Every time I read one of these stories, about the application of Islamic justice, it disturbs me. The latest, but by no means most horrific recent story is about an Egyptian doctor who was recently found guilty of malpractice by a Saudi court.
Raouf Amin el-Arabi, a doctor who has been serving the Saudi royal family for about 20 years, was convicted last year of giving a patient the wrong medication. Egyptian newspapers reported that he was accused of driving a Saudi princess “to addiction.”
He initially was sentenced to seven years in prison and 700 lashes, but when he appealed two months ago, the judge not only upheld the conviction, but more than doubled the penalty to 15 years in prison and 1,500 lashes…
The Saudi government has refrained from comment but Egyptian newspapers report that el-Arabi was treating a female member of the royal family when he was accused of “driving a patient to addiction.” The newspapers identified the princess as one of the wives of Abdullah’s nephews.
We will probably never know the real story behind this case, because the Saudi authorities will keep a lid on the truth, and it is likely the doctor will not survive the lashings that are apparently being meted out 70 at a time, once a week while he is imprisoned. What ever the transgression was that doctor Arabi is being punished for, the punishment is archaic and barbarous. But it is the law in Saudi Arabia, where the country’s constitution is the Qur’an. Under Islamic law in Saudi Arabia legal penalties are meted out as capital punishment or corporal punishment, including amputations of hands and feet for certain crimes such as murder, robbery, rape, drug smuggling, homosexual activity, and adultery. The courts may impose less severe punishments, such as floggings, for less serious crimes against public morality such as drunkenness. Murder, accidental death and bodily harm are open to punishment from the victim’s family. Retribution may be sought in kind or through blood money. The blood money payable for a woman’s accidental death is half as much as that for a man.
Islamic justice like that which we see in Saudi Arabia is also applied in other nations that have embraced fundamentalist Islamic beliefs, not just in a spiritual or religious sense, but as the foundation of their social and governmental organization. But not to single out believers in Islam, the same could be said of other national groups that believe their entire life is dictated by religious doctrine, including Christian fundamentalists in this country.
My issue, however, is not with religious believers, I have a live and let live attitude about people with other beliefs. Do no harm to another living being, do not impinge on the rights of another human being, and believe what ever you want, just don’t expect me to accept your beliefs. The problem though, is when poor or uneducated or naive people are manipulated by religious or governmental leaders in to becoming fanatics. Fanatics that have no tolerance for any human being that does not conform to their narrow beliefs, fanatics that believe that non-believers do not deserve to exist.
So this is what really scares me, the thought that a group of religious fanatics, for example say Christian Conservatives, infiltrated a political party here in the United States, and through the elective process attained positions of responsibility in our national government, how much damage could they do to our way of life, would I even coninue to exist under such a regime? It seemed, for a while there, we were coming awfully close to losing our liberty, what with the loss of constitutional protections delivered to us by the Bush administration, and the enthusiastic embrace by the conservative base of the fear mongering presidential ticket that was tainted by a religious fanatic.
We seem to have dodged a bullet in this election, but folks, the fanatics have not disappeared, they are just regrouping. We have to be ever vigilant, we should never take the freedom and human rights that we have attained for granted, we fought for them and we will always have to fight for them. We must never abandon the basic tenant of clear separation of church and state.