Christian Bleuer writes about the stoning of a man and woman in Afghanistan, noting the role of the Taliban in overriding local ‘restorative justice’, and the more general problem of Afghanistan’s ‘overlapping’ (and very often corrupt) legal systems.
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Dominic Grieve QC, attorney general to the government:
Afghan law is based on the continental civil code backed up by hanafi law, regarded as the most liberal variant of sharia. “There are lots of women with a small headscarf chucked over their heads,” Grieve said, “rather than people walking around in burqas or Arab garb, which has not crept into Afghanistan in the way that it probably has into parts of Pakistan – or Bradford.”
This man provides legal advice to our government.
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Who knew Pakistani Deobandis were actually a front for American evangelical Christian missionaries?
The case follows the killing of Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer by his bodyguard last Tuesday, after the outspoken politician called for reform of the law that was recently used to sentence a Christian woman to death.
Mohammad Shafi, 45, and his son Mohammad Aslam, 20, were arrested in April last year for removing a poster outside their grocery shop advertising an Islamic event in a nearby village which allegedly contained Quranic verses.
Judge Mohammad Ayub, heading an anti-terrorism court in the central Pakistani town of Muzaffargarh, handed down a life sentence to the pair on Monday, his assistant Faisal Karim told AFP by telephone.
The prosecution alleged organisers of the event, which commemorated the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammad’s birth, said the pair had “pulled the poster down, tore it and trampled it under their feet,” Karim said.
“The judge sentenced them to life imprisonment on charges of blasphemy and ordered them to pay a fine of 200,000 rupees ($2,350) each,” he said.
Liberal politicians and human rights activists in Pakistan say the blasphemy law, which carries the death penalty for the worst offences, is sometimes used to settle personal scores and encourages extremism.
Defence counsel Arif Gurmani vowed to challenge the verdict in the high court because “it has been given in haste” and was the result of inter-faith rivalries, he said.
“Both are Muslims. The case is the result of differences between Deobandi and Barelvi sects of Sunni Muslims,” he said.
“Shafi is a practising Muslim, he is the imam of a mosque and he had recently returned from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia…. I am defending them because I am convinced they are not guilty of blasphemy,” he said.
It is also safe to say that because these two men are actually ‘practicing Muslims’ they won’t become a cause célèbre for certain ‘activists’.
Salma Yaqoob blogs about the treatment of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a mother of two sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery. Brazil, a country with which Iran has a reasonably positive relationship, has offered her asylum.
I really wish commentators would stop calling them ‘courts’. It gives them an aura of legitimacy they do not possess. They are tribunals, which in theory resolve certain disputes between consenting parties on, and whose rulings may then be upheld by the court of law.
Namazie undercuts her argument by starting her article with what Iran is doing. The United Kingdom isn’t Iran, and is not in any real danger of ever becoming so. This sort of argument will get the backs up of people she is trying to convince not to turn to these ‘courts’, and more importantly feeds the wider anti-Muslim narrative spewed from the pages of right-wing tabloids. Her argument, once it gets past this, does raise fair points which even sympathetic commentators have noted, and which is the core of the real arguments over these ‘courts’. Is one side (almost always the woman) being coerced in anyway to sign up to something which may materially disadvantage her, or deprive her of rights? And, by allowing these ‘courts’ to operate, is the state neglecting its duty to protect the vulnerable? And who oversees these ‘courts’ and how they operate, and the quality and qualifications of those involved?
Namazie, to her credit I guess, does not tread the path of demanding a special exclusion for Muslims to engage in something which is, ostensibly, perfectly legal. This is something which many pundits, left and right of the political spectrum, have called for. But such a call is undemocratic, and yes an example of anti-Muslim bigotry. The right way is to campaign for a change in the law.
And lastly, what is this “British law” Namazie speaks of?
The High Court has given permission for a judicial review of the government’s failure to hold a public inquiry into the British army’s detention policies in Iraq:
The court said it could be argued that “the alleged ill-treatment was systemic, and not just at the whim of individual soldiers”. It went on to criticise the effectiveness of Ministry of Defence proposals to investigate the claims.
If a full inquiry is now ordered, it is likely to run alongside the judicial review David Cameron announced last week into the UK’s role in rendition and torture in the so-called war on terror. Documents made public during proceedings brought for six victims of “extraordinary rendition” showed the extent to which the last government was involved in the abduction and torture of its own citizens.
The high court ruling was a victory for lawyers representing 102 men detained after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The abuse they have documented includes 59 allegations of detainees being hooded, 11 of electric shocks, 122 of sound deprivation through the use of ear muffs, 52 of sleep deprivation, 131 of sight deprivation using blackened goggles, 39 of enforced nakedness and 18 allegations that detainees were kept awake by pornographic DVDs played on laptops.
Britain’s highest court has issued a ‘landmark’ ruling in the case of Debbie Purdy, when they ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions to draw up a policy which would clearly define when prosecutions would and would not be pursued in cases of ‘assisted suicide’. Essentially, what this is likely to mean is people who assist a family member to die will not face prosecution (as there will be no public interest in prosecuting the individuals, and little chance of a jury convicting).
The death, however, must take place outside the country (e.g. the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland) — such an act is still a criminal offence in Britain. According to reports over a 100 people from Britain have used Dignitas, with no prosecutions; however, a doctor is out on bail for assisting his patients to use the Swiss clinic.
The Royal College of Nursing had also dropped its opposition to assisted suicides and adopted a neutral stance, joining The Royal College of Psychiatrists, The Royal College of Anaesthetists and the The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh on this matter. The British Medical Association (the doctors union) remains opposed to assisted suicide.
The Purdy ruling by the House of Lords has sparked a debate across the political spectrum, and calls for an assisted suicide bill — defeated three years in the House of Lords — to be be re-introduced into Parliament. A modification of the current law was also rejected by peers last month.
The Church of England and prominent Catholic, Jewish and Muslim voices, have reiterated their opposition to any ‘assisted suicide’ law in the UK on numerous occassions (I can’t find a Muslim response to the latest ruling). However, I have also come across (liberal) religious believers (including Muslims) who make the following argument in support of a right to taking one’s own life:
There is no justification for a claim that Christianity must oppose the assisted death of a person who has made their own decision to die, provided that such a person can convince others that their desire to die is fully considered.
I will make this argument given two conditions: first that the person is capable of making an educated decision, and second that their end-of-life experience includes full access to both pastoral and medical care.
The Muslim individual who I came across cited verse 23 of Surat ul-Mu’minun in support of assisted suicide or euthanasia. I am not sure his argument holds up on a number of fronts, but what do you think?