Shi’a and the Shortage of Sheep: More Perspective on Gang-Rape in Saudi Arabia
by Faruq ‘Abd al Haqq
The initial BBC coverage of the Saudi court’s recent ruling on gang-rape is more objective than the popular coverage has been. The teen-age victim was not sentenced to lashing for being raped, as seems to be a local custom in Pakistan, but for being alone in a car without a proper mahram (male member of her family). This “crime” is based on the injunction that causing the occasion of sin or even failing to avoid it are equivalent to the sin. Since women, and not men, are occasions of sin, this woman was guilty of adultery even before she was raped by seven other men.
The rapists were also punished by this Saudi court, which is an improvement over some equivalent rulings in Pakistan. One could argue that the basic error of the case, however, from the perspective of the popular Wahhabi culture in Saudi Arabia, was the designation of the crime.
When I studied in Saudi Arabia twenty years ago, I was told by the other students not to talk to the seven students who were packed into a dormitory room designed for one person. When I asked why, they whispered, “Because they do not have souls.” This intrigued me, because I had never met humanoids without souls. I asked, “Do you mean that they are monkeys, or apes, or baboons, or orangutans that merely look like human beings?” The other students were confused by my question, because apparently they had never thought about it before. Finally they replied with what for them was the simple answer that cut off all questioning: “They are Shi’a!”
The judicial error would seem to consist in condemning the Sunni rapists for adultery. In accordance with the irrefutable logic of the ‘urf or common law in Saudi Arabia, which the enlightened King Abdullah is mightily but perhaps over optimistically attempting to eradicate from the face of the earth, the real crime was not simple adultery but beastiality, having sex with an animal! In self defense, of course, the men might advance the mitigating argument that in a modern petrochemical economy there is now a shortage of sheep.
For other Muslim perspectives on this case see :
Saudi and American Injustices: Americans howl about injustice of others, but not their own, Ray Hanania
Not in My Name - Saudi Rape Case, Shelina Zahra Janmohamed
Hajj, Saudi Arabia, Rape, & Prayer: A Muslim Feminist Outcry, Khalilah Sabra
MAS Freedom Welcomes Saudi King’s Pardon of ‘Qatif Girl’ But Reiterates the Need for Change, Aishah Schwartz
Gender Apartheid, Mona Altahawy