Friday, November 23, 2007

More bad news: ON NOTICE: Saudi Arabia

This story has been circulating for a while now:

Saudi gang rape sentence 'unjust'

The short version: girl meets boy. Girl gets into boy's car. Girl and boy are both attacked, and girl is raped 14 times. Attackers are punished for rape, but girl is sentenced to 90 lashes for being in boy's car. On appeal, girl is sentenced to an additional 110 lashes (now 200 in total) and six months in prison for "using the media to try and influence the court". Oh, and girl's lawyer is disbarred for the same.

As a final injustice, the rapists' sentences were also doubled, but are nowhere near the maximum penalty for rape, i.e. death. Not that I am a big supporter of the death penalty, but as anyone who knows me knows, nothing raises my hackles like hypocrisy. You want to be all lex talionis, Saudi Arabia? Well, who am I to stop you? However, discrimination in application destroys whatever vestiges of justices are to be found in such laws.

As the girl's lawyer stated (and I say girl because her name is unknown and she is under 20 years old), the punishment is not even in line with Sharia. Clearly, the supposed basis is Surah 24 An-Nur/An-Noor,* verse 2:

The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication,- flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment. (trans. Yusuf Ali)

Okay, so the initial 90-lash punishment seems fair...except, hold on a second...adultery isn't applicable since neither boy nor girl were married, and there's been no mention of any evidence of fornication. And since we're following the Sharia here, let's take a gander at the same Surah, verse 4:

And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations),- flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors;-**

Four witnesses, eh? I'm just going to assume that no legitimate, honest Ālim is going to suggest that the rapists can be used as witnesses.

The Surah continues:

24:12 Why did not the believers - men and women - when ye heard of the affair,- put the best construction on it in their own minds and say, "This (charge) is an obvious lie"?

24:13 Why did they not bring four witnesses to prove it? When they have not brought the witnesses, such men, in the sight of Allah, (stand forth) themselves as liars! ...

24:15 Behold, ye received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things of which ye had no knowledge; and ye thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of Allah.

24:16 And why did ye not, when ye heard it, say? - "It is not right of us to speak of this: Glory to Allah! this is a most serious slander!"

24:17 Allah doth admonish you, that ye may never repeat such (conduct), if ye are (true) Believers.

But I find the most pertinent verse to be this one:

24:23 Those who slander chaste women, indiscreet but believing, are cursed in this life and in the Hereafter: for them is a grievous Penalty,-

In other words, if a girl is not doing anything wrong except getting into a boy's car, which in 2007 Saudi Arabia is certainly not smart but is certainly a far cry from criminal, it is those who slander her who have committed the real crime.

Now, if only the flip Quranic scholorship of an Anglican/Universalist, non-Arabic-speaking, white chick from Toronto held sway in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we'd be good to go.


* and yes, I know that technically it's not the Quran if it's translated, but since I don't know any Arabic, you'll have to bear with me.

** the next verse continues:

Unless they repent thereafter and mend (their conduct); for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.


Forsoothsayer said...

as a matter of fact, many jurists actually think that being alone with a non-mehrem i.e. a man not related to you by blood or your husband - is in itself a sin. i think it is actually criminalized in saudi arabia. certainly, their vice guys go around and whip the legs of citizens they think are contravening islamic morals without due process of any kind. however, the sharia most certainly does not stipulate lashing for the crime of impermissible solitude (khulwa). note that everyone round here thinks this business is fucked up.

so it's not like she was punished for fornication or for being raped. her crime was khulwa...but the sentence was WAY off, even for Saudi Arabia.

thanks for the link...i do note that your blog has the same faintly feverish air as mine did when i was in law school. reading over my entries, it feels like i was tripping out on something back then. join up with the obiter. it really did ease my pain and was fun (ask sen).

Forsoothsayer said... she's been pardoned, but read on what grounds. in egypt we term this situation "bedan" - bollocks.