Caning | 40 Lashes for Sharia Law and the Mindless Masses

Does the punishment fit the crime?

They laugh, but caning is no laughing matter (Photo: flickr.com)

They laugh, but caning is no laughing matter (Photo: flickr.com)

Corporal punishment has a tradition that can be traced back into the governing history of many nations. Some claim to find enlightenment and “grow out” of the process, while others cling to it because they either believe that it is an effective deterrent against crime, are “authorized” to do so by religious dogma or certain individuals are in some way thrilled by the nature of the dominant/submissive power relationship.

Let’s assume a person is in dire need of money; they truly need cash until payday, but none is forthcoming. Rather than pursuing the safe course of taking out a cash until payday loan, let’s say the individual falls prey to the impulse to steal what they need to feed themselves or their family. In nations where corporal punishment is widely practiced, the punishment may vary from heavy caning to having the pilfering hands cut off. Generally, the severity of the punishment varies in proportion to the severity of the crime.

Muslim law in non-Muslim nations

Rafia Zakaria writes for Altmuslim that while such methods of corporal (and in some cases even capital) punishment remain a constant in Muslim society, there is concern that Sharia law is spreading into areas that non-Muslims and reform Muslims don’t want it to go. By nature of its persistence in Muslim societies and the spreading of these groups, acts like caning and other forms of corporal punishment begin to appear in world media, particularly against women. This outrages millions.

As Zakaria puts it, “It’s been an eventful summer for Muslim women around the world.” Recently, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed off on the Shia Personal Status Law. What was once religious practice is now official law. This currently makes it legal for Afghan men to starve their wives if they do not grant them sexual intercourse. Sudanese journalist Lubna Ahmed Hussein faces forty lashes for having worn dress slacks in public. And on the caning front, Malaysian model Kartika Shukarno faced the rattan cane for the sin of consuming beer in a nightclub.

What else does the Shia Personal Status Law do to women?

It legally eliminates them from being able to claim child custody or leave home without a husband or father’s permission. It also happens to make it legal for men to marry children. It is staggering to note that Shinkai Karokhail of Afghan parliament claims that the law as it stands now is “still an improvement.”

Was it an improvement for Lubna Hussein? She was among a group of 19 women arrested in July for wearing dress trousers. While she has yet to receive her 40 lashes (she refused to plead guilty on the spot like the others), Hussein is blacklisted and cannot leave the country.

Notice where the "X" is (Photo: flickr.com)

Notice where the "X" is (Photo: flickr.com)

What about for Kartika Shukarno? Malaysia is a form of democracy, so how can Islamic laws be applied? The answer is that Malaysia has Islamic courts in addition to more standard civil courts. Since Shukarno is Muslim, and Muslims are forbidden from consuming alcohol, she was fined $1,400 and sentenced to caning – six strokes of a rattan cane, to be specific. Shukarno has received a reprieve from the caning for the time being, but has been given no assurance that Islamic authorities won’t attempt to carry out the punishment at a later time.

Oh, but it’s not about pain. None other than the President of the Sharia Lawyers Association of Malaysia said, “It’s not about causing pain, it is about educating others and about teaching the person a lesson.”

Patriarchy and robotic Muslims

Post-colonial Muslim societies in places like Afghanistan, Sudan and Malaysia fall sway to the idea that religious piety must be displayed publicly if it is to mean anything. Considering the patriarchal nature of Islam, it isn’t surprising that women are subjected to the brunt of law. But what is equally disturbing here – as Zakaria points out – is that the need for individual conscience is being phased out by fanatical enforcement of corporal and capital punishment against all potential sins. Once individuals are removed from the need to think for themselves about what is appropriate within their culture, they cease to be individuals. They cease to be thinking human beings.

While other religious groups may have less severe ways of dealing with those who commit infractions, it is largely impossible to disprove that the same patriarchal system that seeks to regulate away the rights and humanity of women is not present in the bulk of religions around the globe. Dress it in humility and protection all you like, removal of rights is removal of rights.

Do not understand. Obey.

Robotic obedience does not make a good Muslim, Christian or member of the Cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And yet to varying degrees, this is what religions either openly teach or subtly imply through one avenue or another. Taking away one’s humanity is a debasement. There can be no meaningful service without the presence of free will. Zakaria wonders whether Muslim tenets like zakah (charity), abstaining from drink and abhorring sexual promiscuity are practiced out of genuine love for those concepts, or out of robotic obedience and fear of reprisal from state authorities.

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Removal of free will does not pave the way for nations to thrive. On a lesser but similar scale, if American politicians find a way to extend President Obama’s credit card crackdown to legitimate industries like cash until payday loan distributors, then cash until payday will become a thing of the past as regulators take away or narrow consumers’ right to choose where they obtain financing. Hardly corporal punishment, but still a terrible idea in a society founded upon the concept of individual freedoms.

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