yesterday because a judge conceded that she did not know how to behave in the West.

Rahella Khanom, 24, caused the five-month-old boy in her care to suffer fractures to his breast bone and ribs as she tried to rid him of evil spirits, Southwark Crown Court was told.

The injuries inflicted on the child over several weeks had caused one side of his brain to shrink. It was believed that the boy would have been screaming in agony for eight weeks because his injuries went untreated.

…The court was told that Khanom, a Muslim, did not understand that shaking a helpless baby would not exorcise an evil spirit.


p>The judge issued a verdict which is almost its own caricature of a relativist, multiculturalist world gone astray -

the judge said that Khanom’s strong cultural and religious beliefs, and the fact that she had been forced by her husband to live in isolation since coming to Britain from Bangladesh, meant that there were exceptional circumstances in her case.

One can only imagine other, future defenses inspired by the socio-cultural isolation tank argument.

117 thoughts on “Ignorance of the Law is no Defense unless…

  1. Lots of folks seem to be missing the point here. Although pointing out that she was a “Bangladeshi Muslim” may have been a harmless detail to provide texture to a story, we have to read between the lines a bit. Were the woman Christian, the article would not have simply referred to the woman as a “Christian woman,”

    No it would have been mentioned…unless she was a mainstream anglican. But the injuries are severe and there is the whole bit of superstition. If the woman had been a non mainstream christian who beleived in exorcism it would have been a big deal too. If papa ratzy kills a baby during exorcism his being a catholic would be reminded over and over again.

  2. Did she speak the language? Did she have any friends? Family? What support do these women really have when they are brought over to marry? I saw a bunch of desi families at the beach recently. The men were wearing western attire like shorts, even swimming trunks, and totally blended in, but many of the women were covered head to toes in salwar kameez, some even with their heads covered. They were probably Punjabi, but I imagine the women may have been similar to what I imagine someone like Khanom may be: waiting for a weekend trip to the beach and cooped up all day at home without any resources from the community (either where they live, desi or not desi).

    Does any one else think the outcomes of these less educated, poor immigrant families really do reflect on us as a whole when these news stories unfold? I agree, the defense attorney was stupid to have raised such an offensive argument, but ultimately stories like this focus and create stereotypes about how desi’s treat their kids.

  3. my comment had far less to do with culture as a defense (whether the judge, the defense attorney, or we come up with the defense) and more to do with the media’s labeling of the woman as “Muslim”.

    Wait a second… Who labeled her a “Muslim?” The media or her defense lawyer/team? It seems that the article is reporting the judge’s ruling on the defense’s argument–which is entirely about her being Muslim and Bangladeshi–not bending the information to match popular bias.

    I agree that the media often skews reporting to entertain the paranoia of its readers and that it has a responsibility to present an accurate & comprehensive view of its subject, but in this case it has no reason to qualify its report with “however, not all rural Bangladeshi communities are like this,” as that would reflect a different form of bias (does the media, when reporting on the Ulster Movement, balance its reports with “however, not all Irish Protestants…?”).

    As someone pointed out, “culture as defense” and an appalling act of violence is the story and problem. If this were about an African American woman who beat a white child because of “black rage”; the boy who was excused for killing an Asian girl in California because he grew up with white supremacists; or the Romanian Catholic priests who let a woman die while performing an exorcism, it would be reported the same way. And in reading many of the posts here, it seems that most of us would report it the same way also.

  4. Does any one else think the outcomes of these less educated,

    dont lump formal education into this kind of behaviour.

  5. GGK:

    No no – I am not trying to lump formal education into the behavior – I do not at all think that something like a college degree has anything to do with her shaking the baby; that is something you learn best through a sort of social education.

    The point I was trying to make is that there is another class of desi immigrants, a group that is not here discussing on SM and also has no connection to their community where they live through work, school etc. Most notably they are women and they are isolated. It takes a village to raise a child – that is my feeling anyway as a working mom. Yet, as a woman and a mom, I felt so sad and far removed from this woman. I perceived her to be very much on her own without the luxury of a group of peers, women or moms with whom to discuss her fears or anxieties. I think that is the basic problem and that the isolation will cause other problems too and there is a huge chasm between the desi immigrants who have a network and those who do not. The baby shaking is just one thing, there are many other outcomes that could potentially flow from this isolation.

  6. The point I was trying to make is that there is another class of desi immigrants

    Dont lump education and class into this Majority of lower educated folks dont do this….Its a weak correlation if any… Yes more desis are superstitious but factor that even with superstition this case went over the top… That is my point.

  7. i think…

    the mistake some people make when looking at legal issues is in that thinking that their culture and their law is somehow universal and therefore superior to other people’s. Vinod meant well in writing this article, but one of the key points is his title – “Ignorance of THE LAW”… Whose law? The law the the woman ignored is one rooted in Western European and North American 19th century liberal political philosophy. I’m not saying that its not a great legal system, I’m a law student myself in a commonwealth country so the next few years of my life are devoted to studying this type of law. i’m just saying its not the only ‘law.’

    yes, this woman had moved to a country where she was obliged to follow this law. but how can you argue that her ignorance due to her cultural background is not a defense? if we recognise that a legal system is inextricably bound to a specific society and culture then she didn’t ignore THE LAW, she ignored a western legal system from a culture which she had obviously had little or no contact with, even after moving to britain.

    when british people take drugs to thailand, people can stomach their ignorance of the tough thai legal system as a defense much more easily than if a thai person was ignorant of the law in britain. i’m not saying that some legal systems aren’t better than others, it might very well be true that the common perception that western law is superior is true.

    i’m just saying that its not the only kind of law, and when you look at it that way, maybe this woman did have a defense, even if what she did should have been judged against the more universal rule of common sense.

  8. “Ignorance of THE LAW”… Whose law?

    Well even in bangladesh this kind of activity would be illegal and this woman would have been in some kind of trouble.

  9. I kinda doubt shaking a baby is explicitly against the law. Meaning, I doubt there’s a “don’t shake baby” statute. She was probably tried for violating laws against child endangerment and I’d bet she knew that harming a child is “against the law.” I would think “thou shalt not harm your child” is pretty universal.

    The question is whether she knew (recklessness) or should have known (negligence)that shaking her baby was child endangerment.

    If she didn’t realize shaking him would cause harm — its not ignorance of the law but ignorance of the fact that shaking a baby will cause harm.

    The defense used religion and culture to explain why she cannot be expected to know the danger and was unaware of a better way to do things, but there were clearly other things the defense could have built on, such as isolation, fear, etc.

    Perhaps they used culture because vilifying the culture makes it so that she just could not have known better, silly bangldeshi muslim as she is. Whereas resting the defense on isolation, fear, etc. would probably return a verdict of negligence.

  10. “In 1997, British au pair Louise Woodward was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death 8-month-old Matthew Eappen in Massachusetts. A judge later reduced the charge to involuntary manslaughter, sentenced the nanny, then 19, to time served and sent her home to England.”

    That nanny went home free due to pressure from Britishers and their government. Apparently they don’t see these cases as crime.

    REF: http://www.courttv.com/archive/casefiles/nanny/nanny.html

  11. Checking the comments of most people on this site and over the internet, had actually brought me back to Islamic School. What i am going to say next is nothing you would imagine but the fact that i had sensed the ultimate challenge… the test of Faith. Now it had started a new chapter, but only from the same old contents, (if you know what i mean you would understand and if you dont… well then that is something out of the ordinary). And don’t waste time thinking about it, you’re not the only one who thinks.

  12. (GUARANTEE OF RESPECT) Hello people. I’m a bangladeshi and a Muslim. Before i got the internet connection i didn’t really know that people could actually get so lost and so obviously dilated. Everybody knows that as long as there is good in the world, then the world will not come to an end… but that is what it’s all about isn’t it. Good VS Evil As you can see, the first two words i had typed are Hello and People. BUT WHY? Because i know that you know that i know that you people… are people. And what do they say? People get scared of what they do not know. So next time you hear, see or even read something… you’ve still got to respect it one way or another. And then watch how you gain respect yourself.

  13. If you really thought that the bermuda triangle was the only great mystery in the world, you were wrong. There are numerous places on Earth and Water, that just don’t let you enter. By the way, it’s not a mystery at all according to me and others. For egsample, there is a place near Burma. Once you get close to the mountains or Island or cave, a really BIG hand will come out and start to wave left and right. meaning, DO NOT ENTER OR COME ANY FURTHER. It’s because Jinn’s live in them places. All different kinds of them. But the Bermuda triangle i think must be the Satans place. After all, he is in the world though. he isn’t in hell or anything you know. And then theres the back of my grandads village… in the pool, (but we call it Fukri). It’s propably smaller than my Neighbours back yard. Anyways, in that pool lives a family of jinns. A mother with her son and daughter. they live in peace and do not trouble anybody. You see, its perfectly normal these things. Theres good people and bad people and good jinns are jinns and bad jinns are satan’s. Our oldest father is Adam, and the jinn’s oldest father is the Satan himself. (to be continued)

  14. Oh come on, i wake up in the morning and they’re all in my F…..ing chaddees. So what desi got married and dis dat the other.





  16. Hello, did you ever think that this lady that you call isolated, that YOU call isolated in them conditions is not isolated, because she says she isn’t. Trust me i know i’m a bengali aswell. And we love our country as much as some people who love to open their traps. Isolated from what? that is the question. Now what do you think these ladies are going to think now… “these people are doing what the devil could’t do to me”. And do you know what the stupidest thing is, it is that it’s true aswell. There is no such word as supersticsion… its you lot who needed a word to sort your f…cked up brain up, get it? Along with another few million words too.

  17. Chamunda Swami is a scam artist.

    I need to address the fact that one person brought up the scam pulled by Chamunda Swami and others – it is true they are scam artists – PLEASE save your money – if you are religous and want to avoid ‘black magic’ if that is what you really feel is the problem – then please save your money and find peace in a temple and/or church – something positive is best – you know what, I think God will give more love to those that see power in God – NOT in scam artists – please do NOT go to ‘Chamunda Swami’ – he really knows nothing – it is interesting – when an educated person goes to him – he gets nervous – very nervous – because he is insecure and his assistants are more of scam artists than anyone – but aren’t they always – I mean we have all seen the news reports and the movies – well, there is truth to it – listen, if they were so ‘good’ at heart – why charge so much? I mean, aren’t they supposedly doping God’s work? Well, they are not – someone needs to shut them down – other scams are shut down these should be as well. You will give them money – they will NOT call you back (once the check is cashed) and if you ask them why they haven’t called – get this – here is what they say: “well if you don’t believe than don’t do it” – &!()&)(*!!!


    Can they be ANYMORE manipulative – they say this to everyone. Sad part is – frankly, people are so desperate they do it – they put up with their ego – if things were better and if they felt better they would see manipulative behavior for what it is – SAVE YOUR MONEY – humans cannot do what God can – feel people have done evil onto you? COME ON – do you really think that something bad can have power over good? Have faith in soemthing real. I am very upset because I have many examples of those who have been scammed by these people – and it makes me angry when they take advantage of someone who is sick – and they do – wow – do they ever. This nice couple had a sick child – and fine you do what you can – but he should have done it for free – but he milked them for EVERY damn penny they had – it was sad – we are talking about a sick child here. Do not put your faith in any of these people – they exist in all cultures – Chamunda is a scam artist.