In Theory: On crime and punishment and Sharia law

May 01, 2014

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, known as PAS, a political party with a strong base in the Malaysian state of Kelantan, pushed through the Sharia Criminal Code Enactment (II) 1993, which calls for hudud, or extreme corporal punishment when there is strong evidence of a crime to insure "justice and equality."

Only Muslims convicted of the crimes would pay with punishments that include, for example, the amputation of a thief's hand. So far, the federal constitution has delayed enactment of the law, but its backers aim to remove all obstacles to its implementation in Kelantan by next year.

Q: Tell us your thoughts about religious texts and beliefs being incorporated into civil laws.


In his text, "Disability in Islamic Law," author Vardit Rispler-Chaim defines Hudud, or Hudud Allah, as the collective title for severe crimes, the punishments of which are laid down in Qur'anic verses. The crimes include fornication, slandering a woman for immoral sexual conduct, alcoholic consumption, theft and highway robbery. Rispler-Chaim says while these punishments are an affront to Allah, they serve the ancillary purpose of protecting society at large. Further, Victor Valley College professor James M. Arlandson writes that when such crimes are committed true Islam supports the principle of "lex talionis," or, "an eye for an eye."


However, Jesus' words and actions, telling an adulterer to "go and sin no more," or having dinner with a thieving government official, has affected western law in such a way that ideally, some emphasis is placed on the rehabilitation of those who must be punished and incarcerated for breaking the law. Prisoners can learn trades, and achieve scholastic degrees. Counselors and probation officers work with ex-convicts to find employment and fit back into society. In an increasingly diverse society where more severe penalties are nevertheless still meted out on the basis of race, and white-collar crime is seen as less invasive than other forms of corruption, compassion must be in conversation with correction.

The Rev. Dr. William Thomas Jr.
Little White Chapel


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