Saudi King Abdullah has also pardoned the man who was abducted with a rape victim in the infamous case in Saudi Arabia. A religious court had sentenced the rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in prison. The status of her male companion has been unclear and it has been reported that he was also raped by the attackers and also ordered to be flogged for violating Islamic rules about relationships with unmarried women. What is most remarkable, however, is the defense of the original laws under which they were both sentenced –citing their “torture” as sufficient punishment to teach them “a lesson.” In the meantime, the seven gang rapists received only two to seven years for their crime.
Minister of Justice Abdallah bin Mohammed al-Sheikh read the letter on the punishments to the media.
The letter stated that “The woman and the man in her company have experienced enough torture which should be enough punishment for them and a lesson to learn from.”
Even in an act of pardon, the letter shows an astonishing cultural and legal gap between the Kingdom and its Western allies. The Saudis clearly do not realize how offensive it is to cite a gang rape as “sufficient punishment” and a lesson learned. In the end, there may be no prospect for coherence given the fact that this is a nation based on religious laws. It is not just the bizarre punishment and treatment of women that has outraged the Western world, but the use of state powers to mete out punishment for immorality under a sectarian code. Trying to find common ground between the two models may be fruitless. There is no benign or secular way of punishing people for a lack of faith or morality. The Saudi system is built to achieve something different from our own.
For those in the United States who find this system offensive, they should also keep in mind that we have always had criminal morality laws and once meted out floggings for the same conduct. For a prior column on America’s criminal morality laws, click here
For the latest on the Saudi story, click here