Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Barbaric Laws or Barbaric Crimes?

I remember my boss at work expressing his disgust towards the Sharia Laws, without substantiation, he used the emotive term of barbaric to describe the Islamic penal codes. My response was equally swift, I replied that I preferred to live by barbaric laws rather than allow barbaric crimes to take place. I retorted further, that he is simply being naive and would concur with my point if he ever became victim of the numerous crimes that are talking place within our society. As to what constitutes the correct level of punishment that fits the crime is entirely subjective and depends on ones beliefs. Thus to label one set of punishment as barbaric is simply as irrational, superstitious and fanatical as the medieval mindset that once flourished in Europe.

I also pointed out that people who advocate lenient punishments are rewarding criminals and perversely punishing the victim further; and this proves that they are the ones devoid of compassion and are really uncivilised and barbaric at heart! Turning the table on my boss, made his pale cheeks red, and most probably he had become accustomed to discussing (bullying) with moderate Muslims who are always ready to apologies on their knees.

To expose his hypocrisy, I asked him why he keeps choosing to label the Islamic penal codes as barbaric when he could apply the same label to the penal codes that are applied in places like the US. Then he went on to argue the same idiocy that we have become accustomed to hearing from the western media: killing people using western methods is more civilised than non-western methods. Therefore, gassing, poisoning, or burning someone using napalm is supposed to be less painful, and thus more humane than decapitation by a sword. Maybe we should scientifically establish this by experimenting with those who believe in reincarnation, as to which method of execution causes less pain!

Apart from the rabid anti-Islamic venom, the comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury led to some discussion about the appropriate penal code and the constant rise in crime. Criminal laws in any society are supposed to serve a dual purpose: retribution and deterrence. It is doubtful that liberal secular laws provide sufficient deterrence; young adolescent children know that laws gives them protection when committing serious crimes, hoodlums and thugs rampage, rapists and murderers know that if and when they get caught, they are only likely to serve part of their sentence, confined to a cell that provides for their basic needs adequately. Consequently, we see the high levels of crimes, which are always rising.

The arguments made against the Islamic Sharia often hinges around the issue of women’s rights, but paradoxically the punishment prescribed by the Sharia for crimes against women is far severe, than the liberal secular laws. If women’s rights is paramount, yet why so little weight is given to the crimes committed against women under western secular laws, which is reflected in the lenient punishment dispensed. Can the women in such societies venture alone in the streets at night? In some places, they fear to tread alone even during the day. For sure, certain places even men would avoid in fear, so if women’s rights had any meaning they would feel secure in all place and all times. I know that women and children roam the streets freely without fear, through the night in most Muslim countries. Except the simpleton, most people know the argument of women’s rights is not an honest one but political, because this is not raised and applied to other cases except against Islam and Muslims. Just like the selective application of UN resolutions against the Muslim countries.

Then the argument moves onto the issue of majority and minority. Only a minority of the population are committing such criminal acts, but that is little consolation to the victims. The same argument was applied to the ‘minority’ of soldiers committing brutal acts in Iraq. Surely, by the same criteria, the actions of 9/11 and 7/7 were also acts of minorities, yet the entire Muslim population has been placed on trial by the media.

Some will argue that dispensing severe punishments for serious crimes is simply going down to the level of criminals, these people rarely speak as victims but idealistic individuals living in a bubble. They remind me of the flower power generation, high on some drugs, singing the song of imagine there is no crime or criminals. If you are going to advocate such arguments, in that case let us dispense with the penal code altogether. For sure, you are not going to get the criminals submitting to your moral barometer.

So, let us move to the 21st century, and debate honestly the need for appropriate penal codes that serves as a good deterrence. If a criminal is punished severely, those witnessing it will think twice before committing such crimes. I am not saying the West must adopt the Islamic penal code, but it is hardly constructive to blindly criticise that as barbaric, when acts of barbarism is being facilitated at home by lenient penal codes.

Yamin Zakaria
London, UK