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Stoning Of Afghan Couple For Adultery Sparks Debate On Shari'a Law

Mullah Wakeel, a Taliban leader, show a copy of the Afghan Taliban's code of conduct. Scholars say the Taliban has no authority to enforce Islamic law.
Mullah Wakeel, a Taliban leader, show a copy of the Afghan Taliban's code of conduct. Scholars say the Taliban has no authority to enforce Islamic law.
By Abubakar Siddique
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has added his voice to those condemning the Taliban-orchestrated execution by stoning of a young couple charged with adultery.

The stonings in the northeastern province of Konduz on August 15 are considered the first such executions ordered by the Taliban since its overthrow from power nine years ago.

The executions, carried out in a village under Taliban control, have been widely condemned by Afghan civil-society representatives, international human rights watchdogs, and prominent Muslim scholars in Afghanistan and beyond.

In a statement, Karzai termed the killings an "unforgivable crime." He said that "the ruling to stone the two young Afghans by an illegal armed group without a fair trial runs contrary to all human and Islamic principles."

The man and woman, both in their 20s, were reportedly tricked into returning to their native village last week after eloping recently. Taliban militants seized them upon arrival and convened a council of the local mullahs to sentence them to death.

The executions bring into focus a burgeoning debate on the meaning of Shari'a-based law in Afghanistan. Last week, 350 Islamic clerics gathered in Kabul and called for the implementation of a strict Islamic criminal code, or "Hudood." The demand came despite the fact that the country's current constitution already stipulates that all laws should comply with Shari'a.

At issue is whether Shari'a is a set of specific rules or the ethos behind a complicated tradition that is subject to different interpretations.

Were the assembled clerics calling for a fundamentally different system of justice from what the drafters of the Afghan Constitution understood as Shari'a? The question is not academic. How it is answered will determine whether a broad-minded understanding of Shari'a that is largely consistent with universal notions of human rights will prevail over the most hard-line interpretations of Islamic law.

Guarantee Of Human Rights

While affirming Islam as the state religion and affirming that all Afghan laws will be consistent with Islam, the Afghan Constitution also guarantees the observance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other global human rights conventions.

Speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Maulvi Abdul Nasir, a prominent cleric in Dasht-e Archi, where the executions took place, condemned the stoning. Nasir says he did not know anything about the specific execution, but that handing down such judgments was wrong in principle.

“According to Islamic injunctions and Shari'a, a person can be convicted for adultery if the accused confesses to his or her crime on four different occasions, and only if four eyewitnesses saw the accused committing the crime," Nasir explains. "Without that, even their testimony cannot be accepted. All the witnesses should be of just reputation and have never been accused of any wrongdoing."

Nasir says that such witnesses could testify only if a "qazi," an Islamic judge, summoned them. "Without fulfilling these conditions, a stoning verdict can be considered a matter of force and is devoid of all legal basis, according to Shari'a," he adds.

Maulvi Siddiqullah Muslim, head of the decree department at the Supreme Court in Kabul, sees no contradiction between Shari'a and Afghanistan's commitment to human rights.

Muslim tells RFE/RL that together with the Koran and Sunnah -- the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad -- Shari'a clearly recognizes the consensus of Islamic scholars. This means, in his view, that only a state authority can implement Islamic law.

"Islamic scholars, through a lengthy debate spanning the ages, have proved that to implement the Islamic penal code, all the cases should be referred to the administrative and judicial organs of the state, which will then come to a decision," Muslim says.

Muslim says that Afghan court decisions in such cases are implemented through a decree from the Afghan president.

No Legal Authority

Hamid Mohammad Abu Talib, a former dean of the Shari'a faculty at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, agrees. He says that a group of armed individuals cannot try people or carry out Islamic punishments, even when their crimes are proved.

"Applied to the situation in Afghanistan, the internationally recognized government of President Karzai is the binding authority," Abu Talib says. "Therefore, it is not allowed for those who have seized control of some place [within Afghanistan] to set up a court and issue sentences. This is because they cannot be considered an organized and recognized government. They are only a group of people who have forced their control over a particular place. And they do not have the legal sanction to rule, and nobody recognizes them."

Abu Talib says the Islamic penal code can only be implemented in an Islamic state where "the situation is stable, citizens and their properties are safe, and their economic sustenance in ensured."

For the Taliban and other armed groups in Afghanistan, establishing an Islamic utopia remains a cherished goal. But the model they once established and want to revert to now is based on fear rather than citizens’ voluntary participation -- something most Islamic scholars strongly reject.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents Noor Mohammad Sahim and Sultan Sarwar contributed reporting
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: leciat from: usa
August 17, 2010 20:20
so it's not that they have a problem with stoning people they just don't think the taliban have the authority to do so?

by: Senjo
August 18, 2010 02:53
The fact that the President of Afghanistan says that this act (adultery) calls for a trial of any kind, fair or otherwise, shows the extent of the cultural gap between this country and the West, which is funding his foolishness. Dreams of democracy are just that, fantasy. President Obama, NATO, it's time to go.
In Response

by: leny from: UAE
September 06, 2010 19:46
Hi Senjo,How NATO(United States of America & Co) will go out of Afganistan.They choose the right location to stay permanantly after a long time waiting,if necessary to kick the ass of China,Russia,Iran,Middle East,Pakistan&India.

by: h. nEWT mAXWELL from: 30145
August 18, 2010 11:07
Good old Taliban, they are holier than everyone else sounds like a lot like Rush Limbaugh!!

by: H. Newt Maxwell from: 30145
August 18, 2010 11:09
didn't know you had a censor? Radio Liberty, really? walk the walk if you are going to talk the talk!!

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix, AZ, U.S.A.
August 18, 2010 11:32
A young couple falls in love and elopes - pretty common story. A linch mob of no authority assassinates them in this barbaric way- the participants should be on trial for murder.

by: Gelande from: Stanford, California
August 18, 2010 20:20
The sadly uncommon clear wisdom expressed by Mr. Bill Webb is both refreshing and depressing. Refreshing in that Mr. Webb explains himself fully and succinctly. Depressing in that his straightforward wisdom is so uncommon, including the observed fact that even the ever so simple ability of proper spelling, grammar and punctuation is as rare as the commenter’s profound lack of any kind of comprehension, but rather what they imagined. So sad indeed.

by: Fairness from: USA
August 19, 2010 02:45
newt: Comparing Limbaugh to the Taliban is despicable. You have no idea what you're talking about. It appears you've been brainwashed by half-baked reactionaries in the leftist media outlets you frequent.
In Response

by: Unfair from: USA
August 19, 2010 16:15
Yeah, comparing a self absorbed, doctor shopping, self-righteous, right-wing fanatic, elitist narcotic addict to the right-wing extreme fundamentalist Taliban is just not fair...he never killed anyone....

by: Larry
August 19, 2010 14:35
Muslim people ARE the biggest bunch of drama queen's... when asked if they like the Taliban they say "no". Yet every time the Taliban does something, never do they have a difficult time finding willing accomplices. Like the 200 villagers that happily took part in this barbaric act.

by: A Muslim from: Classified
August 21, 2010 22:37
Why dont all of you mind your own business, the Taliban doesnt tell you how to run your Government so why are you trying to to tell them.

Anyway i dont see any of you commenting about the bombing of Afganistan which killed thousands of people (Hey at least the man and woman got a trial unlike the children who died in the unjust invasion)
In Response

by: An Atheist from: Classified
August 23, 2010 17:07
Human Rights is everyone's business. Here are the statistics, from 2006 on who killed whom in Afganistan:

Pro-government forces: 2283
Anti-government forces: 4189

The first 6 months of 2010: (Dead AND wounded)

Pro-government forces: 386
Anti-goverrnment forces: 2,477

The source is http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/aug/10/afghanistan-civilian-casualties-statistics#

even if considering that these numbers are somewhat biased, it would be hard to argue more than 10% plus or minus either way

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