Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Stoning in Islam and a Hollywood Film

While Iran is in the headlines for election 'fraud' as claimed by the western media, there is a new Hollywood film that may have a different message. I am still trying to know more about this death by stoning under shariah. It is not within Malaysian shariah law, I believe.

The Stoning of Soraya M. (2008)

The Stoning of Soraya M.
It is about death by stoning, claimed by most as an archaic and inhumane practice. "Stoning of Soraya M" movie tells the true story of a 35-year old Iranian Muslim mother of seven who was falsely accused of adultery by her husband, sentenced to death by stoning and killed by members of her own village.

NY Times critic Stephen Holden to come down on "The Stoning of Soraya M," for stereotyping a couple of murderous, misogynist Islamists as...murderous misogynist Islamists.

Holden found the movie didactic -- fair criticism, but one he usually fails to apply to movies whose message he approves of.

Almost everything is either-or. Soraya is a beautiful martyred innocent and Zahra a stormy feminist prophet. With the exception of the mayor (David Diaan), who has qualms about the execution, and [Jim] Caviezel's reporter, who appears only briefly at the beginning and end of the movie, the men are fiendishly villainous.

Mr. Negahban's Ali, who resembles a younger, bearded Philip Roth, suggests an Islamic fundamentalist equivalent of a Nazi anti-Semitic caricature. With his malevolent smirk and eyes aflame with arrogance and hatred, he is as satanic as any horror-movie apparition. The fraudulent local mullah, who collaborates in his scheme after being rejected by Soraya, might as well be carrying a pitchfork and breathing fire.

A lawyer, who is also a muslim woman, wrote:-
It's not religion that keeps women back. It's poverty; it's war-torn chaos like that in Sudan and Somalia; it's high illiteracy like that in Pakistan; it's tribal customs like that in Afghanistan; it's authoritarian regimes like Iran's and Egypt's; and it's misogynistic culture like that in Saudi Arabia. Most often, in developing countries like Muslim countries, it's a combination of these.

Take Soraya's stoning, for example. Over half the Wikipedia entry for stoning discusses it (in a very muddled manner) in the context of Islam; yet, the punishment for adultery in the Qur'an is not stoning, it's flogging.

Stoning crept into Islam separately, in the books of religious interpretation written by early Islamic scholars over a thousand years ago. How did it get there? Not clear. But since Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the word of God, they should be looking to the Qur'an instead of to man-made 8th century books of religious law.

But whatever the penalty for adultery in Islam, it is restricted so thoroughly -- even under medieval religious law -- that it is impossible to apply. For one thing, the penalty applies equally to both men and women, and to convict either one for adultery, you must first bring four eyewitnesses to the act of intercourse itself.

Let me just say that again: you must prove that four eyewitnesses saw the act of intercourse itself.

I don't know how many of you are lawyers out there, but I am, and I myself wouldn't want this kind of a burden of proof. Especially because the four eyewitnesses must have actually seen the actual penetration.

In addition to the four eyewitness, you must also prove that each eyewitness is trustworthy. And, if -- by some cosmic convergence -- you can bring these trustworthy eyewitnesses, the accused person can still invoke numerous defenses, such as fraud, duress, mistake, or lack of capacity (mental or physical).

And even if all that can be proved (how likely is that?) and no defenses apply (how likely is that?) the court can still throw out the case if there's any doubt whatsoever. Oh, and by the way, the pregnancy of an unwed mother is not proof of adultery under Islamic law.

In short, this is an impossible burden of proof.

Yet, witness the so-called Muslim countries that shamefully allow it or ignore it. It's heart-rending that a religion that meant to raise the status of women and limit violence should now be used to implement more violence.

Although Muslim groups are increasingly promoting women's rights and educating Muslims regarding Islamic law, we must do more. Perhaps that way, Muslims worldwide won't be so vulnerable to extremism promoted in the name of a religion that was originally, believe it or not, a feminist one.