Saturday, April 30, 2005

Covering Shari'a

A paper by Asifa Quraishi at the last ICI panel I went to made me wish - not for the first time - that the western media did a better job of covering debates within Islamic law rather than simply treating as a flat code of justice similar to the law of a state or city. Her topic was rape in Pakistan, where it is considered a sex crime rather than a violent crime. In order to convict someone of a sex crime - such as fornication - you need four witnesses who saw the actual act, and if you bring an accusation that can't be proven, then you are penalized. For violent crimes, the standard of proof is far lower. According to Quraishi, for most of history rape has been treated as a violent crime, but for some reason Pakistan lumped it in with adultery. The problems this creates for rape victims are pretty obvious. An unfortunate side effect I thought of is that when the media report these stories, they tend to just cite Islamic law as if the Qur'an were a giant law book that handed down all these exact rulings.


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