Saudi Arabia orders teen rape victim lashed… US expresses astonishment
Snort. The only thing astonishing here is how the USA government has continued for decades to justify being a firm ally of one of the most backward, repressive, mind numbingly corrupt, medieval, undemocratic regimes on the planet. And I mean medieval literally, Saudi Arabia is a family run fiefdom where the royal family is still the absolute law of the land. They even named the damned country after themselves, is there another country on the planet named by and after after its rulers? Looking at how the US has propped up this monarchy from the dark ages for decades shows just what a sick farce the idea is that the USA stands for justice and democracy. Saudi Arabia is possibly the least democratic country on the planet, and they are bosom buddies with the American government and the Bush family. Yeah, freedom rings, right.
A point I should make here is that my opinion of the Saudi regime has nothing to do with Islam or the Saudi people. If Arabia’s tribal rulers had been a Hindu, Christian, Jew, whatever…the western powers would have propped them up with weapons and looked the other way all the same. This isn’t about a region being backward because of its religion, it’s about propping up a medieval criminal gang because they have something we want.
Moving right along, what is about religion is this lady in Saudi Arabia being whipped after she was gang raped. It’s also about politics and international relations as well, but let’s focus here. The basic story is this: A woman and an unrelated adult male were out on a drive. This is illegal in Saudi Arabia. They were kidnapped by two men, driven to a remote location and gang raped. This is also illegal in Saudi Arabia. The authorities arrested them all, and tried and convicted them for their crimes. The woman appealed her conviction, the case hit the press, and all parties concerned have had their sentences increased. And as breaking news, the woman apparently has confessed that she was indeed having an affair with the unrelated adult male she was illegally consorting with, making her crime even more serious. Phew. Did I get everything right?
Well, within their own legal system, I don’t see a problem. I don’t condone lashing in this case, but I don’t condone corporal punishment in any case. I actually don’t really have a problem with religious law. Or to be more precise, I have zero problems with religious law, your God gives you commandment, who am I to interpret it or second guess it for you? Where I have major problems, and the source of much of the world’s woe, is where people want to apply their religious law to people of other religions, and/or they make it illegal to leave their own religion. The former is a monstrous perversion of all God has ever tried to teach us, people must choose to follow his laws for them to be meaningful. The second is merely slavery, and I’ve yet to hear a theological justification for slavery that didn’t sound like the devil rationalizing.
So I don’t have a problem per se with Saudi Arabia, in fact I’ve met some charming Saudis in my time, but I don’t plan to visit. I do have a problem with the west protecting this anachronistic undemocratic regime while pretending to stand for democracy and justice and human rights. And going back to the English schoolteacher in the Sudan, since she is not Muslim, I do have a problem with them whipping her for violating their religious law. I hope they just kick her out of the country, in fact even the Sudanese are calling it a cultural misunderstanding now, I don’t have a problem with exiling foreigners to your land who won’t obey the local laws. This wouldn’t be the first time someone has lost their job because of a thoughtless moment, but usually the resulting lashings are figurative, not literal.
The point in both cases is this, the western press seizes these basically everyday news events, and spins them as global stories because they have great “shock” value, ie it’s really easy to use them to portray the Muslim cultures involved as “barbaric.” In fact outraged emails about these are likely circulating as I type, such is the way of the world. What they leave out is that in many of these cases, on appeal the original harsh sentence was overturned. In fact there seems to be a clear pattern in the Islamic world that a harsh sentence is imposed for the original infraction in order to satisfy the religious hard liners, then on appeal a creative way to void the conviction is found.
For example a recent case in Nigeria a woman was sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery, since she had a child five years after her husband’s death. The husband obviously couldn’t be the father, so obviously she had committed adultery since she wasn’t married. On appeal, it was ruled that indeed the husband was the father, case closed. It may sound absurd, but this is how legal systems evolve and modernize. These carefully selected cases really show us little about the Muslim world…but how such cases get highlighted in the western press shows much about our attitude toward the same.
(The above image of George Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia holding hands is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is an historically important image, and it is central to illustrating the post. Damned if I know who to credit it with, I’m guessing it’s an AP or Reuters image.)