Hudood Ordinance: ‘The law is in line with Islam but court procedures in Pakistan are not’

Islamic scholar defends Hudood Ordinance, explains witnesses’ dilemma.


Cheree Franco April 10, 2011

KARACHI:


An Islamic scholar and university professor defended the controversial Hudood Ordinance on Wednesday at a lecture in the Aga Khan University Hospital and affirmed that the laws are “in accordance with Islamic principles”.


Kamaluddin Ahmed, who is pursing his PhD at the Oxford University and has taught at both the Lahore University of Management Sciences and the Aga Khan University, cautioned that while the laws might be in line with Islam, “the procedure of this law in Pakistani courts is not”.

Ahmed was raised in New York and holds a list of degrees from western liberal arts universities.

His lecture was attended by women wearing white lab coats over  burqas as well as by women in T-shirts and jeans. There were the usual nods of agreement and the disgruntled whispering in the crowd as women leaned over and shared their views with their friends.

Ahmed started the lecture by emphasising the equality of women and men as explicitly stated in the Holy Quran. His primary position throughout the lecture was that Islamic law must be understood in the context of Islamic theology. He said that Islamic law is often misinterpreted by the media and the courts, even in Islamic countries.

The Hudood Ordinance was passed under Ziaul Haq to implement punishments as stipulated by the Sharia law for extramarital sex, theft and prohibition. The ordinance has been internationally criticised for making rape survivors vulnerable to prosecution in the absence of four upright male witnesses. According to these laws, the penalty for zina, or extramarital sex, is death by stoning or public whipping.

“Scholars can find only two instances in which this capital punishment was implemented during the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) life,” Ahmed said, explaining that in two separate occasions, a man and a woman confessed to zina and were stoned. He also noted that in the history of Pakistan, no woman has ever been stoned or lashed (as a legal punishment).

Meanwhile, in the more general context of financial laws, Ahmed rationalised the mandate for male rather than female witnesses.

“Allah called for multiple witnesses so that they can confer secretly behind closed doors and help each other remember exactly what they saw,” he said. “Bring two men and if you can’t find two men, bring a man and two women. This is because in Islam, a man and woman are not to confer behind closed doors together.”

He also said that the presence of a man is necessary to bear the brunt of the confrontation in court.

“Witnesses take up the obligation to appear in court and they expose themselves to harm. The male witness should go first and break the ice,” Ahmed said. “The requirement is not a testament to women’s intelligence, but rather for women’s safety. Even in the west, there are certain high-stress combat missions that women are not allowed to participate in.”

In the media’s presentation of Islamic law, and particularly in the 2009 debate surrounding the Hudood Ordinance on a private TV channel, “a lot wasn’t shown and a lot was misstated”, said Ahmed. “It was a tragedy because NGOs and Islamic scholars and feminists would all have agreed that there shouldn’t be women in jail or languishing in court…it was a lost opportunity for genuine dialogue.”

 

The writer is a graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School and a fellow for The Express Tribune. She blogs at chereefranco.wordpress.com

Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th,  2011.

COMMENTS (20)

abu bakr | 10 years ago | Reply For some of our wonderfully "enlightened" and "educated" friends posting comments here, the definitions for Intellectual and So-Called Intellectual seem to be as follows: strong textIntellectual - Anyone who agrees with our views, the perfect views. strong textSo-Called Intellectual - Anyone who dares disagree with our perfect views, and dares hold an opinion that is not the same as ours. Whatever his/her reasoning might be, we do not care as to its validity or strength, we do not care even to hear it out, for we are the almighty knowers of truth, and in us and us alone is contained all that is true and good. So much for "tolerance", the value you so passionately worship, my "enlightened" and "educated" friends. Disgusting bigotry of the worse kind :). Goodbye sanity. Yours, Abu Bakr.
jahanzebb | 10 years ago | Reply The amount of ignorance in the people posting here is amazing. Ms. Cheree Franco has done a terrible job with the summary, as this is a lecture that I have attended personally and I say honestly that Maulana Kamaluddin's views are totally being misrepresented here. Let me just explain one idiotic, no-brainer comment to plead sanity in the rest of the people posting comments: faraz - "According to Hudood Law, rape cant be proved even if it takes place infront of hundreds of women as women become a witness!" I distinctly remember Maulana Kamaluddin stating over and over again that for any and every punishment other than capital punishment, the witness of even one woman , even that of the victim herself, is enough the put the rapist in jail for life. You can implement the entire system of prosecution of rape used in the United States legal system (because the punishment there is not death), and that would be totally fine with Islam, no problem at all. Please keep in mind that Maulana Kamaluddin is no small scholar. He gives lectures at Oxford University, LSE, Imperial College etc., and has a huge following of scholars as well as non-scholars, throughout the world. All who have heard him believe that he has extremely balanced views based firmly on Shariah. You're giving views here without ever having listened to him. That is extremely unethical no matter what system of ethics you follow. That much I hope you'll agree, and refrain from giving uninformed opinions. Thank you, A fellow citizen. P.S. Ms. Cheree Franco, seeing as you're a graduate of Cambridge, one would have expected at least honest journalism from you, and a true and detailed account of Maulana Kamaluddin's views on the topic. It's a shame you decided to distort the views of a senior Islamic scholar, and turn away the masses from the benefit they could have gained from him. Thoroughly disappointed in you miss, thoroughly :)
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