Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Shari'a Not Just About Stoning and Amputation
Patrick Goodenough
International Editor

( - Although Islamic law is often associated with stoning and amputation, its expansion in Britain would also have more mundane consequences that would affect the most vulnerable members of Muslim society, a scholar warned. Marriages could be annulled and women could lose access to their children or inheritance.

Dr. Rowan Williams, head of the Church of England and titular leader of the world's Anglican Communion, said in a lecture and radio interview late last week that aspects of shari'a could be accommodated in Britain.

He has since been defending his controversial comments, telling a meeting of the church's synod in London Monday that much of the reaction has been based on misunderstanding.

Williams said he was not suggesting that shari'a operate in parallel with English law. He also made it clear "that there could be no blank checks in this regard, in particular as regards some of the sensitive questions about the status and liberties of women."

"The law of the land still guarantees for all the basic components of human dignity," he said, expressing regret for "any unclarity" in his earlier words.

Some synod members have called on Williams, whose tenure has also been marked by a global Anglican rift over homosexual ordination and same-sex "marriage," to resign. Others voiced strong support. The 467-member synod, the church's governing body, comprises bishops, clergy and laity.

Shari'a is most controversial because its associated "hudud" ordinances provide for punishments including stoning, limb amputation and flogging for adultery and theft, while apostasy -- leaving Islam -- can carry the death sentence.

(Hudud, plural of the word "hadd," are described as "limitations imposed by Allah" under Islamic law. The punitive ordinances are enforced in countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and some Muslim states of Nigeria.)

The testimony of a woman carries less weight under the system. One provision requires a woman who has been raped to present four male Muslim witnesses of good standing to back her allegation -- failing which she may herself be charged with adultery.

Recently, the king of Saudi Arabia bowed to international pressure and pardoned a young woman sentenced to flogging and imprisonment after she was gang raped -- because she happened to be with an unrelated male at the time they were both abducted and assaulted. Earlier, the government defended the verdict, saying the charges against her had been proven.

Last month, human rights advocates urged Iran to stop stoning people to death, saying at least nine women and two men currently awaited that punishment. Although a moratorium was declared in 2002, stoning remained in the penal code and the punishments were still taking place, said Amnesty International.


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Shari'a Not Just About Stoning and Amputation

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