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Girl’s flogging not Islamic


By Dr Riffat Hassan



Friday, 10 Apr, 2009 | 08:31 AM PST | 



THE horrific sight purportedly of the Taliban’s public flogging of a girl and the sound of her heartrending screams have outraged many Pakistanis who have condemned this act of cruelty in the strongest terms.


It has also been condemned by some religious leaders. There is no question that the sight of the merciless flogging by a man of a powerless girl lying on the ground, being held down by other two men while others watched, evokes feelings that are too deep for tears.


This has been demonstrated by the outpouring of protests in many places in Pakistan. As a theologian who has worked for more than three decades on the rights of women in Islam, I am gravely concerned about the girl who has suffered such dreadful humiliation and pain.


The faceless, nameless and hapless girl seen in the soul-searing video clips must not be regarded simply as a statistic – as one of hundreds of girls and women who are routinely subjected to domestic and societal violence in a country that was created to provide safety and protection to all its citizens. It is a source of satisfaction to know that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken suo motu notice of the case, and has asked for the victim to appear in court. By doing this the court has recognised the girl’s fundamental right to be treated as a human being.


It is a moral and legal imperative now that all the particulars of the girl in question be known and scrutinised rigorously. At this time the story is shrouded in mystery. We do not know with certainty as to the offence, alleged or actual, for which the girl was flogged. Different statements have been made in this regard in the media. For instance, it has been insinuated that she had been living and thus having illicit relations with her father-in-law, and that was why she was flogged. I have also heard a rights activist say that she had been flogged because she had refused to marry one of the Taliban, whose proposal had been sent to her family.


Such statements have little logical or legal weight. Living in the same house with one’s father-in-law does not constitute any wrongdoing in terms of Islamic law. Incidentally, it should also be noted that a father-in-law is, in fact, a mehram and not a non-mehram, as clarified by verse 24: 31. Islam has made voluntary consent a precondition for marriage; therefore, non-acceptance of a proposal for any reason whatsoever does not constitute a wrongdoing for which one can be punished.


With regard to the insinuation that the girl had illicit relations with her father-in-law, and was, therefore, guilty of a hadd crime, the question arises: was she proved guilty beyond any doubt according to the conditions specified for an indictment of fornication under the Sharia? If so, where are the four witnesses who are known to be truthful, just, of upright, good moral character and unimpeachable integrity, who saw the commission of the act with their own eyes?


Also, if she was proved guilty in accordance with Islamic law, why was no punishment given to her father-in-law who would also be deemed equally guilty according to the following lines in verse 24:2? ‘As for the adulteress and the adulterer – flog each of them a 100 stripes, and let not compassion with them keep you from (carrying out) this law of God, if you (truly) believe in God and the Last Day; and let a group of believers witness their chastisement.’


Apparently, the girl was flogged 34 times. The hadd punishment for zina is 100 lashes. Why did the 100 lashes get reduced to 34 lashes if the girl was actually found guilty? Under the Sharia, every person is regarded as innocent until proved guilty. Since no evidence has been produced so far – in any court or even in the media – to demonstrate beyond any doubt that the girl who was flogged was guilty of any wrongdoing, she must be deemed innocent, and the cruel punishment meted out to her must be deemed to be totally unjust and in blatant violation of Quranic teachings and Islamic law.


The writer is a scholar of Islam and Iqbal, and teaches at the University of Louisville, US.



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