Friday 18 May 2007

Stoners required for Sharia execution

Punishing crime against women

Crime and violence against women is still something men and society seem to be able to do with impunity in Africa, one report suggests it is seldom punished. There are civilising voices that are being raised to highlight these issues and bring focus to the need for radical and positive change.

Unfortunately, one such voice for change in the blogging community seems to have lost the desire to continue this thankless activity and I very well sympathise, social issues in Africa cannot gain prominence where the quest for basic survival is the primary pre-occupation.

Apathy reigns whilst hedonistic pursuits leave us in need for things to improve our society and raise our quality of life, one would miss the voice of Black Looks on these matters.

Sharia in the headlines

The law and religion collide again in Nigeria's north where a man has been sentenced to be stoned to death by Sharia Law.

His heinous crime is the forcible raping of two teenage girls, an act he committed with an accomplice who got off lightly with just a six-month sentence.

I would not argue the disproportionate difference in sentencing, as to how a rapist and an accomplice cannot both be accessories to the same crime and how not even a corporal punishment element appears in the sentencing of the supposedly lesser criminal.

The logic escapes me that the horridness of the crime of rape has been belittled in some way that would make it arguable for a participant in encouraging a rape might get off quite so lightly. Am I expressing surprise at Sharia judgements being so lenient?

There is a risk of imputing tribalism, in noting the ambiguous name of the main criminal which is indeterminately Southern Nigerian (Ade Debo) as compared with the more Northerly sounding and Muslim name of the accomplice (Shagari Abubakar), but I would contend that greater principles of due legal process, albeit Sharia Law prevailed in the execution of justice and judgement.

The punishment

In the West, rapists do get quite stiff sentences, even up to life imprisonment, in America, it would exact a capital punishment, especially if it leads to murder - I would argue that rape should and must be severely punished if proven.

The points of interest arise when you hear the proclamation of the judge; Aliyu Mohammed, "For your action, you will be stoned to death as ordained by Allah".

I would not dispute this statement, but how many times have we seen certain actions of men carried out in the name of God so as to be considered credible, unassailable and inviolable.

The we read that the men have 30 days to appeal the sentence where man in the assumed capacity of Allah can commute what Allah ordained to a lesser punishment - maybe I am being a bit pedantic here.

Are you a stoner at heart?

If the sentence does not get commuted, in the 21st Century, would there be a wolf pack of Nigerians available to pick up specially selected stones to throw at a fellow human-being till he were dead?

Would people be compelled by their Islamic leaders to do the Allah-ordained task of stoning or face the wrath of Allah?

Surely the execution of criminals should be the function of the state and this should be carried out in a humane and civilised manner, to set this activity in the marketplace of a mob of bloodthirsty people creating images too savage for Allan Quatermain's Africa is beyond the pale.

The bizarre nature of this whole thing would be if certain adherents of Sharia principles offer their services as professional "stoners", or rather, they are catalysts that help instigate and encourage the mob to pick up stones and finish off the criminal as he bellows out blood-curdling screams of pain to the hearing of inured children.

The role of civil law

We should punish crime appropriately, but at this juncture, civil law is probably the better tool to handle cases like this than traditional religious methods which would take the focus away from the crime and place it on the criminal as activists move to prevent this sentence from being carried out.

Somehow, Sharia Law does have its place in society, but it also has to adapt to modern values in such a way that social matters are handled with the adjudication of the Sharia court whilst felonies and serious criminal matters are forwarded to the civil law division.

The way Sharia Law grabs the headlines when these punishments are given persuades people to highlight the fossilised aspects of this code of conduct and creates resistance to the more civilising forces for social cohesion that Sharia Law might bring to communities.

The only progress I have seen in this matter is where the female victims of this sex crime have not been charged with some absurd offence of encouraging the rape; amazing perspective, but too valid in Africa to be ignored.

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