Is flogging a 16-year-old girl cruel and unusual punishment, or just obedience to the law of God? This is the choice that the Western world increasingly will have to make. In Sudan, the choice has already been made — unless enough unwelcome international attention can be focused upon this case, so that this poor girl can be spared. This report comes from The Scotsman, with thanks to John Eibner and Twostellas:
SHE is a shy and naÃ¯ve 16-year-old who, like many girls, was duped into a relationship with a married man by his promises of a brighter future.
But unlike her counterparts in most countries, Intisar Bakri Abdulgader will pay for her mistake in a most horrifying manner unless her story’s impact on the West can save her life.
Abdulgader, from Sudan, is due to face 100 lashes next Friday for having sex outside marriage under the uncompromising Sharia law with which the Islamic Sudanese government rule.
It is more than likely that this public flogging will kill the teenager, a prospect which has left her terrified and unable to eat properly since being sentenced last July.
But as worldwide appeals for a pardon rain down on Sudan, Abdulgader’s plight now presents a dilemma for President Omar al-Bashir, who is keen to rehabilitate his country in the eyes of the world and transform it from a rogue state which once harboured Osama bin Laden to one able to trade with the West, particularly the US.
The country’s powerful religious leaders are insisting on the full implementation of strict Islamic law which stipulates that adultery is punishable with execution by stoning if the offender is married, or by 100 lashes if the offender is not married.
A court in Khartoum imposed the sentence last July, but it was postponed first because Abdulgader was pregnant, and again in December on the grounds of her poor health.
It is worth noting that such postponements are in direct imitation of the example of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad himself. Here is a Hadith on this matter: “There came to him (the Holy Prophet) a woman from Ghamid and said: Allah’s Messenger, I have committed adultery, so purify me. He (the Holy Prophet) turned her away. On the following day she said: Allah’s Messenger, Why do you turn me away? . . . By Allah, I have become pregnant. He said: Well, if you insist upon it, then go away until you give birth to (the child). When she was delivered she came with the child (wrapped) in a rag and said: Here is the child whom I have given birth to. He said: Go away and suckle him until you wean him. When she had weaned him, she came to him (the Holy Prophet) with the child who was holding a piece of bread in his hand. She said: Allah’s Apostle, here is he as I have weaned him and he eats food. He (the Holy Prophet) entrusted the child to one of the Muslims and then pronounced punishment. And she was put in a ditch up to her chest and he commanded people and they stoned her” (Sahih Muslim, vol. 3, book 17, no. 4206).
Anyway, this case comes at a most inconvenient time for the Sudanese government:
Washington says that it will consider removing Sudan from its list of “state sponsors of terrorism” if a peace deal is reached between the government and the southern rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), who have been waging a civil war for two decades. But Washington also says Khartoum must curb extreme Islamic fundamentalist activities.
Khartoum desperately wants to be taken off the US list of terrorist states so that revenues can flow into its coffers from its oil fields. Under international pressure it reached an agreement with the rebels on January 6 to split the country’s oil wealth, which is mainly in the south. An oil deal with the US is now a distinct possibility. . . .
Success in Sudan would benefit Bush’s election ratings because it would demonstrate that he can deal with an Islamic government, while also pleasing Christian groups who are campaigning against the treatment of the Christian southern Sudanese. . . .
Since seizing power in a coup in 1989, al-Bashir has been edging away from the extreme fundamentalist policies that led Sudan to harbour Osama bin Laden. But the National Islamic Front government has close ties with the country’s powerful Islamic establishment.
Under Sudanese law, all who live in northern Sudan, whether Muslim or Christian, fall under the Sudanese Penal Code’s religious law.
Scores of people were sentenced to amputation or flogging last year. Only in the cases of pregnant women is flogging delayed, allowing the opportunity for an appeal. Those accused of offences such as selling without a licence or brewing alcohol are frequently given summary trials and flogged immediately.
Last week Sudan’s Advisory Council on Human Rights discussed with justice minister Ali Mohammed Osman Yassin appeals by international human rights organisations over Abdulgader’s case, and over that of a boy of the same age who has been sentenced to amputation. But the council did not make any recommendation.
Meanwhile, Sudanese scholars have found time between stonings and amputations to condemn that terrible violation of human rights, France’s headscarf ban:
At the same time, a leading committee of Sudanese scholars came out against French President Jacques Chirac’s decision to ban girls’ veils in schools, and described those Islamic leaders who had supported Chirac’s decision as a “disgrace”.
Nor does the prospect of American money make the Sudanese eager to denounce terrorist groups:
Sudan’s interior minister, Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein, also bridled at Washington’s demands that the Khartoum offices of Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad should be shut down. “We think they are a group of freedom fighters,” he said.
More on the girl:
Last September Abdulgader gave birth to a son, Dori, for whom she is now caring. In a recent interview the girl, from a shanty town outside Khartoum, said her mother had tried in vain to get a rickshaw driver called Isam, whom she named as the father, to marry her and sign a statement that he was the father of her child.
“Isam told the court that he did not know me and therefore has never slept with me,” Abdulgader said.
Under Islamic law, the man’s word is accepted without question in such cases. But the woman’s testimony is inadmissable.
Finally, this case is also a test of whether Islamic law will apply to dhimmi Sudanese Christians:
One possible loophole in the law is that Abdulgader is the product of a mixed marriage. She was raised a Christian like her mother, even though her father was a Muslim.
Her lawyer, Ismail Abusugrah, said he had appealed to a higher court to reject the verdict on grounds that Abdulgader was a Christian, a fact the judge “seems to have failed to consider during the trial”.
Amnesty International is asking for people all over the world to appeal to the Sudanese government for the sentence to be commuted and for cruel punishments to be abolished.
Amnesty’s British media director, Lesley Warner, said: “The Sudanese authorities must not carry out this vicious sentence on a young girl. It is a cruel punishment which completely contravenes basic international human rights law, to which Sudan is a party.”