In a controversial move, Seattle is pushing to establish new financing packages that conform with Sharia law to allow greater homeownership among Muslims. Islam prohibits the payment of interest and some Muslims are therefore unable to buy homes under standard mortgage agreements. The most for more inclusive options has led to a backlash by critics who charge that it could be a new avenue for terrorist financing or constitute special treatment for one religion.
The brutal character of Sharia criminal law was evident in Iran this week after a man was forcibly blinded in one eye after being convicted for an acid attack that blinded another man. It was the literal application of the concept of “an eye for an eye.” We discussed the Iranian judicial ruling on blinding people for such crimes ten years ago. In this case, the man was blinded in his left eye and will later be blinded in his right eye unless “blood money is paid.”
After an international outrage and widespread condemnation following the death sentence of a pregnant, Christian Sudanese woman accused apostasy and adultery for her marriage to a Christian man, the Sudanese Government has publicly stated it would instead release Meriam Yehya Ibrahim from custody.
BBC News reports that Abdullahi Alzareg, an under-secretary at the foreign ministry, said Sudan guaranteed religious freedom and was committed to protecting the woman who was to be release in a few days.
A twenty seven year old Christian woman, who is presently eight months pregnant, has been sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy and adultery. Having been born to a Muslim father, the Sudanese government contends that Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, was Muslim and that she later converted to Christianity before marrying her South Sudanese husband, a Christian. Sudanese law considers marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims to be invalid. Under Sudan’s interpretation of sharia, a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man and any such relationship is regarded as adulterous. Thus, her pregnancy is considered to be resulting from an adulterous relationship, punishable by one hundred lashings.
Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa sentenced Meriam to death and declared:
“We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged,” The judge addressed her by her father’s Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah.
Ms Ishag reacted without emotion when the judge delivered the verdict at a court in the Khartoum district of Haj Yousef. Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic religious leader spoke with her in the caged dock for about 30 minutes. Then she calmly told the judge:
“I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.”
Amnesty International said Ms Ishag was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion, because her Muslim father was absent.
Absolute monarch Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei announced in January a harsh form of sharia law will be enacted. Effective in three phases beginning now and spanning two years, the edict eventually allows for the stoning to death of homosexuals, adulterers, and apostates; for amputation of limbs for those convicted of theft; and flogging for abortions and the consumption of alcohol. The capital offense provisions of the law reportedly apply only to Muslims.
Sultan Bolkiah claims this is a step in solidifying a long cultural tradition in the sultanate which was established in the fourteenth century. Increasingly conservative Muslim politicians and officials in Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia are beginning to move from sharia being limited to family matters to now criminal law and capital offenses. Acheh in Indonesia is included especially. While Brunei enjoys one of the highest per capital income in the world, has many social benefits such as effectively free health care and education, its population of over 416,000 individuals now is seeing human rights restricted in a trend that is generating international condemnation in the West. Al-Jazeera reported that many members of the Muslim ethnic Malay majority have voiced cautious support for the changes. However, non-Muslim citizens, who are fifteen percent of the population, led a rare burst of criticism on social media earlier this year, but largely went silent after the sultan called for a halt.
“Theory states that God’s law is harsh and unfair, but God himself has said that his law is indeed fair,” the sultan said.
But will Western governments be willing to isolate countries engaging in abuses of individuals and oppression of the human rights of populations or is trade and money going to become the focus and inconveniences such as abuse continue to be ignored?