Friday, November 23, 2007

Stopping the Religious Lash....

She is 20 years old. She and a male acquaintance were sitting in a car, they were kidnapped from the car and gang raped by 7 men. She and her companion were convicted on morals charges and sentenced to receive 90 lashes for being alone in the car.

After her lawyer, Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem, objected to her sentence, both victims sentences were increased to 200 lashes and six months in prison. Lahem's license has been revoked, accused of "belligerent behavior, talking to the media for the purpose of perturbing the judiciary, and hurting the country's image."

The country is Iran? Wrong. Afghanistan? Wrong. Pakistan? Wrong.

No, it's the country of The Decider's great oil buddies, Saudi Arabia.... an absolute monarchy where the official Wahhabi religious establishment follows a strict interpretation of Islam, and the country follows Islamic law... many of which are not codified, giving judges wide latitude in sentencing.

As a Saudi human rights lawyer, Lahem has been fighting against this medieval judicial system. Defending clients whom other lawyers refused.... a school administrator suspended for criticizing the religious establishment, a man convicted of promoting homosexuality for saying it was genetic, three political reformists seeking a constitutional monarchy, and the first Saudis suing the country's powerful religious police.

The lesson. In Saudi Arabia you see the consequences of allowing religious laws supremacy.... or dominionism.... and the difficulty in confronting and ridding a country of the grip of nationalistic theology.

The sentencing fourth-century-throwback Saudi court told this woman the reason for her increase in punishment was because of "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."

WHTMC would nominate Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem for Time's "Man of the Year"... for risking everything to defend those who are victimized by Saudi Arabia's all-powerful monarchy and their religious laws. But, such a move might only increase the harsh treatment of the 20-year-old gang rape victim.

Instead, let's examine the pronouncements of some of our presidential candidates regarding their fundamentalist beliefs.... denouncing homosexuality, rights to privacy, evolution.... in government, education and the courts.

Whether it's the assault on science from global warming to evolution battles, the tearing down of the constitutional protections to privacy or the wall separating church and state.... relentless religious radicalism is on the march our country.... after being given almost unfettered political, legal and monetary advantages by The Decider.

But, unlike the tyranny in place in Saudi Arabia, Americans can still do something to halt the authoritarian ambitions that lie behind the moralistic posturing of the religious right. If you cherish your freedoms, deny them a place at the table.

As Tocqueville said in 1840: "Various forms of religious madness are quite common in the United States".... but still he thought that democracy could contain the danger.

It can... but only if you exercise your freedoms and vote. Otherwise, you or your children could someday feel the lash.

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