Here’s an article by none other than Tariq Ramadan, who was prevented by DHS from teaching at Notre Dame last fall, calling for “An International call for Moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty in the Islamic World.” (Thanks to Alain for the link.)
Muslim majority societies and Muslims around the world are constantly confronted with the fundamental question of how to implement the penalties prescribed in the Islamic penal code.
Evoking the notion of sharÃ®’a, or more precisely hudÃ»d, the terms of the debate are defined by central questions emerging from thought provoking discussions taking place between ulamÃ¢’ (scholars) and/or Muslim masses: How to be faithful to the message of Islam in the contemporary era? How can a society truly define itself as “Islamic” beyond what is required in the daily practices of individual private life? But a critical and fruitful debate has not yet materialized.
Several currents of thought exist in the Islamic world today and disagreements are numerous, deep and recurring. Among these, a small minority demands the immediate and strict application of hudÃ»d, assessing this as an essential prerequisite to truly defining a “Muslim majority society” as “Islamic”. Others, while accepting the fact that the hudÃ»d are indeed found in the textual references (the Qur’an and the Sunna), consider the application of hudÃ»d to be conditional upon the state of the society which must be just and, for some, has to be “ideal” before these injunctions could be applied. Thus, the priority is the promotion of social justice, fighting against poverty and illiteracy etc. Finally, there are others, also a minority, who consider the texts relating to hudÃ»d as obsolete and argue that these references have no place in contemporary Muslim societies.
One can see the opinions on this subject are so divergent and entrenched that it becomes difficult to discern what the respective arguments are. At the very moment we are writing these lines- while serious debate is virtually non-existent, while positions remain vague and even nebulous, and consensus among Muslims is lacking- women and men are being subjected to the application of these penalties….
All the ulamÃ¢’ (scholars) of the Muslim world, of yesterday and of today and in all the currents of thought, recognize the existence of scriptural sources that refer to corporal punishment (Qur’an and Sunna), stoning of adulterous men and women (Sunna) and the penal code (Qur’an and Sunna). The divergences between the ulamÃ¢’ and the various trends of thought (literalist, reformist, rationalist, etc.) are primarily rooted in the interpretation of a certain number of these texts, the conditions of application of the Islamic penal code, as well as its degree of relevance to the contemporary era (nature of the committed infractions, testimonials, social and political contexts, etc.).
The majority of the ulamÃ¢’, historically and today, are of the opinion that these penalties are on the whole Islamic but that the conditions under which they should be implemented are nearly impossible to reestablish. These penalties, therefore, are “almost never applicable”. The hudÃ»d would, therefore, serve as a “deterrent,” the objective of which would be to stir the conscience of the believer to the gravity of an action warranting such a punishment.
So it isn’t that the penalties themselves are un-Islamic. They are Islamic. But conditions aren’t right for their implementation. Yet in Saudi Arabia and Iran it seems as if most scholars agree that conditions are just fine.
Ramadan goes on to base his call for a moratorium on the assertion that these penalties are being used to degrade women. I doubt if that will fly among those who already practice stoning. And it also leads to the further question: if Dr. Ramadan were assured that women’s rights were being safeguarded in the Islamic world, would he then call for a resumption of stoning?