Monday, 30 August 2010

Evil Law

I have no doubt at all that the present Iranian regime is perfectly vile. They trade in concepts of faith and religion that are quite beyond my comprehension. Just imagine if England was overtaken by some fundamentalist Christian cult that wanted to return to the practices of the Middle Ages; people who wanted to restore such legislation as De heretico comburendo, allowing for the burning of heretics. Perhaps someone would like to put this suggestion to the present muddle-headed Archbishop of Canterbury, since he has already expressed his enthusiasm for Sharia Law.

I cannot claim to have any deep knowledge of this barbarous procedure, this nauseating medievalism, but it is under Sharia Law that Sakineh Ashtiani has been condemned to death for her supposed adultery, condemned to death by stoning. The fact that she was already been subject to ninety-nine lashes, and has been in prison for five years awaiting this ultimate fate, defies even expressions like ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’

As I mentioned in a previous blog, stoning is not a quick death; it’s not meant to be. Instead medium sized rocks are chosen to prolong the suffering. Men so sentenced are buried to their waists, and if they are able to get out there is no further punishment. Women, in contrast, are buried almost up to their necks, just in case their breasts show, you understand, which would be outrageous, a clear offence to simple decency. Their chances of escaping are therefore non-existent, as they are effectively tortured to death.

This is carried out in the name of God, in the name of religion. What kind of people are they, I have to ask, who can believe in a God like this, in a law like this? There is no greater danger than the literal, unimaginative interpretation of sacred texts. For centuries women, and it was mostly women, were tortured and burned to death in Europe because of a biblical injunction about not allowing witches to live, which turned out to be a mistaken reading anyway, good news for witches, not so good for poisoners. Nevertheless, I simply cannot imagine even the most unregenerate fundamentalist wishing to return to a barbarous past

But in Iran a barbarous past is a barbarous present. The world-wide outrage over the fate of Ashtiani has – temporarily – stopped execution of her sentence. As a measure of the regime’s embarrassment she appeared on state-controlled television recently ‘confessing’ to both her adultery and to a plot to kill her husband. Her defence lawyer, forced to flee to Turkey in fear of his life, has said that the confession is bogus, that it was effectively tortured out of her, a claim supported by the fact that not even her children have been allowed to visit her in prison since.

When I see that man Ahmadinejad, the international face of the obscurantist tyranny, being embraced by the likes of Castro and Hugo Chavez I know that evil still walks the world, I know that the fate of this poor woman is in the hands of monsters, monsters who claim to act in the name of God. Forgive me if I appear a little less detached, a little angrier than normal, but there are some things that defy dispassion, even for me.


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  2. Sharia law is actually never mentioned in the Qu'ran, which itself is actually in general a very humane and passive document that, though it does portray god as very willing to punish (to the point even of a certain degree of patheticness), does not encourage such outrageously barbaric behavior. Oddly enough though, it does believe in predestination (Insh'Allah as they call it), which is in its own way an extremely vile view of God.

    It's interesting also that Bin Ladin actually broke EVERY Islamic war law in his "jihad" - Islam is indeed very imperialist, but Muhammad, if the Qu'ran is any indication, would be perfectly outraged at a man claiming "Jihad" while slaughtering surrendered soldiers (violation 1), destroying buildings (violation 2), killing innocent civilians on purpose (violation 3) and using the military to force conversion and lies, especially of Christians and Jews who, according to the Qu'ran, are also proper philosophies of God (violation 4.) Then again, with the exception of Saladin, who was Kurdish (note the ethnicity), we don't really know of any Islamic warriors who have obeyed the Islamic war laws.

    Sharia isn't actually based on Islam, the clerics just claim it is to give it undue influence. Sharia is based on the laws of pre-Islamic Arabia, much as Christmas Trees, a more pleasant pre-Abrahamic tradition, are based not on Christianity but a previous Germanic animism. Honestly, your average muslim has less in common with the ideals of the Qu'ran then your average Scottish Presbyterian who believes in predestination. A kind of bizarrely imperialist Calvinism with an odd pan-Abrahamic streak and a slight dose of Catholic reverence for authority is what the Qu'ran actually teaches.


    was there a movie about this woman? is it true that she is not going to stone to death?

    i am sure many people here in usa would love to live in that "babarous past" and "barbarous present iran". i cannot count how many chinese immigrants join christian churches here just because they blindly believe in this country (usa). people don't study history anymore. religion is so overwhelming here in south of usa that sometime i feel i cannot breath.

  4. Thanks, Adam. You've made me love Carla. :-)

  5. Thanks, Jeremy. Some truly excellent points.

  6. Yun yi, ah, so you live in the South? We have family friends in Georgia, moderate Presbyterian, I'm pleased to say. They've taken me shooting on Sunday afternoons. :-)

  7. yes i live in south- north carolina, center of the "bible belt". i also lived savannah georgia a few year. a beautiful town !(if we ignore the "soul" of church buildings. lol)

  8. The buckle of the Bible Belt, yes, I know. I love Savannah; it's possibly my favourite town in the whole country.

  9. @yunyi: Also some beautiful terrain, at least the portions I've passed through on AMTRAK. Love Savannah too. I myself live in Atlanta's Bankhead neighborhood (a ghetto slowly improving) and go to school at Georgia Tech. I love Southerners, even when they are being the "Goyum Annoyum" of Christianity.

  10. Ana, the incident that you have mentioned is absolutely brutal and its a shame that such things keep happening time and again. But, this has nothing to do with the Shariah or Islam as a religion. It is completely un-Islamic to kill innocent people, especially women. I'm not being pro-Islamic as I'm not a believer in God. These people who're involved in such acts are actually barbaric and highly ignorant people. They know nothing about the religion that they're following. They twist and turn things according to their will in order put forward their authoritarianism. In order to pacify people they say that it's what their religion tells them to do. But, in actuality they're being the biggest sinners of their religion and giving a bad name to all those people who follow the religion in the way it is meant to be.

    I'm glad that Jeremy made those points. It's good to know that there are people who are knowledgeable enough to differentiate what's right and what's wrong and are not ignorant to believe just about anything.

    1. To begin with Saif I do not want you to think that I am anti-Islamic; I’m not. I quite intentionally pointed out in that blog discussion that ‘Islamist’ was a politically loaded term. So far as my own views on Islam are concerned I would refer you to an article I published here in September, 2010. It’s headed Islam: an open letter to a friend.

      But this form of Sharia Law is not alien to Islam. Are punishments such as stoning not prescribed for the guilty? That’s just the point - the Iranians insist that this unfortunate woman is guilty and therefore deserving of punishment in the light of their own interpretation of the Islamic code. Are the ayatollahs of Iran somehow wrong; is their form of Shia Islam somehow wrong? It is a brutal, it is barbaric, I fully agree, whether Sakineh is guilty or innocent, though I happen to believe that she is innocent. But is your interpretation of Islam somehow more valid that theirs?

      You may not approve, you may see it as wrong, but the Taliban, the Saudis and Ayatollahs all consider that their interpretation of Sharia is the correct one. Stoning as a punishment for married adulterers is allowed for not just in the law of Iran but in that of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. In the province of Aceh in Indonesia it was introduced into the law in 2009. Though not part of the official law code, it is practiced in Afghanistan, parts of the Sudan and Somalia. Across the Islamic world there are others who would follow their example. This is an uncomfortable truth, I know, but a truth notwithstanding. I have to be as honest as possible, even at the risk of being considered ‘ignorant.'

    2. Ana, I would like to say that I have never said that you are anti-Islamic and the word "ignorant" was not specifically referred to you. I know for sure that you're in no way ignorant.

      As far as the Quran is concerned stoning has never been considered as a form of punishment. It's not mentioned anywhere, at least I have not seen it. It's not about what I approve, it's about what is a widespread belief. The Taliban and Ayatollahs that you mention form a small minority. They are not considered as representatives of Islam, even if they consider themselves to be so. Ask the majority of Muslims all over the world, they will denounce such acts and will never be supportive of such people who indulge in such acts.

      As far as the countries that you mention, that's the culture of those countries. Saudi Arabia, even before Islam has been known for its lack of education and barbarism. They may be superior in wealth but they are far behind as far as other things are concerned. That's the reason why they are now puppets in the hands of Americans. Religion is a part of culture, but it does not constitute the whole of culture. Such acts are guided more by the culture and not much by religion. And no stoning is not a law in Pakistan and UAE. A few incidents have occurred in Pakistan, but it happens only with mobs and its not legal. Sudan and Somalia are extremely poor countries, they don't have any proper law and order. Afghanistan as a country has been ruined by Talibaanis. Iran, as I said, is guided by authoritarianism. I'm not denying anything. All I'm saying is that it should not be given the name of religion.

      The thing is religion is something that has always been misinterpreted and in many parts of the world it is still misinterpreted. You have mentioned about the Middle Ages. Wasn't Europe guided by the violence of Church? They did it because they believed that that's what Christianity was about. In India, even today low caste Hindus are forcibly converted to Christianity. But I don't think Christianity teaches all this. Some people may believe this to be the right thing, but they don't represent the majority. Talking about India, even today there are some Hindu extremists who constantly threaten Muslims, because they believe that Muslims are not a part of India, the land of Hinduism. When some people (Hindu or Muslims) celebrate something like Valentine's Day, those same Hindu extremists beat the hell out of them because according to them that is a Western influence and not part of their "pure" Hindu culture. Again they do this because they feel that that's what their religion tells them to do. But, again they don't represent the majority. Also, the whole world was disappointed when America killed thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush says it was political, but many scholars have dubbed it as Christian terrorism. But, I also know that this is something that Christianity does not preach. Like I said, I don't deny the brutality. But, its been happening everywhere.

      The act that you mentioned, as I said in my previous comment, is a shameful act. Knowing about such incidents is extremely saddening and it makes it worse that such incidents have happened a number of times. No one is going to deny that. And I also know your true intentions of writing about it. I know that you're not trying demean a religion, but you're trying to tell about the brutal side of humanity. You and me both see that woman as innocent. There's no doubt about that. ... (to be continued) ...

    3. What I'm trying to say that violence in the name of religion happens all over the world. But, just because a few people think that what they do is part of the religion that doesn't mean that this is what religion is all about. I'm not saying that I interpret religion in the best way. But, if I'm interpreting religion in a way that is non-violent then yes I would consider that to be the appropriate way. And not just me, the majority of people interpret religion in a non-violent way.

      When I read religious scriptures (of different religions), I don't see that they talk about killing or beating up people. Yes, they talk about their religion being superior, but they don't talk about using the means of violence to prove their point.

      People have different interpretations of religion. A small section interprets it in a way in which they see violence and barbarism as part of religion and a large section see it as a way to live in peace and harmony. I would like to go by the latter. I have my own reasons for not following any religion and not believing in God, but I respect the people who have faith in their religion and have only goodwill and peace in mind. I can never be guided by people who see violence as the only means to live life.

      My reply has become too long, sorry for that. I didn't have any intention to upset you. I was only putting forward my views. I'm sorry if you didn't like what I said, but I only meant to say things the way I see them. Take care! :)

    4. Saif, You have no need to apologise for a thing and you most certainly did not upset me. You put your points very well indeed. I could only wish that all believers were like you and my friend Rehan.