On January 30th, Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya, and their son Hamed were convicted of first degree murder in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. In June 2009, they planned and carried out the murders of Zainab Shafia, Sahar Shafia, and Geeti Shafia, as well as Rona Amir Mohammed. Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti were Mohammad and Tooba’s daughters and Hamad’s sisters. Rona was Mohammad’s first wife. The three daughters were considered by their parents to be “shameful” because they had boyfriends and did not dress the way their parents wanted. Rona, a victim of domestic abuse, was killed because she supported the daughters’ behavior. Their crime, which is being called an honor killing, has no support within Islam. Continue reading
Among the negative images of Islam is that apostasy is believed to be punishable by execution. The most recent example of this is in Iran where a pastor was convicted of apostasy and faces execution by hanging. Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was born to Muslim parents but did not practice Islam. He converted to Christianity when he was 19 and is now a pastor in the Protestant Evangelical Church of Iran. Nadrakhani was arrested in October 2009 when he protested that his son was forced to read from the Qur’an. Iranian state media, however, later reported that the real charges were rape, extortion, and security-related crimes. His case has received international attention and pressure has been put on the Iranian government to release him. Continue reading
Last month, in Tajikistan, religious authorities banned the use of text messages by Muslim men to divorce their wives. To those not familiar with the practice, this may seem an odd thing to worry about. But divorce by text message has become a problem in Tajikistan because an increasing number of migrant workers there are not returning to their countries of origin and so need a remote method to divorce their wives from home. Text messaging specifically impacts Muslims seeking a divorce because they are being used to issue the “triple talaq,” the process by which a husband ends a marriage by stating his desire for divorce three times.
Almost a decade after U.S. forces entered Tora Bora, one has to wonder what has come of Afghanistan. Having never been to Afghanistan myself, I can’t comment on the day-to-day reality of the country’s 29 million + people. It is safe to say, however, that the quality of life has not remarkably improved for most, and outside observers wonder what can be done.
Last month, three women were caned in Malaysia for extramarital sex. The Malaysian government said that these canings were carried out under sharia, Islamic law. These women were the first to receive this kind of punishment. Many in Malaysia and in human rights groups have condemned these canings and have called for Malaysia to stop using this kind of corporal punishment.
This story for me raises a number of issues related to Islamic law. First, it raises the question of what exactly Islamic law means for people nowadays. If these women were in fact receiving a punishment in accordance with religious law, is it really possible that all the conditions were met?According to Asifa Quraishi, a law professor at UW-Madison, who was on the Inside Islam radio show Women and Shariah, there are specific conditions that must be met in order for an individual to receive corporal punishment for extramarital sex that include having four people testify that they witnessed the actual act. They also have to concur on all the details. How likely is it that these three women were seen in this situation? Continue reading
In 2005, the Danish newspaper Jylland-Posten first published 12 offensive cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. These cartoons triggered protests, some violent, around the Muslim world. For many Muslims, the cartoons were not a matter of free speech, but were perceived to be hate speech against Muslims. Moreover, the lack of respect in these depictions was troubling. Islamic law opposes any representation of the Prophet, even positive, out of fear of idolatry. The controversy over the cartoons has dissipated considerably, but the discussion around a new book from Yale University Press on the topic The Cartoons that Shook the World illustrates that the issue of representing the Prophet Muhammad, especially negatively, continues to have ramifications. Now there are new efforts to use visual media, specifically film, to portray a positive image of the Prophet Muhammad and Islam that respects the edicts of the faith and aims to build bridges. Continue reading
One of the assumptions about Islam that never seems to dissipate is that Islamic law is this rigid and incredibly harsh system that exacts punishments that are beyond what is tolerable in Western societies. Moreover, so the common discussion goes, when this law falls on women, it often means that they will be unfairly subjugated. Is any of this true? An article in the New York Times about Lubna Hussein, the Sudanese journalist who faced lashing for wearing pants, reminded me how much these issues infiltrate discussions on anything in the Middle East and Islam. Continue reading