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

8 comments:

  1. Sorry, don't buy this argument at all.

    For one thing, most of the social science evidence indicates that stiffer penalties don't deter crime so even if sharia dictates tougher penalties than secular western legal systems it doesn't necessarily follow that implementing these policies would reduce crime. In any event, many/most westerners would like to see tougher penalties in any event.

    Secondly, you are glossing over some of what Islamic law dictates. For instance, Islamic law requires penalties for blasphemors and apostates which is (rightly) abhorrent to liberal western values. My understanding is that the majority view of Islamic scholars is that apostasy must be punished by death. Punishing someone because of a refusal to adhere to religious dogma is indeed "barbaric".

    From my view, while western justice could certainly use some tweaking, sharia creates offences that should not be offences by any humanistic viewpoint.

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  2. HI KC

    I would beg to differ with you with respect to the issue of penal code. For sure the crimes rates are a lot lower in places where the Sharia code has been enforced. If anyone witness the harsh punishemnt given he will think twice about comiting it. This is self-evident!

    As for the issue of apostasy and/or treason, of course we will differ on its definition. Each society places different values on the notion. Hence to call it barabric is meaning less. I can turn around and say they way the Western legal system punishes the victim by giving inadequent sentences to the criminal and is an example of barabarism! So on.

    Regards

    Yamin

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  3. With respect Yamin, any society that punishes people for merely leaving a religion is barbaric; and if Islamic countries can enforce that nonsense because it represents their "values" then there is no real reason why western countries can't ban burqas as well. Its really not that complicated.

    If you represent the "moderate" segment of the religion than "god" help us all (pardon the pun).

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  4. Hi KC

    That is part of the fundamental problem. A society based on non-religious values view apostasy as a personal issue and not treason. Secular society have a different criteria for treason as it has a different yard stick. So using labels like non-sense is simply calling names, and not a constructive argument.

    I am not sure what this has to do with the Burqa issue as it was covered in a separate article.

    Regards

    yamin

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  5. How is apostasy ANYTHING like treason? Just because you leave a western country you have not committed treason.

    I'm sorry but punishing someone because they decide that they no longer believe a set of myths laid down centuries ago is silly nonsense. You're taking your religion way to seriously. What ever happened to no compulsion in religion? So much for that lie.

    This has everything to do with the burqa. If society has the right to lay down arbitrary rules with no logical foundation (i.e. a law against apostasy) it has the right to lay down arbitrary rules against the burqa.

    You are no moderate. I really hope most Muslims dont believe this garbage.

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  6. HI KC

    First of all calm down.

    Apostasy in religion is the secular equivalent of treason. As for what defines a religion is another issue. You consider religion to be a peripheral issues but for those who live by it - it is not so.

    The logic behind laws is a matter of perspective. It ultimately depends on your beliefs. Just as much we find it illogical to 'punish' someone with light sentences, you find it illogical to apply harsh sentences.

    We have a case in the UK who is going to server only 3.5 years in jail for killing two innocent children and maiming their father for life. To me this is garbage and inhuman!

    I hope you will engage with patience and wisdom rather than emotion.

    Best wishes

    Yamin

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  7. First of all calm down

    I'm not sure how one is to be calm in the face of a person who thinks it is legitimate to punish someone due to a change in their religious beliefs.

    Apostasy in religion is the secular equivalent of treason. As for what defines a religion is another issue. You consider religion to be a peripheral issues but for those who live by it - it is not so.

    That doesnt even make sense. Apostasy is nonsensical gibberish. Obviously apostates think religion to be "peripheral" issue, what about their viewpoint? Why should I care about the religious freedom of muslims when they do not care for the religious freedoms of apostates? The right to apostate is as fundamental an aspect of religious freedom as your freedom to pray or a muslim woman's right to wear a hijab.

    Just as much we find it illogical to 'punish' someone with light sentences, you find it illogical to apply harsh sentences.

    No. I find it "illogical" that one should be punished because they decide to change their religion.

    We have a case in the UK who is going to server only 3.5 years in jail for killing two innocent children and maiming their father for life. To me this is garbage and inhuman!

    And what do you say regarding all the instances in majority-muslim countries where men are acquitted or dealt with lightly for raping women?

    I hope you will engage with patience and wisdom rather than emotion.

    Its disappointing to hear a self-declared "moderate" muslim justify punishment for people exercising their religious freedom to leave a religion. It really doesn't fill one with hope for the future of the world.

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  8. Hi KC

    Thanks for your response again. If you cant understand apostasy then I suggest you do further reading.

    Your point about the view of apostate comes back to the same issue of defining religion, which you see through the secular spectrum only. You find it illogical because you give no weight to it but that is not so in a society based on religion.

    The punishment for rape in Islam is very serious, not light! If they are acquitted that would be an example of misapplcation of the law.


    For a society based on religion religious freedom is meaningless, just as for a society based on secularism - secular freedom is meaning less as that is the de-facto system.

    Regards

    Yamin

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