IN the last few weeks, in three widely publicized episodes, we have seen Islamic justice enacted in ways that should make Muslim moderates rise up in horror.
A 20-year-old woman from Qatif, Saudi Arabia, reported that she had been abducted by several men and repeatedly raped. But judges found the victim herself to be guilty. Her crime is called âminglingâ: when she was abducted, she was in a car with a man not related to her by blood or marriage, and in Saudi Arabia, that is illegal. Last month, she was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes with a bamboo cane.
Two hundred lashes are enough to kill a strong man. Women usually receive no more than 30 lashes at a time, which means that for seven weeks the âgirl from Qatif,â as sheâs usually described in news articles, will dread her next session with Islamic justice. When she is released, her life will certainly never return to normal: already there have been reports that her brother has tried to kill her because her âcrimeâ has tarnished her familyâs honor.
We also saw Islamic justice in action in Sudan, when a 54-year-old British teacher named Gillian Gibbons was sentenced to 15 days in jail before the government pardoned her this week; she could have faced 40 lashes. When she began a reading project with her class involving a teddy bear, Ms. Gibbons suggested the children choose a name for it. They chose Muhammad; she let them do it. This was deemed to be blasphemy.
Then thereâs Taslima Nasreen, the 45-year-old Bangladeshi writer who bravely defends womenâs rights in the Muslim world. Forced to flee Bangladesh, she has been living in India. But Muslim groups there want her expelled, and one has offered 500,000 rupees for her head. In August she was assaulted by Muslim militants in Hyderabad, and in recent weeks she has had to leave Calcutta and then Rajasthan. Taslima Nasreenâs visa expires next year, and she fears she will not be allowed to live in India again.
It is often said that Islam has been âhijackedâ by a small extremist group of radical fundamentalists. The vast majority of Muslims are said to be moderates.
But where are the moderates? Where are the Muslim voices raised over the terrible injustice of incidents like these? How many Muslims are willing to stand up and say, in the case of the girl from Qatif, that this manner of justice is appalling, brutal and bigoted â and that no matter who said it was the right thing to do, and how long ago it was said, this should no longer be done?
Read the rest of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s column for The New York Times. Ali, herself, would probably qualify as a moderate Muslim, if she still followed Islam. But she has long since been marked for death thanks to her heresy.
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