A crime against humanity

Saturday, 20 September 1997

Damn those who twist and distort religion to rape and subjugate

I've always been careful to not make blanket references to religious atrocities as representative of the religion as a whole. Christians, Jews, Hindus have all been guilty of acts of inhumanity.

Even the supposedly pacifist religion of Buddhism transmogrified into the rampant genocide of the Sri Lankan Sinhalese majority against Tamilians.

With the end of the Cold War, the United States desperately sought and found a new bogyman in the name of Islamic Fundamentalism. Never mind that the US had nurtured "Islamic Fundamentalism" in Afghanistan in the name of the Cold War. Former allies such as Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar-al-Qaddaffi now had to be demonised.

No doubt, this has contributed to a situation where followers of Islam have been forced to close ranks against this blanket condemnation of all who follow the teachings of the Qu'ran.

But evil is evil is evil and must be exposed. And the reign of terror perpetrated by Iran against its population needs to be thrown into the spotlight.

With the revolution of 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini introduced a system of government that deprived women of their humanity and men of their dignity. In his Tahrir-ol Vasileh, a collection of his views and fatwas, Khomeini decreed:

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o Women do not have the right to leave home without the permission of their husbands. Men have to provide for their living expenses, but are not required to pay for their wives' serious illnesses. Denied independent means, the wife must tolerate her condition, and await death.

o Because virgin women are not to be executed, Khomeini sanctioned their rape before sentence is carried out.

o Khomeini declared the age of majority for girls to be 9, and for boys to be 16. Girls can be made to marry at 9, and can be executed at 9.

o Khomeini sanctioned "temporary marriage", legitimising prostitution, specifying that a sum be paid to the woman for use of her body.

o Adultery, for women, is a capital offence, punishable by stoning. "Stones used should not be big enough to kill with the first or second blow."

His spiritual heir, Hashemi Rafsanjani, elaborated: "Equality does not take precedence over justice ... Justice does not mean that all laws must be the same for men and women.

"Men's brains are larger ... These differences affect the delegation of responsibilities, duties and rights."

This is not Islam. The Qu'ran is quite explicit in preaching equality of men and women.

"O mankind, We have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely, the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most god fearing of you."

"Mankind, hear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, whether male or female, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women; fear God by whom you demand one of another."

"I waste not the labour of any that labours among you, be you male or female ­ the one of you is as the other."

The Prophet Mohammed stamped out the infanticide of girls. He made women take the Bei'at (oath of allegiance) alongside men, and insisted on their participation in all decisions affecting society.

The society founded by the Prophet in Medina initiated unprecedented rights for women: the right to choose one's spouse; the ban on women's inclusion in a deceased man's inheritance; the ban on accusing women of improprieties without due process; the right to hold property independent of men, and recognition of contracts and business deals entered into by women independent of their husbands or male family members; the right to seek recourse against their husbands and male relatives; the right to travel and migrate; the right to inheritance; the right to a share of war booty; the right to guardianship of children; the ban on isolating women and various other arbitrary forms of divorce; the right to teach, learn, and advocate their views; the right to vote; freedom of expression; the right to take part in all social decisions; and finally, and most importantly, the right to leadership and directorship of the society.

The so-called "Islamic" Republic of Iran is nothing of the sort. They are as much a crime against humanity as Nazism or apartheid. All of us, Islamic or otherwise, should condemn them.