Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Baby Steps Toward Islamic Reform

Muslim reformer Irshad Manji of Yale (that's her on the right, not exactly your everyday Islamochick), writing in Haaretz, has some positive news to report about Islam:
A liberal reformation of Islam will be marked by at least two features: the empowerment of women in the Muslim world and the willingness of Muslims in the West to exercise our freedom of conscience.

In one week, both got a promising boost. We will need to remember that as God's soldiers continue grabbing the spotlight.
Most of the article concerns a meeting of "99 Muslims of Tomorrow" in Copenhagen, at which shocking admissions about Islam and spirited debate without condemnation about its beliefs was the fare of the day. That's positive and it's a start -- but it's 99 Muslims out of a billion. May their numbers swell.

Much more positive was this, from the same article:
For almost three decades, Pakistan has followed a controversial set of laws called "Hudood." Named for "hudd," or penalties prescribed by God, these laws determine punishment in cases of rape and adultery. Finally, the Hudood ordinances are being seriously challenged. And not a moment too soon: Under them, more than 4,600 Pakistani women have been thrown in prison for charges that include adultery. By contrast, virtually all men accused of rape have gotten off. Thanks to a vocal but religiously respectful campaign by civil society groups, Pakistan's Council for Islamic Ideology - an influential body - recently recommended changing the Hudood laws. That move laid the foundation for President Pervez Musharraf to begin releasing 1,300 jailed women who were awaiting trial. Even Muslim clerics in Pakistan now hint that the Hudood laws are not divinely created.
Good riddance, and one hopes that other Islamic states will begin to enjoy the same realization of their Hudoodish laws.

In Pakistan, Huddod was establshed under Gen. Zia ul-Haq, who became prez of Pakistan in 1977, and came to get himself declared "Commander of the Faithful," which Manji says is a term reserved for the Prophet's successors. Here's why it turned so badly against women:
In this way, stoning arose as a legal punishment for adultery and it was required that a rape be witnessed by four men before any offender could be charged. But suppose a rape does not have the benefit of so many male eyes - and male voices willing to testify? Then it would be a case of adultery committed by the woman, who in turn could be condemned to jail, lashing, or stoning.
Why wasn't the law written so adultry had to be witness by four men, too? Oh well, in Pakistan it may start mattering less -- but let's keep an eye on the situation. Some radical clerics are likely to condemn the action, and the unequal punishment of women is likely to continue.

Still, any good news out of the Islamic world is appreciated.

hat-tip: Jim
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