Saturday, February 09, 2008

"My sentence was reduced to beheading"

Ali Ertaz argues that there is no such thing as a uniform sharia law and that any attempts to standardize it would precipitate an "Islamic civil war". The experience of two Britons at the hands of sharia illustrate how variable things can be.

Martin Fletcher was arrested in Mogadishu after being involved in a traffic incident.

One afternoon Richard Mills, The Times photographer, and I were driving away from the infamous Bakara arms market. In a narrow, rutted sidestreet our way was blocked by an approaching vehicle. Neither driver would give way.

A furious argument flared up, and our bodyguards drew their guns. Happily, ICC policemen arrived in the nick of time and escorted us all to the nearest Sharia court. ...

The court performed its duty with admirable dispatch and minimal fuss and everyone went away happy. It was quicker, cheaper and just as effective as a British magistrates’ court.

The ICC is no more. Washington accused it of turning Somalia into a terrorist haven. It was replaced by a deeply unpopular Government of former warlords.

Fletcher said, "As one who has been hauled in front of a Sharia court I would like to risk having my hand — or head — chopped off a second time by suggesting that the Archbishop of Canterbury just might have a point." Contrast the journalist's experience with that of Sandy Mitchell who "was falsely accused of being involved in a car bombing in Saudi Arabia in 2000 when he was working there as an anaesthetic technician."

He was held in prison for three years and tortured until he eventually signed a confession, which he later had to read out on Saudi television. A sharia court sentenced him to having his head partially severed, followed by public crucifixion.

The sentence was later reduced to beheading, before the Saudi authorities finally conceded that al-Qa'eda terrorists had planted the bomb and let Mr Mitchell return home to Halifax, West Yorks. ...

His torturers told him his wife and son were "involved" in the plot, even though his son was only a year old, and Mr Mitchell finally cracked when the jailers told him: "We will torture them. When you hear their screams, you will know they are suffering because you haven't told us the truth."

Saudi Arabia beheaded 136 people in 2007. I could find no statistics on the number of those crucified, but Human Rights Watch mentions it as one of the legal modes of punishment in the Kingdom, together with beheading or stoning, amputation (of a hand, or a hand and a foot, depending on the crime), banishment, or flogging. However four Sri Lankans who were beheaded in February 2007 also had their corpses put on public display after being executed by surprise. They mistakenly believed they were only sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. One of the reasons for the confusion over their verdict was that as "Saudi Arabia’s chief judge, Salih al-Luhaidan, told Human Rights Watch in a meeting on December 19, 2006 ... it is against Islam to issue a written verdict to those sentenced to death or to inform them of the time of their execution, but that the kingdom had changed this practice due to the influx of foreign workers and the many capital offenses they commit."

Unlike Fletcher, Mitchell is less enthusiastic about sharia and takes a dim view of Rowan Williams' recent proposals to incorporate it into British practice. He said:

Yesterday he accused the Archbishop of Canterbury of "betraying" Christians with his comments on Islamic law. He said Dr Rowan Williams clearly had "absolutely no concept of what sharia law is", because if he did, "he wouldn't have made such a foolish statement". ...

"No matter what Dr Williams may say, I'm afraid he doesn't appear to have grasped even the basics of sharia law before he made his comments."

So I guess Ali Ertaz was right about the variability of its application. But if there is no consensus about what Sharia stands for, is there any consensus on what the West stands for? Or does Ali Ertaz's warning about "civil war" being the price of attempting to achieve consensus apply to modern liberal society as well?




15 Comments:

Blogger deepinjuncountry said...

That's it. I'm convinced. Fletcher makes a powerful case for Sharia. I mean so he got pulled in for being in a car whose driver got in an altercation with another driver. That bit of trouble was completely offset by how they minimized his inconvenience afterward. How relieved he must have felt. As for Williams, hey Sharia's fine with him, after all no one could accuse him of proselytizing for Christianity.

At some point they'll be a name for this Stockholm syndrome on a massive scale. Me, I already have one. It's called cowardice or having the courage of someone else's convictions. After all, if you have none yourself, you may as well take another's. It gives meaning to life.

2/09/2008 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

One of the very many things I intensely dislike about the concept of Shariah "law" is that if you're rich enough, you are never, ever, held accountable for anything.

You can torture your maid to death, you can hold people in slavery for decades, you can throw your child out a high-rise window, you can gang rape a young woman and then flash the cell-phone pictures of your actions around the internet, you can kill onlookers while drag racing -- and if you have enough money to pay "blood money" you can legally walk away from your misdeeds unscathed.

This is not right, but it certainly accounts for why some countries think they have a god (or allah) given right to wage religious war on everyone else, and not to have to pay any price for their murderous efforts.

I just love it when some rich Saudi meets his or her Waterloo in the courts of the West ... and not all the blood money, nor caterwauling, nor intervention by Saudi "authorities" can save them. You just know if ANY sort of Shariah law was introduced, that would be all she wrote on ever trying to civilize the oil ticks to take responsibility for their stupidity and their sins.

2/09/2008 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Sharia is based upon the ahadith.
The ahadith is based upon the Qur'an. The Qur'an is based upon random gibberish (you can interpret whatever you want from it).

The whole system boils down to the precivilized notion of the strong exploiting the weak, i.e. If I'm stronger than you then what you have belongs to me.

It's no wonder the Islamic world is stuck in the middle ages.

2/09/2008 11:42:00 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

I defer to Major Coughlin's paper on Sunni Islamic law which is as complete and coherent an exposition of the topic as you will find on the internet. That the paper was prepared for the Joint Chiefs of Staff only adds to its credibility.

Sharia is not a hodge podge of arbitrary interpretations. As Coughlin points out, Islamic jurisprudence is a scholarly discipline with clear and understandable rules of authority, precedence, and applicability. Islamic law is the major course of study in what passes as university study across the Arab world. That is not as narrow as it sounds because Islam regulates every aspect of human existence, including how you wipe your ass.

The most elementary function of government, from tribe to empire, is the resolution of disputes and the application of force. Perhaps more than any other single sociological aspect, its system of jurisprudence best defines a society as just or authoritarian. The difference between British law and Sharia on the treatment of women couldn't be more stark. Williams treats it like a restaurant menu choice.

The attempted imposition of Sharia in the USA would violate the Constitution and justify armed insurrection.

Rowan William's comments are so outrageous because they cut the heart out of what it means to be British. Williams also trivializes and treats as no consequence the hundreds of years of British experience resolving the ultimate sovereignty of church or state. The man should be tarred, feathered, paraded through the streets, and thrown into the Thames. Metaphorically of course.

2/10/2008 02:27:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

A Bride Too Far

2/10/2008 04:21:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

We had a joke.

The world's police agencies gathered for a conference & some friendly police games. One of the contests was letting a rabbit loose in a forest and see which agency could retrieve the rabbit the quickest.

The Israeli police agency was first up, the rabbit released the hour wait was up and within the hour the Israelis come back with the rabbit.

The FBI takes a day and the British take a week.

Now its the Saudi's turn. One hour goes by, one day goes by, one week goes by, one month goes by and the Saudis are not back yet. So the officials decide to make sure everything is okay.

After some searching they come upon the Saudi police they have a bear tied up to a tree and are beating it: "Confess! You are a rabbit! Confess!"

Anyway, I am more in agreement with Peter's view of the Sharia is not proper for a liberal society but it is not what some are making it out to be.

Blood money is not a get out of jail free card, in murder cases the family of the victim at its option can accept blood money (and incarceration) or demand the guilty's death. However, as many point out the rich & powerful use their influence and connections to game the system to their advantage.

Over here the rich hire silky & golden tongued attorneys and they all game the system to their advantage. Still, I have much more confidence in our legal system dealing justice than in the Middle East.

Too often I have heard stories of verdicts that came down to "its your fault, if you were not here in our country this would not have happened to you".

2/10/2008 04:43:00 AM  
Blogger dwlayman said...

"eggplant" said: "Sharia is based upon the ahadith. The ahadith is based upon the Qur'an." Actually, having spent an entire summer studying the Qur'an, I can say categorically that the second sentence is not true. The hadith is an independent source, based on centuries of oral tradition. It has very little connection, historically or conceptually, with the Qur'an.

It would be more accurate to say that the interpretation of the Qur'an is based upon the hadith, in the sense that hadith provides a pseudo-historical framework to interpret the Qur'an, and provide a connected narrative for the Qur'an's otherwise unconnected pronouncements.

2/10/2008 05:48:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

1. The Archbishop of Canterbury is NOT a moral man. The slow death of his church is proof.

2. Haven't said it in a while:

Slaughter now or slaughter later.
Slaughter later = slaughter more.

2/10/2008 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger JacksonvillePat said...

I recall a story of a U.S. Woman who, after divorcing her abusive Saudi Arabian husband, was awarded custody of her children. The mother then lost all parental right, when the children were abducted by the father and taken to Saudi Arabia. Here is link to a 11 Aug 03 article from the National Review.

http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-2989624/Saudi-Kidnapping-Enough-Since-State.html

Here is another interesting link, from the U.S. State Department, that explains some of the implication of Sharia Law applied to American Women living in Saudi Arabia.

http://www.meforum.org/article/520

It seems that Sharia Law is not as benign as some may wish.

2/10/2008 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

The Mainstream Media lies through the use of anecdote. In this case Martin Fletcher uses his personal experience with sharia law. One bad outcome in the US -- or even a hassle getting on a airplane -- would condemn the entire legal structure. Mr. Fletcher's one good outcome proves the inherent good sense of sharia. Of course, if he'd been executed perhaps his former editor might bring it up in the debate if he could find a way to blame it on George Bush.

In fact Mr. Fletcher may have been spared because the Sharia court judge did not want to be the cause of an international incident at that moment. A few moments later, who knows? I suspect Martin Fletcher wasn't waiting around the court to find out. I'm not trying to impute his courage, which is no doubt considerable. I would only impute his motives.

2/10/2008 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

dwlayman said...

"Actually, having spent an entire summer studying the Qur'an, I can say categorically that the second sentence is not true. The hadith is an independent source, based on centuries of oral tradition. It has very little connection, historically or conceptually, with the Qur'an."

I have not studied the Hadith and never will (life is way too short to be wasted on such nonsense). My best response to Dwlayman's comment is to quote the Wikipedia reference about the Hadith. The relevant passage from Wikipedia:

"The overwhelming majority of Muslims consider hadith to be essential supplements to and clarifications of the Qur'an, Islam's holy book. In Islamic jurisprudence, the Qur'an contains many rules for the behavior expected of Muslims but there are no specific Qur'anic rules on many religious and practical matters.... Hadith are a source for Islamic history and biography. For the vast majority of devout Muslims, authentic hadith are also a source of religious inspiration.

The Qur'an states "We have made it (the Qur'an) easy to understand and in your own tongue (language) may you take heed." (Qur'an 44:58) but most Muslims argue that many Qur'anic instructions are impossible to fulfill without guidance from the hadiths.... and claim that the Qur'an cannot be fully explained by itself alone or read with complete understanding. This is why the Hadith is referred to as the "second source" of Islam. There are great debates between Muslims about the views stated in the Qur'an, and the Hadith. Some contemporary Muslims... ...argue that the Qur'an alone is sufficient but mainstream Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslims regard those who take a "Qur'an alone" viewpoint as deviant."

This Wikipedia text more-or-less confirms my main point that the Qur'an is such random gibberish that it cannot be understood by itself thus requiring the Hadith for interpretation.

Should the reader wish to form their own conclusions about the Qur'an, this link is useful.

2/10/2008 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger Zenster said...

that there is no such thing as a uniform sharia law and that any attempts to standardize it would precipitate an "Islamic civil war".

Then, by all means, let’s standardize this heap of rubbish right away and not let “Islamic civil war” on any scale interfere with it.

NahnCee: … it certainly accounts for why some countries think they have a god (or allah) given right to wage religious war on everyone else, and not to have to pay any price for their murderous efforts.

Fear not, however noiselessly, the meter is most definitely running. Though the West neglects to point up that fact to Islam and Muslims everywhere pretend there are no consequences for their actions, the sword of Damacles inexorably descends. While the current level of action against Islam seems almost indetectable, please do not miss how that tiny little number in the exponent column continues to tick over in relentless fashion. The butcher’s bill grows and its growth accelerates with each new terrorist atrocity. As sunset sees the slaughter of another few dozen Infidels it will be a few thousand Muslims who put paid for that day’s toll when the West does its bill collecting.

Peter: Islamic law is the major course of study in what passes as university study across the Arab world.

Which certainly explains Islam’s invention of indoor plumbing, motorcars, microelectronics and space travel.

Williams treats it like a restaurant menu choice.

Rather easy to do when the rotter is nothing more than a common cannibal.

2/10/2008 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger james said...

The Koran, as best I understand things, is limited as a source for law. There are too many things it doesn't talk about, even taking generous interpretations of the obscure sections. So the scholars asked themselves, "What did Muhammad (May The Lord Have Mercy On His Miserable Soul(*)) say?" since presumably he had some special insights from God.

This proved an irresistible temptation, and thousands of bogus quotations were devised to support whatever the current monarch's policy happened to be, or the policy of the opposition party, or for an imam who didn't care for some popular immorality.

This got to be an embarrassment, and scholars started trying to figure out which sayings were "more reliable" by using chains of citations. Turns out very few were considered reliable, but I gather that antiquity has hallowed a lot of the unreliable ones as well.

After reading a few of the rulings on divorce, I got the distinct impression that often fatwas were tailored for a particular outcome, no matter what the precedents were. (World of Fatwas) That ties in nicely with nahncee's observation: the rich get what they want. If it means using an unreliable hadith, fine.

And of course there are several schools of jurisprudence. All are supposed to be equally valid for Muhammadans, but they don't all agree--and which sharia has jurisdiction for your case? The one that says you can't pee towards Mecca, or the one that says that you also can't pee away from it either, since that disrespectfully points your rump at Mecca?

(*)Free paraphrase

2/10/2008 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Fear not, however noiselessly, the meter is most definitely running. Though the West neglects to point up that fact to Islam and Muslims everywhere pretend there are no consequences for their actions, the sword of Damacles inexorably descends.

Every time I see numbers on the immigration status of Arabs coming to the United States, they are lower and lower and lower, both numerically and percentage-wise.

And a week or so ago, there was a story about "refugees" from Iraq and how far behind we are on letting them relocate here to America. Out of the thousands and thousands pounding on the door with sob stories about what good Americans they would make, so far American has admitted about 800.

If we can't (so far) keep the uninvited Mexicans succssfully out, then at least someone at the immmigration desk in the Big Bureaucracy in the Sky is ticking off the names of those who are probably Muslims with a "no" beside them, and keeping *them* from landing here with an explosive plop.

2/10/2008 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger jono39 said...

The Archbishop has guaranteed he will never be forgotten. I expect he is the first non-Muslim in history who suggested Sharia be adopted or adapted to law in a non-Muslim society. It may well be that many Muslims utilize Sharia in Britain. May they? Why not. Can they? Why not, except when Sharia calls for something illegal under Common and Statute law.
Is Sharia practiced in any country which does not have a Muslim majority? I think not except in places like Nigeria which are states only in name.
The Archbishop no doubt considers himself a decent, humane and thoughtful person. He may be but he is profoundly short-sighted, thick-headed and smug.

2/10/2008 06:47:00 PM  

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