Aug 26, 2002
A Nigerian woman has lost her appeal to an Islamic high court. In January, 2004, she is supposed to be stoned to death. Her crime was giving birth to a daughter more than nine months after she was divorced.
The Islamic law, called shariah, was instituted in northern Nigeria after the military dictatorship ended in 1999. Shariah is also the law in other countries with Islamic majorities, most notably Pakistan, a country with the official name "The Islamic Republic of Pakistan." This summer, Islamic law in Pakistan meant the rape of a young girl and sodomy of her brother, ordered by the tribal council.
Shariah has also meant the cutting off of a hand for someone judged guilty of theft and even the beheading of a princess in Saudi Arabia, judged guilty of sex outside of marriage.
The growth of reactionary religion weighs especially heavily on women. This mother in Nigeria did not create her baby alone, but the man she said was the father was acquitted. The young girl in Pakistan was raped in revenge for her young brother, aged 11, having walked down a village road with another young girl.
But this weight of religion doesn't just torture and repress women and children. A society under such law does not encourage any education except for religion. The Taliban, with its strict insistence on the shariah, grew out of the religious schools for young boys in refugee camps. Those schools placed no value on educating young minds to understand the world, only to memorize religious teachings. Such an education is opposed to a scientific understanding of the world in which we live, and of the ways in which it develops.
Religious leaders in all the world's religions, not just under Islam, act as a brake on societies. Not only have they encouraged barbaric punishments, including religiously sanctioned murder. They are also used to mold the thinking of new generations into ways suited to the distant past.