Fatwas against science and semantics

Published: May 31, 2013
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The writer is a communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at http://tazeen.net

The writer is a communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at http://tazeen.net

Pakistan is a strange country. Considering the fact that 70 per cent of the population comprises youth, there is no Council of Youth Affairs to safeguard their rights. A great majority of the population has no access to health and reproductive facilities but there is also no council working to ensure that the people of Pakistan are provided basic healthcare.

On the other hand, a good 97 per cent of the population follows some form of Islam but the country still needs multiple councils and other bodies. Two such bodies — the Federal Shariat Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) — regularly come up with suggestions to make religion stronger in the country.

The latest, is on science and semantics. The CII chose to attack the weakest section of society — the women. The latest declaration by the council says that DNA evidence should not be used as the principal evidence in cases of rape (zana-bil-jabr) and can only be used as circumstantial evidence.

Tahir Ashrafi, member of the CII, reiterated on the May 29 in the “Bolta Pakistan” show that DNA should, at best, be considered as circumstantial evidence on the basis of which arrests can be made and further investigations should be carried out. However, a suspect must not be punished on the basis of DNA evidence alone. For that, the evidence of four Muslim male adults is necessary.

Tahir Ashrafi also added that they have doctors in the Council, who say that there is doubt in DNA testing (DNA testing is 99.9 per cent accurate) and as the punishment for the crime is very hard, one has to be careful.

The most logical response to that line of reasoning is that most criminals commit assault without witnesses and if, somehow, we happen to chance upon those elusive four Muslim male adults present during the crime, under any civil law, they would be considered accomplices to the crime and not morally upright witnesses.

If I were a legislator, I would call for making a law that would hand out the harshest punishment for those who were silently witnessing a crime as horrible as rape.

We are living in the 21st century, where artificial intelligence has made human participation in so many acts redundant. Any function that can be mechanised should be mechanised.

Rape should purely be considered a criminal matter. Hence, its investigation should also be similar to any other criminal investigation. Human beings can and do lie but DNA evidence does not. If implicated in a crime wrongfully, most human beings would prefer to prove their own innocence through scientific evidence.

It seems as if there is a bias here. Science is appreciated when it is used to make airplanes or to make loudspeakers, but not appreciated as conclusive proof in a rape case because of a 0.001 per cent chance of uncertainty.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2013.                                                                                          

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Reader Comments (11)

  • SAW
    Jun 1, 2013 - 5:18PM

    Why similar pieces are being posted on op-ed and blogs sections?

    Recommend

  • Someone
    Jun 1, 2013 - 5:21PM

    Yet another article pitting religion against science. What the (so called) Aalim of CII said was stupidity of the highest order, however, dear author, what you are trying to say is no different.

    Recommend

  • Alucard
    Jun 1, 2013 - 6:38PM

    Thank you so much for this concise and powerful rebuttal of mullah interference in science. A beautifully written piece. People should only talk about their area of ‘expertise’ which is why I think the mullahs are having a tough time – they have none. Thus they feel qualified to talk about all and sundry. Even being a doctor doesn’t necessarily qualify you to speak on matters of forensic science.

    The broader issue, as you well raised, is that we still don’t have our priorities right. Islam is not in danger in Pakistan -Everything else is- yet we ignore all the latter and concentrate on wiping out the 3% non-Islam left in our country.

    Recommend

  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Jun 1, 2013 - 7:10PM

    “Rape should purely be considered a criminal matter”.
    RESPECT. well said. Someone said: “Power is directly proportional to the amount of control you have on sexual behaviour in a human society and that’s why a lot of religions and some “political ideologies’ are so obsessed about sexual (mis)conduct!”

    Recommend

  • Unknown
    Jun 1, 2013 - 8:49PM

    Authors have no response to the question
    “How you will make sure that powerful person who committed rape will not be able to change the lab reports of DNA with influence?”
    This is Pakistan and this can happen very easily. Taking DNA as primary evidence, will help the attackers to change the results?

    As far as what Mullahs are saying, bringing four witnesses is also not possible in most of these cases.

    Recommend

  • mateen saeed
    Jun 1, 2013 - 10:02PM

    @ Unknown; Let rape made more costly. Definitely influential will get DNA report changed but not freely. Chemical analyst will definitely bargain and his demand wont be in few thousands. So let the rapist pay price rather heavy price. I don’t claim any rapist have greased hands of stupids of I.I.C but in land of pure every one have price.

    Recommend

  • Muhammad Akram
    Jun 1, 2013 - 10:21PM

    This is the nation that claims when Neil Armstrong landed on moon he first listened the voice of ” Azaan.”

    Recommend

  • Abid P. Khan
    Jun 1, 2013 - 10:36PM

    @Muhammad Akram:
    “This is the nation that claims when Neil Armstrong landed on moon he first listened the voice of ” Azaan.”

    .
    It is OK if a graduate of Laal Masjid claims that. Problem arises when a PhD from an Ivy League institute agrees with this sort of opinion. I have run into many of this sort.

    Recommend

  • Parvez
    Jun 1, 2013 - 11:22PM

    The CII’s duty is to advise against laws that are repugnant to Islam. I agree with the author that the boom always falls on the weakest – the women. This was an excellent case for them to have shown that there is much room for enlightened thinking and interpretation but apparently they took shelter in the literal rater than the progressive approach.
    On the question of the immunity granted to a head of state under the constitution being clearly un-Islamic but they remain silent on this………………double standards.

    Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Jun 1, 2013 - 11:41PM

    It would seem that there is a communication problem! The DNA evidence is a circumstantial one; how else one would prove RAPE, if it was with consent or between the husband and wife?

    Rex Minor

    Recommend

  • Muhammad Usman
    Jun 2, 2013 - 11:55PM

    It seems everyone is out after the mullahs. Who that we should not make laws if instead of 4, 1 person witnesses thr rape. The law should be enacted that in this case the hadood punishment may not be applicable but the judge can still hand down a custodial sentence. Who is preventing our palimentarians to enact laws that in event of a crime and hudood not applicable, the law should prescribe some other punishment.Recommend

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