Thursday, November 15, 2007

Crime and Punishment

Here's another story that may make you sorry to be a human being. May make you wish you were a giraffe or a possum or some other thing.

A court in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is punishing a female victim of gang rape with 200 lashes and six months in jail, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The 19-year-old woman -- whose six armed attackers have been sentenced to jail terms -- was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for "being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape," the Arab News reported.

But in a new verdict issued after Saudi Arabia's Higher Judicial Council ordered a retrial, the court in the eastern town of Al-Qatif more than doubled the number of lashes to 200.

A court source told the English-language Arab News that the judges had decided to punish the woman further for "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."

Straightforward brutality masquerading as justice. One could argue that "ultra-conservative" is an odd adjective to pick for the lede. Certainly it is an ultra-conservative kingdom, but that doesn't tell you much, because conservatism, unlike liberalism, is entirely a different thing in different places. A conservative in, say, the Vatican is different than a conservative in Japan, because the things being "conserved" are different.

In this case, the kingdom is conservative about a particular perceived religious tradition, which the journalists perhaps felt uncomfortable naming prominently in the story. Notice we've gone four graphs without the word "Islam" (it turns up in the fifth graph).

But this is AFP, so you can't expect much more or other than this.

What caught my eye here was that when this story was listed on Memeorandum, it had been linked to by the usual suspects: right-wing U.S. bloggers who are particularly fanatic in opposition to Islamic fanaticism. But among them was one of the feminist bloggers John Edwards wanted on his campaign. Good for her, I thought. This is an issue and a problem that transcends the politics of this week.

Or not. Her post was almost equal parts decrying this judicial crime and bashing Bush for somehow not preventing it.

But don't expect President George "W stands for Women" Bush to give a flying shit about this brand of terrorism in Saudi Arabia when he doesn't even care about misogynist terrorism in America.

Oy. This is the faction in American public debate that blasts Bush every day for injecting his perceived values into the Middle East and rearranging the government of a sovereign nation that had done us no immediate harm.

Having slammed those doors on us, what exactly do they want him to do here? This kind of writing just lends credence to the view that America is blamed whatever it does, and never more than when it does nothing.

UPDATE: No mention of Wahhabism or Shari'a at all in the BBC version.

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