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Monday, May 29, 2023

Bangladesh cleric arrested for enforcing Sharia-compliant caning and stoning of woman

While Bangladesh is secularist country with legal system in conformity with secularism where applying sharia rule is considered as illegal and punishable offense, a radical Islamic cleric along with three village elders were arrested on charges of ordering a woman to be canned and stoned after she was accused of an extra-marital affair.

According to Bangladesh Police, a Muslim female named Hamida Sultana was canned 82 times and stoned 80 times with small brick pieces after an imam of the local mosque issued a fatwa punishing her for an extra-marital affair.

Following this gruesome incident, Hamida Sultana told the media she was a victim of terrible injustice.

“I can’t express in language what they did to me”, the 30-year-old said.

The fatwa triggered an outcry, with feminist gro­ups and rights activists stag­ing protests to demand the perpetrators’ prosecution.

“They acted like mediaeval people”, Fauzia Moslem, the president of the country’s largest women’s group, told the media.

Zakis Hossain told Al Jazeera the cases were filed under Bangladesh’s Prevention of Oppression Against Women and Children Act.

“After the filing of the case, we arrested the local cleric who gave the fatwa. We have also arrested three other village elders who took part in the informal council, known as shalish”, Hossain said.

“The village council ordered the caning and stoning in the name of Sharia law after she was accused of an extramarital affair”, Hossain said.

The village elders “said it will absolve her from her sin and will redeem her honor”, he added.

The police officer said the 30-year-old woman was allegedly having an affair with a local autorickshaw driver. Her husband, he said, works in the Gulf country of Oman and returned home after the incident was reported.

“He also seeks justice for what happened to his wife”, Hossain told AFP news agency.

Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country with 180 million people has a secular legal system and applying Islamic law in criminal cases is illegal.

The fatwa triggered an outcry, with feminist groups and rights activists staging protests to demand the perpetrators’ prosecution.

“They acted like medieval people”, Fauzia Moslem, the president of the country’s largest women’s group, told AFP.

Decades ago, village councils in rural Bangladesh commonly used Islamic law to punish Muslim women accused of adultery.

In a 2011 ruling, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court allowed fatwas to be issued but prohibited their enforcement.

The decision effectively allowed Islamic law to be followed voluntarily but prohibited any kind of punishment by Muslim scholars or village councils.

Culture of stoning in Islam

According to Bukhari, vol. 8, bk. 82, no. 816,  Umar, one of the four caliphs of Islam said, “I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, “We do not find the Verses of the Rajam (stoning to death) in the Holy Book,” and consequently they may go astray by leaving an obligation that Allah has revealed.

Lo! I confirm that the penalty of Rajam be inflicted on him who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if he is already married and the crime is proved by witnesses or pregnancy or confession”. Sufyan added, “I have memorized this narration in this way”. ‘Umar added, “Surely Allah’s Apostle carried out the penalty of Rajam, and so did we after him”.

According to Hadith, (Bukhari, vol. 4, bk. 56, no. 829), “The Jews came to Allah’s Apostle and told him that a man and a woman from amongst them had committed illegal sexual intercourse. Allah’s Apostle said to them, “What do you find in the Torah (old Testament) about the legal punishment of Ar-Rajm (stoning)?” They replied, (But) we announce their crime and lash them.”

Abdullah bin Salam said, “You are telling a lie; the Torah contains the order of Rajm”. They brought and opened the Torah and one of them solaced his hand on the Verse of Rajm and read the verses preceding and following it. Abdullah bin Salam said to him, “Lift your hand”. When he lifted his hand, the Verse of Rajm was written there.

They said, “Muhammad has told the truth; the Torah has the Verse of Rajm. The Prophet then gave the order that both of them should be stoned to death”. (‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar said, “I saw the man leaning over the woman to shelter her from the stones”. (Bukhari, vol. 4, bk. 56, no. 829).

Hadith claims, even monkeys practice stoning. According to Bukhari, vol. 5, bk. 58, no. 188, “during the pre-lslamic period of ignorance I saw a female monkey surrounded by a number of monkeys. They were all stoning it, because it had committed illegal sexual intercourse. I too, stoned it along with them”. (Bukhari, vol. 5, bk. 58, no. 188).

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and editor of Weekly Blitz. Follow him on Twitter @Salah_Shoaib


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