I wrote about the looming danger and entirely incorrect interpretation western media is giving to a Saudi Arabian rape case, here are more details detailing the other side of the picture. [There are four or five edits to change some spellings.]
Qatif Woman’s Case and the Saudi Judgment
By Faraz Omar
The recent attention to the Qatif court case in which a gang raped victim was penalized with lashes and imprisonment has re-surfaced criticism of the Saudi Judicial system in the media. However the view circulated is to an extent biased and one-sided. Often one gets misled by looking at just one side of the coin. International newspapers carried the story with various headlines but a common theme – A gang rape victim sentenced for lashes and imprisonment. A common reader might be disgusted by the very thought, "How could a victim of a gang rape be penalized? Could there be anything more inhuman than punishing an oppressed victim herself? And all her guilt lies in being with a man she is not related to." These thoughts would be sufficient for most of us to come to a very satisfied conclusion and justify the international media remarks such as ‘Barbaric Laws’ and ‘Inhuman interpretation of laws’.
Having lived in Saudi Arabia and knowing it personally, I attempt to present the other side of the coin. To give a background first, Saudi Arabia’s judicial system is largely based on the Islamic Law. The Religious Scholars do accept that it’s not purely based on Islamic Law and has its shortcomings, but yet largely and fundamentally it follows the Islamic Law. One of the basics of Islamic Law is that not only are all types of crimes prohibited, but all things which lead to such crimes are also prohibited. And on the other hand, good things which prevent these crimes are much encouraged. For example, Islam prohibits adultery and fornication i.e. sex outside marriage, premarital sex etc. It views them as one of the biggest social crimes. So it prohibits all things that lead to them such as gazing or staring at the opposite sex, immodesty, dating etc. On the other hand it promotes and encourages marriage. It doesn’t deny the basic instinct of a human being but it regulates it into a manner that would preserve the well-being of a family; promote modesty and protect the society from sexual crimes.
Having said that let us look at the Qatif Girl’s case. She is a young married woman who had an illegal relationship with a man. And this man threatened her that he would publicize her pictures taken with him during the relationship. She was with this man when they were abducted and raped. The pictures were handed over to the police later on. So the Saudi judges first gave 10 months to 5 years imprisonment to the rapists and 90 lashes to the woman as punishment for her involvement in an illicit relationship. The atmosphere of Saudi Arabia is very different than most countries. It is a very conservative and religious country. Rapes are especially unheard of, however, as we see the society become more western, such crimes are now increasing than before. Saudi religious leaders take every step to preserve modesty and stop youth from getting into immoral relationships. We know that most of the sexual crimes are done by ‘known people’. ‘Date Abuse’ and ‘Date Rape’ where women are subjected to the most sexual abuse is a major problem in the western world. After clear evidence that pointed towards the illegal relationship of the Qatif Woman surfaced which could have also been the cause leading to the horrific gang rape, it became incumbent upon the Saudi authorities that they also punish her for violating the country’s well known law. When the appeal for this matter was publicized to create sympathy and draw criticism over the law, the punishment was raised to 200 lashes and 6 months of imprisonment for the girl. [The Appeals court also increased the punishment of the rapists to 2 – 7 years imprisonment]. This raise of punishment, according to official sources, was due to "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media" which is a pretty valid point.
The punishment by lashes is also misunderstood as ‘barbaric’. While lashing the hand should not be raised such that the underarm is seen, which means that one cannot apply do it with force. We see so much from the western hypocrisy that they allow ‘the accused’ who are not yet convicted to undergo severe torture. Pain, extreme temperature conditions, psychological trauma and more unspeakable tortures in prisons like ‘Guantanamo Bay’, Abu Ghraib etc are pretty common. And all this is before even being convicted. This is their hypocrisy, they have a law but their practice is different. Islamic Law is direct and straight forward. It has clear described laws and punishments for those who violate it without infringing their rights.
Again everyone may not agree with this side of view, but there are many others who agree to it. We keep talking about tolerating others views and accepting diversity, but in practice we are really forcing our view of liberalization and freedom. So if some differ they are labeled as intolerant and oppressors.