Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Sharia law codes aren’t Islamic, just medieval

Posted by sanityinjection on August 19, 2009

Hardly a week goes by these days without a news story about someone in a Muslim country  – usually a woman – being punished for an Islamic religious offense under what is called “sharia” law.  Sharia is supposed to be the incarnation of the rules found in the Koran in a system of law. In some countries, sharia only applies to Muslim citizens, while in others no separate civil law code exists and sharia applies to everybody. Punishments under sharia can often be harsh including canings, amputations and death by stoning.

For example I recently wrote about a Sudanese woman who is facing 40 lashes for the offense of wearing trousers. In that case, there is a compelling argument that wearing trousers may not, in fact, be a violation of Koranic law.

But consider something a bit more concrete: the case of Malaysian model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, who has been sentenced to caning for drinking alcohol. It’s pretty hard to argue that consuming alcohol is not a violation of Islamic law. But the question is, is this a reasonable punishment? And further, why is it necessary to enforce such a violation at all?

Islam is certainly not the only faith to have dietary restrictions. Mormons are not supposed to consume alcohol or caffeine. Devout Jews, like Muslims, abstain from pork and observe other dietary restrictions. Other faiths abjure the eating of meat.

And yet, somehow none of these other creeds feel the need to have civil courts set up to punish people who disobey these religious laws. Why then, does Islam? And only in some countries – Muslims in the US are no less observant because they do not cane people for drinking.

If a Muslim drinks alcohol, is that an offense against the community or an offense against God? If the latter, then surely God is perfectly capable of imposing consequences on the offender. You could argue that public drinking has a negative impact on the morals of others who are exposed to it, but then why does Malaysia allow alcohol to be sold at all? Who ultimately was harmed by Ms. Shukarno drinking a beer, other than Ms. Shukarno herself?

The only rationale I can think of for making drinking a crime against the community is the old tribal notion that the Muslim community as a whole will be punished by God for the sins of the individual. In other words, the community has a vested interest in enforcing individual spiritual morality because the community will suffer the consequences if it doesn’t.

But even if we accept this notion, why then are there not canings for Muslims who fail to pray five times a day, or who fail to give to the poor? These requirements are far more fundamental in Islam than the prohibition against alcohol.

The inevitable answer is that sharia law codes are at least as representative of medieval cultural traditions as they are of Islamic law. That also explains why the details of sharia law – especially with regard to women – differ greatly from one country to the next. This is significant because freedom of religion is considered a basic civil right, and anything that can be brought under that umbrella is hard for Westerners to combat. But last time I checked, medieval cultural traditions are not a basic civil right that should trump other rights such as freedom of expression. We in the West are so concerned to avoid attacking the Islamic faith that we have allowed this masquerade to go on too long.


14 Responses to “Sharia law codes aren’t Islamic, just medieval”

  1. norme said

    sharia law are not medieval,but the person who broke the law is medieval.In sharia law the punishment for drinking alcohol are same between men and women.Canning may sounds unreasonable because drinking beer or other alcohol has became a culture to these days community.All Muslim regardless of gender are heavily reminded to stay away from alcohol but Sari Dewi disobey and get punish for it,but we are questioning the punishment she gets.are the sharia law to blame because of ‘unreasonble’ punishment?Nooo..Why?drinking is included in 70 of the deadliest sins in Islam,as a muslim she should stay away from alcohol like other muslim did.In my country underage(18-) smokers will be sent to army school where they are ask to do army stuff like cleaning the gun after school time over for 3 years.Unreasonable?maybe..But it just how the rules and law should be applied to the should always go by the rules,if you disobey u get punish.Even if you get sentenced to death only because of stealing yours neighbours bicycle(sounds really silly) you should not blame the law.the law regardless of sharia law or civil law must not be violated because its the only things that have the power to keep our community in good is just very wrong if you go against the rules.And just to let you know Malaysia is a multicultural country.If they stop the selling alcohol it would bring rage to other community such as chinese and indian who needed alcohol.So,it is just up to the muslim to stay away from drinking alcohol.BTW alcohol like beer does not taste that good anyway

  2. azie2121 said

    Norme, I think alcohol tastes great. MY POINT OF VIEW. pork tastes good. MY POINT OF VIEW. fucking my friend’s husband wow that tastes even better than pork. MY POINT OF VIEW. if i got caught by a policeman for speeding, i will appeal until RM0.00 even though the law says i should be fined. so norme, dont you ever argue with my point of view. no no norme you bad girl/boy. from where I come, we have the best ideas and i’m telling you, our way of thinking is the best. the rest: primitive. no matter how good you think you are, I am always right.

    Remember that muahahaha

  3. azie2121 said

    something which may be good for us to read:

  4. azie2121 said

    so so so sorry. wrong url:

  5. norme said

    i found that people like you(azie) still exist is very funny.cant stop laughing.Malaysia is a respectable country in terms of social and economy development.but it must be very big blow to malaysia having someone like u as a citizen.What a shame.From MY POINT OF VIEW u have taken ignorance up to another a law student and let me tell u something that law is not child’s play that u can play or break anywhere and anytime u want.even nature has it own law..

  6. Update: The caning has been put on hold. The Malaysian authorities say they have never caned a woman and don’t have appropriately trained staff. Meanwhile, the courts are reviewing whether the sentence is too harsh:

    What this really means is that the government wants this to go away because it’s making their country look bad. They would rather not have anyone look too closely at the validity of the law for precisely the reasons I mention above.

  7. azie2121 said

    norme norme norme have u ever heard of sarcasm??

    ayoyo anyway perhaps my writing style is to be blamed, not you, for not you or the rest of the readers to get my point

    what im trying to say is: i basically agree with you lah

    since you are a law student, maybe it would be useful for us to tell the rest of us how caning is carried out in islam (specifically as opposed to the civil-type caning)


  8. This article basically confirms everything I’ve had to say about the Malaysia caning case:

    I would call your attention particularly to the comments of Marina Mahathir, daughter of the former Prime Minister:

    “Are they working to dispense justice or to provide moral lessons for the rest of us?….These types of punishments are in the books. Whether they are used or not is something else,” Marina said, noting that many Muslim women do drink in Malaysia. “It is really between men and God. That’s how it should be. The Quran is clear that alcohol is prohibited but it does not impose a punishment.”

    • Ms. D said

      You can always look to man to misinterpret God to serve his own needs. If only we just loved one another like we are supposed to, all this violence/punishment wouldn’t be necessary. Isn’t there a 70’s song saying something like that? Maybe drinking isn’t the answer, but weed apparently seems to be . . .

  9. Update: An appeals court has upheld the caning sentence:


    The use of public humilation should be added to US justice.I think if shoplifters were spanked in the public square we’d see less theft.I also think we should have pay per view bare knukle fights between daeth row inmates in place of the death penalty imagine the revenue&the victims families could get a chunk of the change.Instead of being judgemental maybe we should see how these policies could be applied to better our own society Sans Religion.


    The use of public humilation should be added to US justice.I think if shoplifters were spanked in the public square we’d see less theft.I also think we should have pay per view bare knuckle fights between death row inmates in place of the death penalty imagine the revenue&the victims families could get a chunk of the change.Instead of being judgemental maybe we should see how these policies could be applied to better our own society Sans Religion.

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