GUARDIAN PAPER UK 03/04
A video showing a teenage girl being flogged by Taliban fighters has emerged from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, offering a shocking glimpse of militant brutality in the once-peaceful district, and a sign of Taliban influence spreading deeper into the country.
The two-minute video, shot using a mobile phone, shows a burka-clad woman face down on the ground. Two men hold her arms and feet while a third, a black-turbaned fighter with a flowing beard, whips her repeatedly.
“Please stop it,” she begs, alternately whimpering or screaming in pain with each blow to the backside. “Either kill me or stop it now.”
A crowd of men stands by, watching silently. Off camera a voice issues instructions. “Hold her legs tightly,” he says as she squirms and yelps.
After 34 lashes the punishment stops and the wailing woman is led into a stone building, trailed by a Kalashnikov-carrying militant.
Reached by phone, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan claimed responsibility for the flogging. “She came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her. There are boundaries you cannot cross,” he said. He defended the Taliban’s right to thrash women shoppers who were inappropriately dressed, saying it was permitted under Islamic law.
DOES ISLAM PERMIT FLOGGING OF A WOMAN FOR INAPPROPRIATE SEXUAL BEHAVIOR?
When is flogging permitted?
1. Only when unlawful sexual intercourse (zina) has taken place
‘Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other (evils)’ (17:32)
Chapter 24 of the Quran deals with this more specifically.
‘The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication,- flog each of them with a hundred stripes…and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment’ (24:2)
No act short of zina that is, physical penetration will suffice. Other lesser sexual acts cannot attract punishment under Islamic law.
Ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet said to Ma’iz: ‘Maybe you just kissed, maybe you touched her, or looked…’ and the main said: ‘No!’. The Prophet said, ‘So, did you penetrate her? (using no metaphors), and the man said ‘Yes!’ The Prophet then ordered his punishment.
2. The act of unlawful sex (zina) must be proven by 4 witnesses to the actual act
‘And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses to support their allegations,– flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors;-‘ (24:4)
The requirement of this insurmountable evidence is a fixed requirement. No less would be accepted. Furthermore, scholars of Islamic jurisprudence have established that the 4 witnesses must be male, credible, sane, Muslim witness of morally upright character.
‘Why did they bring four witnesses to prove it? When they have not brought the witnesses, such men, in the sight of God, (stand forth) themselves as liars!’(24:13)
An unsubstantiated accusation of zina against another person is an extremely grave offence and can amount to the hadd offence of qazf or wrongful accusation against another person for zina. Here the Quran states:
‘Behold, ye received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things of which ye had no knowledge; and ye thought it to be a light matter, whilst it was most serious in the sight of God’ (24:15)
‘And when did ye not, when ye heard it say? – ‘It is not right for us to speak of this: Glory to God! This is a most serious slander’ (24:16)
‘Those who slander chaste women, indiscreet but believing, are cursed in this life and in the Hereafter: for them is a grievous penalty’ (24:23)
3. All 4 witnesses must testify to the same act by the same people at the same time. The slightest differences in testimonies such as disagreement about the time and place of the act or even the colour of the accused clothes will be ruled out and witnesses punished for qazf (slander).
When al-Mughirah was accused of zina, three of the witnesses testified that he had committed the actual act of intercourse. But doubt was created when the 4th man testified.
He stated, “I saw a behind going up and down, heavy breathing, and I saw her legs on his shoulders like a donkey’s ears. I do not know beyond that.” The testimony of the 4th man was not sufficiently explicit and created doubt and therefore Khalifah Omar dismissed the zina charge. He also convicted the other 3 men of false accusation.
5. Apart from witness testimony, the only other way someone can be punished for zina is wilful confession to the act of zina. This confession can be retracted at any time including during execution of the sentence.
Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi, n.d) vol. 10, p. 167; per Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights ‘ZINA, RAPE, AND ISLAMIC LAW: AN ISLAMIC LEGAL ANALYSIS OF THE RAPE LAWS IN PAKISTAN’ p. 5
Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi, n.d) vol. 10, p. 197-198; per Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights ‘ZINA, RAPE, AND ISLAMIC LAW: AN ISLAMIC LEGAL ANALYSIS OF THE RAPE LAWS IN PAKISTAN’ p. 5
Sahih Al Bukhari, Bk 82. Nos. 806, 810, 812-814, at 528-36 (Muhammad Muhsin Khan trans, 1985) hereinafter Al-Bukhari, 3 Sunan Abu Dawud Nos. 4413-4414 (Ahmad Hasan trans, 2nd edition 1990) hereinafter Abu Dawud; per Quraishi. A (1997) Michigan Journal of International Law ‘Her Honour: An Islamic Critique of Rape Laws of Pakistan From a Woman-sensitive Perspective’ Vol. 18 No. 2 p. 295
Salam Sidahmed. A (Nov 2001) British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies: ‘Problems in contemporary applications of Islamic criminal sanctions: The penalty of adultery in relation to women’ Vol. 28, No. 2 p. 192