Herat, Afghanistan (Arman-a-Legg Daily) - The US government is outraged that a vocal group of 200 clerics in the western province of Herat have called for Afghanistan to return to the 'good-old-days' of Sharia Law. "Some thanks for us helping to oust the Taliban!" remarked White House spokesperson Tony Snow.
However, no one quite understands what it all means. There are different versions of Sharia Law to choose from, depending on which historic texts one decides to interpret literally.
According to some historical texts, theft should be punished by imprisonment or amputation of hands/feet, depending on the number of times theft was committed and the item(s) in question. This is generally perceived as a very effective deterrent against thievery.
However, two reliable eyewitnesses must testify under oath that they saw the person stealing. Otherwise the punishment cannot be meted out. Witnesses must be either two men, or, if only one man can be found, then one man and two women will do. (You can see where this might get pretty 'sticky' as well.) Blind witnesses will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Due to the following 'improvements' (or checks-and-balances), amputation is not nearly as common as it used to be:
- The "thief" must be adult & sane with criminal intent to take private property (versus common property).
- The incident must not have resulted from hunger, necessity or duress.
- The goods stolen must be over a minimum value (though this seems rather subjective) and must not be haraam (i.e. forbidden) nor owned by the family of the "thief".
- The goods must have been taken from custody (i.e. not a public place).
- And finally, the punishment is not imposed if the "thief" repents.
All of these must be met under the scrutiny of 'judicial authority'. In the US, a presidential pardon would not be out of the question.
According to some historical texts, adultery should be punished by stoning to death (for married people) or one-hundred lashes (for unmarried people).
Punishment cannot be enforced unless there is a confession by the "adulterer", or there are four male eyewitnesses who each saw the act being committed. (Voyeurism is not considered a crime).
Any woman who is accused of adultery cannot be punished unless there are four male eyewitnesses (or eight female ones, since two females equal one male witness).
Again, these must be met under the scrutiny of 'judicial authority'.
Historical texts give no indication what to do in this situation. But one might plausibly argue in favor of stoning the hands/feet of the accused.
In a country estimated at more than 30 million people, the views of 200 clerics might not be all that significant. Or they just might.