Friday, May 06, 2005

Afghan Woman Stoned to Death for Adultery

A Killing Commanded by Tradition

GAZON, Afghanistan -- Begum Nessa recalled waking up with a start.

Someone was banging on the wooden door of the house. She sat up in the darkness as her husband, Mohammed Aslam, rushed outside.

"Where's your oldest daughter?" she heard a voice demand. It was the senior elder of their village.

"She's inside, sleeping with the rest of my family," answered Aslam, a short man with gentle eyes and a bushy black beard. He owns livestock and several wheat fields and is a respected figure in this tiny, mud-brick hamlet at the bottom of a remote valley in northern Afghanistan.

But the elder's voice took on a mocking tone: "Oh, is that so? Go and fetch her then." Nessa recalled feeling suddenly dizzy. She reached for the propane lamp in the bedroom where all nine members of her family slept each night on the floor. She turned it on just as Aslam burst inside.

They gasped in unison at the sight of Amina's empty mattress.

Within an hour, the entire village would learn that the 25-year-old married woman had been discovered in a darkened nearby hut with her lover.

Within two days, Amina was dead -- killed by her fellow villagers April 20 after the men of the community ruled that she had violated Islamic law by having an affair with a neighbor.


Very sad story. This occured in a remote and hard-to-reach region of the country, FYI. Anyway, there were a few lines in this extensive piece that struck me.

Soon Amina's father, the elders and a crowd of villagers had gathered outside. Mohammad unlocked the chain and flung open his front door. At the back of the room sat his son, Karim, on a floor cushion.

Next to him sat Amina. Her expression was once again blank, Aslam said.

It threw Aslam into a rage.

"I shouted, 'What is she doing here? Give her to me! I will kill her!' " he recounted last week. "I was so shocked, and my Islamic dignity was so offended."

Memo to moderate muslims. This is a problem. You all need to present a different image because this is what's getting out. If offending one's Islamic dignity results in the death penalty then Islam gets put in a nasty light. Of course, it doesn't help that our dear allies, Saudi Arabia, relish in a nasty form of theocracy.

Accounts vary of what exactly the final decision was and how it was reached.

Some say a small group, including Yousaf and the few other literate members of the community, met inside the mosque, then came out with a written order for the crowd to approve and for Amina's father to sign with his thumbprint.

Others say all 400 or so members of the shura made the decision by consensus, but that their opinion was merely meant as a recommendation to give Aslam on handing Amina back to him. They said he was free to do as he wished with her.

But no one involved disputes that the villagers were unanimous in their view that according to the dictates of Islam, the proper resolution of the case would be for Karim, as an unmarried man, to be lashed and Amina, as a married woman, to be stoned to death.

I know there was this problem of injustice in the Hebrew Scriptures, but it simply blows my mind that it has survived to this day and age.

I was speaking with my dad a couple of years back about Islam and he pointed out something about Islam that I had never considered. Christianity was forced out of its birthplace, from Jerusalem/Palestine, into foreign lands were it grew, as a result it necessitated a sophisticated hermenuetic for intepretation. In other words, symbolism became of prime importance because the obvious literal sense of many scriptures clearly did not apply. On the other hand, Islam remained tied to its birthplace and has never really had to deal with a comprehensive cultural realignment that would force it to re-interpret its texts symbolically.

Now, this is general and somewhat simplistic but I think merit to it. Yes, it is true that in the New Testament, we see the emergence of symbolic intepretations such as in Galatians, when he says Jerusalem is the mother of us all. Also we have Hebrews that launches into an extensive symbolic intepretation of the Hebrew scriptures. But all that was precisely because Christianity was quickly becoming a Gentile enterprise, thus forcing a new hermeneutic.

Islam, is now being forced to deal with a cultural realignment and I think it'll emerge from all this a stronger religion.

Anyway, back to the Afghan woman. Thank God for women's rights people. This is why it is important that women have complete freedom and dignity.


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