Eloping couple stoned to death by Taliban

Via the New York Times:

 The Taliban on Sunday ordered their first public executions by stoning since their fall from power nine years ago, killing a young couple who had unsuccessfully tried to elope, according to Afghan officials and an eyewitness.

The punishment was carried out by hundreds of the victims’ neighbors and even their family members in a village in northern Kunduz Province, according to Nadir Khan, 40, a local farmer and Taliban sympathizer, who was interviewed by telephone.

As a Taliban mullah prepared to read the judgment of a religious “court,” Mr. Khan said the lovers, a 25-year-old man named Khayyam and a 19-year-old woman named Siddiqa, defiantly confessed in public to their relationship. “They said, ‘We love each other no matter what happens,’ ” Mr. Khan said.

The executions were the latest in a series of cases where the Taliban have imposed their harsh version of Shariah law for social crimes, reminiscent of their behavior during their decade-long rule of the country. In recent years Taliban officials have sought to play down their bloody punishments of the past as they concentrated on building up popular support.

“We see it as a sign of a new confidence on the part of the Taliban in the application of their rules, like they did in the ’90s,” said Nader Nadery, a senior commissioner on Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission. “We do see it as a trend, they’re showing more strength in recent months, not just in attacks, but including their own way of implementing laws, arbitrary and extrajudicial killings.”

The stoning deaths, along with similarly brazen attacks in northern Afghanistan, were also a sign of growing Taliban strength in parts of the country where until recently they had been weak or absent. In their home regions in southern Afghanistan, Mr. Nadery said, the Taliban have already been cracking down. “We’ve seen a big increase in intimidation of women and more strict rules on women,” he said.

Afghanistan is hell now. But it would probably be worse if we left.

Honor killing thugs firebomb bystanders

Via the Daily Mail:

An ‘honour killing’ gang murdered a married couple in their home when they set fire to the wrong house.

Abdullah Mohammed and wife Aysha suffocated after petrol was poured through their letterbox and set alight by the gang of young men. The Mohammeds’ nine-year-old son and daughter, 14, were also at home during the attack but survived.

Four men were yesterday found guilty of murdering the husband and wife, including 21-year-old gang leader Hisamuddin Ibrahim who had intended to attack a man who was having an affair with his married sister.

Ibrahim ordered three accomplices to set a fire at the home of Mo Ibrahim, who is not related, in the early hours of the morning. But Habib Iqbal, Sadek Miah and Mohammed Miah mistakenly targeted the Mohammeds’ house on the same terrace street in Blackburn as their intended victim. As the gang fled, neighbours tried in vain to break into the burning home before the fire brigade arrived on October 21 last year.

Mr Mohammed, 41, died after being found unconscious in his bedroom with his wife and two of their three children. His 39-yearold wife died in hospital days later.

London Underground worker Ibrahim was enraged when he discovered his 22-year-old sister Hafija Gorji was having an affair with the man she had met at a wedding. As rumours circulated a month before the fire, Mrs Gorji’s lover had lied as he swore on the Koran in front of her relatives that the pair were just good friends, Preston Crown Court heard.

Ibrahim, from East London, had then asked best friend 25-year-old Iqbal, Miah, 19, and Sadek Miah, 23, to drive up from the capital overnight and carry out the attack. He had been inspired by a story on the BBC’s Crimewatch website about an unsolved late-night arson in Eastbourne.

There were no witnesses to the start of the blaze in Blackburn but CCTV captured a vehicle circling the surrounding streets three times shortly before the fire. Three figures left the car, one carrying a container, before the trio ran back and drove off with the vehicle’s headlights turned off. The car, a black Volskwagen Golf registered to Sadek Miah’s mother, was then driven straight back to London.

The gang, from Manor Park and Tower Hamlets in East London, had all denied murder and face long jail terms. They will be sentenced later.

“What isn’t wrong with Sharia law?”

British activist Maryam Namazie wants legislation in the UK prohibiting religious courts:

The recent global day against the imminent stoning of Sakine Mohammadi-Ashtiani in Iran for adultery is an example of the outrage sparked by the brutality associated with sharia law’s penal code. What of its civil code though – which the Muslim Council of Britain’s Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra describes as “small aspects” that concern “marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody of children”? According to human rights campaigner Gita Sahgal, “there is active support for sharia laws precisely because it is limited to denying women rights in the family. No hands are being cut off, so there can’t be a problem …”

Now a report, Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights, reveals the adverse effect of sharia courts on family law. Under sharia’s civil code, a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s. A man can divorce his wife by repudiation, whereas a woman must give justifications, some of which are difficult to prove. Child custody reverts to the father at a preset age; women who remarry lose custody of their children even before then; and sons inherit twice the share of daughters. There has been much controversy about Muslim arbitration tribunals, which have attracted attention because they operate as tribunals under the Arbitration Act, making their rulings binding in UK law.

But sharia councils, which are charities, are equally harmful since their mediation differs little from arbitration. Sharia councils will frequently ask people to sign an agreement to abide by their decisions. Councils call themselves courts and the presiding imams are judges. There is neither control over the appointment of these judges nor an independent monitoring mechanism. People often do not have access to legal advice and representation. Proceedings are not recorded, nor are there any searchable legal judgements. Nor is there any real right to appeal. There is also danger to those at risk of domestic violence. In one study, four out of 10 women attending sharia courts were party to civil injunctions against their husbands.

“In this way, these privatised legal processes were ignoring not only state law intervention and due process but providing little protection and safety for the women. Furthermore … husbands used this opportunity to negotiate reconciliation, financial settlements for divorce, and access to children. Settlements which in effect were being discussed under the shadow of law.

An example of the kind of decision that is contrary to UK law and public policy is the custody of children. Under British law, the child’s best interest is the court’s paramount consideration. In a sharia court the custody of children reverts to the father at a preset age regardless of the circumstances. In divorce proceedings, too, civil law takes into account the merits of the case and divides assets based on the needs and intentions of both parties. Under sharia law, only men have the right to unilateral divorce. If a woman manages to obtain a divorce without her husband’s consent, she will lose the sum of money (or dowry) that was agreed to at the time of marriage.

There is an assumption that those who attend sharia courts do so voluntarily and that unfair decisions can be challenged. Since much of sharia law is contrary to British law and public policy, in theory they would be unlikely to be upheld in a British court. In reality, women are often pressured by their families into going to these courts and adhering to unfair decisions and may lack knowledge of their rights under British law. Moreover, refusal to settle a dispute in a sharia court could lead to to threats, intimidation or isolation. With the rise in the sharia courts’ acceptability, discrimination is further institutionalised with some law firms offering clients “conventional” representation alongside sharia law advice. As long as sharia courts are allowed to make rulings on family law, women will be pressured into accepting decisions which are prejudicial.

The report recommends abolishing the courts by initiating a human rights challenge and amending the Arbitration Act as Canada’s Arbitration Act was amended in 2005 to exclude religious arbitration. The demand for the abolition of sharia courts in Britain, as elsewhere, is not an attack on people’s right to religion; it is a defence of human rights, especially since the imposition of sharia courts is a demand of Islamism to restrict citizens’ rights.

Rights, justice, inclusion, equality and respect are for people, not for beliefs and parallel legal systems. To safeguard the rights and freedoms of all those living in Britain, there must be one secular law for all and no religious courts.

Germany to launch hotline for recovering jihadists

Via Der Spiegel:

Germany has been offering programs for people who want to leave the neo-Nazi scene for years. Now, in a bid to combat the threat of Islamist terrorism, authorities are setting up a telephone hotline for those keen to give up jihad.

Could it be that Islamists just need a helping hand to turn their back on extremism? That, at least, is what Germany is hoping — and has set up a new program to facilitate the process.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, will launch the so-called exit program at the end of June, agency chief Heinz Fromm announced Monday, speaking at the presentation of the service’s annual report for 2009 in Berlin. The agency is to set up a telephone hotline that militant Islamists can call if they want to leave radical Islamist groups. Multilingual specialists will be available to give potential quitters advice in Turkish or Arabic, as well as German, Fromm said, without giving further details of the program.Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière described the scheme as a “valuable preventative effort.” Fromm however warned against overly high expectations for the scheme. “We’ll have to wait and see if it gets a big response,” he said. The agency’s programs for neo-Nazis wanting to quit their milieu, which have been running for several years, have only met with moderate success.

Saudi woman fights back against religious police

Via the Jerusalem Post:

It was a scene Saudi women’s rights activists have dreamt of for years. When a Saudi religious policeman sauntered about an amusement park in the eastern Saudi Arabian city of Al-Mubarraz looking for unmarried couples illegally socializing, he probably wasn’t expecting much opposition.

But when he approached a young, 20-something couple meandering through the park together, he received an unprecedented whooping. A member of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Saudi religious police known locally as the Hai’a, asked the couple to confirm their identities and relationship to one another, as it is a crime in Saudi Arabia for unmarried men and women to mix.

For unknown reasons, the young man collapsed upon being questioned by the cop.

According to the Saudi daily Okaz, the woman then allegedly laid into the religious policeman, punching him repeatedly, and leaving him to be taken to the hospital with bruises across his body and face.

“To see resistance from a woman means a lot,” Wajiha Al-Huwaidar, a Saudi women’s rights activist, told The Media Line news agency. “People are fed up with these religious police, and now they have to pay the price for the humiliation they put people through for years and years. This is just the beginning and there will be more resistance.”

“The media and the Internet have given people a lot of power and the freedom to express their anger,” she said. “The Hai’a are like a militia, but now whenever they do something it’s all over the Internet. This gives them a horrible reputation and gives people power to react.”

Neither the religious police nor the Eastern Province police has made a statement on the incident, and both the names of the couple and the date of the incident have not been made public, but on Monday the incident was all over the Saudi media.

Should the woman be charged, she could face a lengthy prison term and lashings for assaulting a representative of a government institution.

Our sympathies are obviously with her.

Why “Belgium” is the most offensive word in the galaxy

For its offenses to secularism:

Belgium’s lower house of parliament has voted for a law that would ban women from wearing the full Islamic face veil in public.

The law would ban any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street. No-one voted against it. The law now goes to the Senate, which is also expected to approve it. It would then become law by June or July.

The ban would be the first move of its kind in Europe.

Only around 30 women wear this kind of veil in Belgium, out of a Muslim population of around half a million. The BBC’s Dominic Hughes in Brussels says MPs backed the legislation on the grounds of security, to allow police to identify people. Other MPs said that the full face veil was a symbol of the oppression of women, our correspondent says. The ban would be imposed in all buildings or grounds that are “meant for public use or to provide services”, including streets, parks and sports grounds. Exceptions could be made for certain festivals.

Those who break the law could face a fine of 15-25 euros (£13-£27) or a seven-day jail sentence.

The Muslim Executive of Belgium has criticised the move, saying it would lead to women who do wear the full veil to be trapped in their homes.

If the Muslim Executive of Belgium hadn’t made the point, I would have. Muslim women who are comfortable moving in public in full veil (or women who are only permitted to move in public in full veil) are never going to assimilate if a.) the Belgian government acts in a way they can only interperet as hostile to their deeply held convictions, and b.) if they can’t acutally leave the house anymore.

Quebec’s legislature is considering a similar bill. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t get this far there, and it doesn’t go any further in Belgium.

About the link: I understand civic secularism to be governmental neutrality on religious or metaphysical questions, which entails not forbidding any religious practice which directly harms no persons, animals, or property. 

(And, also, unrelated to the issue at hand, I think secularism also necessitates a positivist paradigm for all legal and legislative language. Insofar as the Constitution makes no metaphysical claims about the authority of the American government to enforce its laws, it is reconcilable with secularism. However, if it claimed the rights of citizens to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property were founded on rights bestowed by a Creator, then I would wish to see it amended.)

About the headline: Read this.

Our ally in the war on terrorism

Moreau's illustration to the Société des publications illustrées 1846 edition of Voltaire's play "Mohammed the Prophet, or The Fanaticism"

Saudi Arabia has convicted a televison “psychic” of sorcery and condemned him to death by beheading.

I am brought to mind to Voltaire’s play, which saw an attempt of revival in France shut down by religious protesters four years ago; and of a passage of Lucretius that the the philosophe predicted would last as long as the world does:

But ’tis that same religion oftener far
Hath bred the foul impieties of men:
As once at Aulis, the elected chiefs,
Foremost of heroes, Danaan counsellors,
Defiled Diana’s altar, virgin queen,
With Agamemnon’s daughter, foully slain.
She felt the chaplet round her maiden locks
And fillets, fluttering down on either cheek,
And at the altar marked her grieving sire,
The priests beside him who concealed the knife,
And all the folk in tears at sight of her.
With a dumb terror and a sinking knee
She dropped; nor might avail her now that first
‘Twas she who gave the king a father’s name.
They raised her up, they bore the trembling girl
On to the altar- hither led not now
With solemn rites and hymeneal choir,
But sinless woman, sinfully foredone,
A parent felled her on her bridal day,
Making his child a sacrificial beast
To give the ships auspicious winds for Troy:
Such are the crimes to which Religion leads.
And there shall come the time when even thou,
Forced by the soothsayer’s terror-tales, shalt seek
To break from us.

Moscow train bombing kills 38

It was conducted by female suicide bombers. Norther Caucus Islamists are suspected.

Turkish girl buried alive for talking to boys, listening in on men’s meeting

Via the Telegraph:

Medine Memi was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman. Her father and grandfather have since been arrested and are due to face trial over her death. Her mother was also charged but has since been released. Police made the discovery in December after a tip-off from an informant, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on its website.

Medine had first been reported missing 40 days earlier. The informant told the police she had been killed following a family “council” meeting. Media reports said the father had told relatives he was unhappy that his daughter – one of nine children – had male friends. The grandfather is said to have beaten her for having relations with the opposite sex.

A postmortem examination revealed large amounts of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she had been alive and conscious while being buried.

13-year old Saudi girl sentenced to 90 lashes, two months imprisonment for cell phone in school

Caffrety mentions in passing that Saudis still use crucifixion. And that’s true, to an extent. But it is not an execution method, but a supplament to beheading executions, after which the mutilated body is publically hanged crosswise.

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