Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Lash for Rape Victim

One of my biggest problems with organized religion, other than the ideological brainwashing, and the fact it is usually an ideational front for the most violent and reactionary elements of our species, is the manner in which it dehumanizes women. Women have always been the greatest threat to organized religion, because the population depends on their wombs for our reproduction. This is why every major religion, at least those that are more than a thousand years old, tends to view women as breeding cattle (and why they prescribe gender roles, with women typically playing that of the obedient hausfrau).

I have always had a dichotomous attitude about Islam, because I am inclined against criticizing religions that are not a part of my own heritage (although it is a religion I have spent my entire adult life studying and nearly was the subject of my dissertation many moons ago). In addition, I am aware, more so than most non-Muslims, that Islam receives some unfair depictions in the West, particularly when it comes to terrorism (it would surprise people to know the Quran commands Muslims, even in war, never to kill civilians). Be that as it may, its attitude towards women is no better than the Book of Genesis after The Fall and Original Sin. In Saudi Arabia, the oldest, sustained Islamic state in existence, being an unrelated female while raped is a crime.

Saudi Court Ups Punishment for Gang Rape Victim

(CNN)-- A court in Saudi Arabia increased the punishment for a gang-rape victim after her lawyer won an appeal of the sentence for the rapists, the lawyer told CNN.

The 19-year-old victim was sentenced last year to 90 lashes for meeting with an unrelated male, a former friend from whom she was retrieving photographs. The seven rapists, who abducted the pair and raped both, received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in prison.

The victim's attorney, Abdulrahman al-Lahim, contested the rapists' sentence, contending there is a fatwa, or edict under Islamic law, that considers such crimes Hiraba (sinful violent crime) and the punishment should be death.

"After a year, the preliminary court changed the punishment and made it two to nine years for the defendants," al-Lahim said of the new decision handed down Wednesday. "However, we were shocked that they also changed the victim's sentence to be six months in prison and 200 lashes."

The judges more than doubled the punishment for the victim because of "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media," according to a source quoted by Arab News, an English-language Middle Eastern daily newspaper.

Judge Saad al-Muhanna from the Qatif General Court also barred al-Lahim from defending his client and revoked his law license, al-Lahim said. The attorney has been ordered to attend a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Justice next month.

Al-Lahim said he is appealing the decision to bar him from representing the victim and has a meeting with Justice Minister Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al Al-Sheikh on Monday.

"Currently she doesn't have a lawyer, and I feel they're doing this to isolate her and deprive her from her basic rights," al-Lahim said. "We will not accept this judgment and I'll do my best to continue representing her because justice needs to take place."

Al-Lahim said he wanted the Justice Ministry to take "a very clear standing" on the case, saying the decision is "judicial mutiny against reform that King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz started and against Saudi women who are being victimized because of such decisions."

Women are subject to numerous restrictions in Saudi Arabia, including a strict dress code, a prohibition against driving and the need for a man's permission to travel or have surgery. Women are also not allowed to testify in court unless it is about a private matter that was not observed by a man, and they are not allowed to vote.

The Saudi government recently has taken some steps toward bettering the situation of women in the kingdom, including the establishment earlier this year of special courts to handle domestic abuse cases, adoption of a new labor law that addresses working women's rights, and creation of a human rights commission.

And remember, this is the country we choose to be allies with, a friend in the Arab world in our "war on terror," including the invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq (an Iraq which was until 2003 an expressly non-Islamic state that would have reserved its punishment for the gang rapists, instead of beating the victim). This is also the home of fifteen out of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, as well as virtually the entire leadership of al-Qaeda (including bin Laden and almost half of the foreign fighters that migrate to Iraq to martyr themselves at the expense of our soldiers). I guess even "friends" like these are of little worry, when you need their oil.

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