FaithWorld

GUESTVIEW: Why stoning Sakineh is a mistake

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. This interview with Abdullahi Ahmed an-Naim and Massimo Papa about Iran’s stoning sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani on charges of adultery was originally published in Oasis, a Venice-based magazine on Christian-Muslim dialogue. Martino Diez is director of research at the Oasis International Foundation. sakinehBy Martino Diez .

Professor Naim, what is your assessment of Sakineh’s case?
Officially, the authorities maintain this is a straightforward murder case. Although I have not followed the matter in detail, I think that the ambiguity of the versions produced throughout the years is suspicious and betrays the presence of political manipulation. This poor woman has ended up at the centre of a struggle between different underground factions. There are many cases similar to this. (Photo: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in an undated photo handout from Amnesty International)

About this charge, and especially the (momentarily suspended) sentence, the authorities have invoked Islamic legitimation. Sakineh’s case would be included in the hudùd category, which comprises crimes explicitly defined as such in the Koran itself: murder, adultery, theft, slander and alcohol consumption.

The whole hudùd question is contradictory. To start with, the Koran does not mention stoning for adultery. Besides, traditional norms are very exacting in terms of evidence collecting: they talk about four witnesses who must tell in detail and without contradictions the taking place of the sexual act. The tradition tells of a man who came to accuse himself before the Prophet, and the Prophet thrice over turned his ear to the other side in order not to listen to him. Only the fourth time did he decide to believe the confession that, according to traditional law, must be maintained by the condemned person throughout the execution. In Sakineh’s case, instead, we see an over-eagerness for punishment. Behind this there is a political game.

Even with the important limitations you have mentioned, the hudùd discipline remains problematic.
I certainly am of the opinion that today it is not possible to execute hudùd punishments by law. The punishments are so severe that they require absolute certainty. First of all, the Koran does not give any definition of theft or adultery. Besides, the various law schools have taken different positions about what constitutes evidence, with the result that the same fact can lead to death by stoning in Northern Nigeria and absolution in Sudan — possibly with the accusers being condemned for slander, with relative corporal punishment. But how is it possible for the same event to be dealt with in such different ways? Who is right? I think that the authentically pious position should acknowledge that there is too much disagreement and possibility of error for such punishments to be applied.

South Africa Muslims look to welcome Muslim World Cup fans

cape town mosqueSouth Africa’s Muslim community says as many as 130,000 Muslim fans could visit for the World Cup and it has set up welcome centres and a website to inform visitors where to eat and pray close to stadiums.

In Cape Town, local Muslims are expecting to welcome Muslim supporters from Algeria, who will play England in Cape Town on Friday, as well as fans of Muslim faith from competing nations such as Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.

Just minutes from Cape Town’s Green Point stadium is the Bo-Kaap district, one of the city’s oldest residential quarters and traditionally associated with the Muslim community.

Islamic finance has image problem in Christian-majority African states

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A currency dealer counts Kenya shillings in Nairobi on October 23, 2008/Antony Njuguna

Africa’s Islamic finance industry needs to overcome negative perceptions among non-Muslims to successfully expand into predominantly Christian sub-Saharan Africa, an industry leader has said.

Northern Africa is largely Muslim and countries such as Egypt and Sudan have offered Islamic banking for decades.  Now some lenders are looking to expand into sub-Saharan nations, such as Uganda which is 80 per cent Christian.

Kenya investigates Islamic group crackdown on soccer and films

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A Kenyan soccer fan attends their 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Nigeria at the Kasarani stadium in Kenya's capital Nairobi, November 14, 2009/Thomas Mukoya

Kenya has deployed security agents to its border with Somalia after Islamic clerics announced they had clamped down on the public broadcast of soccer and films, a security official has said.  Clerics in the frontier town of Mandera said on Monday they had confiscated a number of satellite TV dishes in a football-obsessed nation ahead of the World Cup because public film dens were corrupting youths.

“Two groups, an undercover team from National Security Intelligence Service and (an) anti-terrorist unit, arrived here on Tuesday night to investigate,” a senior local security source who did not wish to be named told Reuters late on Thursday.  Another team has been dispatched to Dadaab refugee camp which is home to some 270,000 mostly Somali refugees in the mostly Muslim region.

Irish bookmaker slashes odds on pope’s resignation

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead his weekly audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican March 10, 2010.  REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

Pope Benedictat his weekly audience in the Vatican March 10, 2010/Alessia Pierdomenico

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power said Friday it had cut the odds on Pope Benedict resigning after allegations of child abuse by priests in Germany gripped the Roman Catholic Church.

Ireland’s biggest bookmaker, which has branches in Britain as well as Catholic Ireland, said it had cut the odds from 12 to 1 to 3 to 1 following a “cascade of bets.”

Christian-Muslim identity tags in Nigerian struggle for land

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A funeral of victims in Dogo Nahawa village near Jos in central Nigeria, March 8, 2010/Akintunde Akinleye

Bloody clashes between Christian and Muslim gangs in Nigeria have led to media headlines about “religious violence” that leave readers wondering just what role faith plays in this conflict. As our copy from Nigeria points out, the terms Christian, Muslim and animist are often used to identify the groups in this conflict, but they are not fighting over the divine nature of Jesus, prophethood of Mohammad or sacredness of a tree or rock. They are mostly struggling for land in the fertile central region of the country.

Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic groups and several different languages, but its population is divided almost equally between Muslims and Christians.

from The Great Debate:

Islam, terror and political correctness

-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

The Islamic terrorists of the Bush era are gone. They have been replaced by violent extremists in a purge of the American government's political lexicon. Smart move in the propaganda war between al Qaeda and the West? Or evidence of political correctness taken to extremes?

Those questions are worth revisiting after the publication in February of two key documents issued by the administration of President Barack Obama, the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. Both deal with what used to be called the Global War on Terror. Neither uses the words "Muslim" or "Islam."

North Africa Qaeda group offers to help Nigerian Muslims

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Farm truck attacked in Nigeria's central city of Jos as Muslim and Christian gangs clashed last month, 20 Jan 2010/Akintunde Akinleye

An al Qaeda group in North Africa has offered to give Nigerian Muslims training and weapons to fight Christians in the West African country, where more than 460 people were killed in sectarian clashes last month.

“We are ready to train your people in weapons, and give you whatever support we can in men, arms and munitions to enable you to defend our people in Nigeria,” the statement by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said.

TIMELINE-Ethnic and religious unrest in Nigeria

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A man and his daughter outside a burned house in Jos,20 Jan 2010/Akintunde Akinleye

Four days of clashes this week between Christian and Muslim mobs armed with guns, knives and machetes killed hundreds of people in Jos and surrounding communities before the military was deployed to contain the violence. At least 460 people have been reported killed

The unrest around the capital of Plateau state, which lies at the crossroads of Nigeria’s Muslim north and predominantly Christian south, underscores the fragility of Africa’s most populous nation as it approaches the campaign period for 2011 elections with uncertainty over who is in charge.  President Umaru Yar’Adua has been receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for two months.

Nigeria bomber’s home town blames foreign schooling

For residents in his home town, it was Umar Abdulmutallab’s foreign education, not his roots in Muslim northern Nigeria, that radicalized him and led him to try to blow up a U.S. passenger plane.

The 23-year-old London-educated Nigerian was charged on Saturday in the United States with trying to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas Day with almost 300 people on board.

The son of a highly respected banker, Abdulmutallab’s actions shocked Nigeria’s wealthy elite and residents in his family’s predominantly Muslim northern hometown of Funtua.