On March 11th, Amina Filali, a 16-year-old Moroccan girl who had been raped, committed suicide by swallowing rat poison. Filali killed herself after she was forced to marry the rapist. This was in accordance with a controversial section of the Moroccan penal code called Article 475, which states that a “kidnapper” of a minor can marry the victim to escape persecution. The article has been extended to include rape victims. Many Moroccans are outraged by Filali’s suicide and have begun Facebook petitions to change the article. Twitter has also been used to get Filali’s story out.
While many societies seem to find it acceptable to blame rape victims for inviting the crime, there is no place for an attitude like this or a law like Article 475 in Islam. Since some of these societies are Muslim majority, there is often an assumption that Islam punishes the victims of rape. However, it is clear that in Islam rape is a serious crime that should result in the punishment of the rapist, not the victim. One of the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad illustrates this point:
During the time of the Prophet (saw) punishment was inflicted on the rapist on the solitary evidence of the woman who was raped by him. Wa’il ibn Hujr reports of an incident when a woman was raped. Later, when some people came by, she identified and accused the man of raping her. They seized him and brought him to Allah’s messenger, who said to the woman, “Go away, for Allâh has forgiven you,” but of the man who had raped her, he said, “Stone him to death.” (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud)
In fact, the society is supposed to support the victim not blame her.
According to Islam, rape is categorized as a hiraba crime, which is defined as “a single person or group of people causing public disruption, killing, forcibly taking property or money, attacking or raping women, killing cattle, or disrupting agriculture.” Rape does not fall under the category of zina or adultery because it is not consensual. Rather, as a hiraba crime it is implied that something is taken by force and fear is employed as a means to violate another person. Because of the nature of this crime, the victim of rape is not required to provide 4 witnesses as in the case of adultery and focus is on the criminal act, not on the victim. In other words, the victim is the one who has been violated and should not have to face additional trauma.
Scholars assert that the punishment for rape is the same as adultery: stoning if the perpetrator is married and 100 lashes if the perpetrator is unmarried. In addition, there are scholars who maintain that the rapist must also pay the victim mahr or a bride gift. However, this does not mean that there is a marriage, rather it is meant as additional compensation.
The story of Amina Filali is very disturbing and highlights the fact that Muslims do not always follow the dictates of their faith, like followers of any faith. In this case, societal pressures and a specific concept of honor (which also has no place in Islam) led to the death of this young girl. According to Islam, not only should she not be forced to marry her rapist, but as the victim she should be compensated and should have the support of her society.
Did you hear about Amina Filali’s story? What was your reaction? Do you think that only Muslim majority societies have this attitude towards rape? How do other faith traditions deal with rape? Please leave your comments below.