Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lahore Rape Incident and the Punishment in Islam

December 29, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

Lately eight men raped a 14 year old girl in Lahore. The entire country and the world at large are aghast at the occurrence of this heinous crime. Yet no male has ever been punished for rape in Pakistan under the Sharia law. The reason is that it is utterly impossible to produce evidence that Islamic Shariah demands to prove the incidence of rape.

Such abominable cases drag on interminably in the civil courts and finally the courts, the police and witnesses try to get rid of the mess they find themselves in. In the meantime the pressures and threats are hurled from the perpetrators to obstruct the right verdict in such cases. However in the present times, the rape cases can be decided in a week’s time with the test of the DNA and there is no need of any witnesses or other evidence which always stand the risk of being tempered with.

Islamic Sharia ordains rapist to be stoned to death. Yet in the entire history of Islam only one woman was given this punishment because despite being a victim, she insisted to be stoned. So one can imagine how difficult it is religiously to prove rape in order to award the prescribed Sharia punishment to the perpetrators.

The conditions laid down in Islamic jurisprudence to prove rape or sexual assaults are incredibly impossible to fulfill. As such in Islamic societies, not a single rapist has ever been sentenced for this heinous crime. The irony is that the burden of proof is laid upon the female victim who is coerced by one or more males to submit to their lust.

The evidence of rape against a woman is accepted only from four absolutely pious persons. The four virtuous individuals should keep watching the rape with actual penetration taking place. Yet there is no foolproof mechanism to determine if the witnesses were actually pious or have seen the rape being taking place.
There is no Islamic injunction that exhorts these righteous witnesses to stop or forcibly push away the perpetrator from tormenting the female victim who could be a 5 year teenage girl to a 70 year old woman. The devilish and heartless rapist can continue the abhorrent crime till all the four witnesses have minutely observed from a close distance that it was a real rape. While watching they cannot shut their eyes from seeing the naked body of the female and the organ of the fiendish sex maniac.

The vile act could last from a minute to an hour or longer. If the female victim wants justice against the rapist in a Shariah court, she has to go around and find four male witnesses to give evidence of the crime. In this situation there is no consideration that the victim woman was physically unfit to go or was unconscious and whether mentally and physically she was in a position to travel all the way to the court which could be several miles way. What about the child victim? How could she deal with these patently tough conditions?

It is a matter of pure conjecture if the eyewitnesses would wait for her to come to senses or otherwise be ready to go with her to the court and offer evidence. The logistics, the condition of the victimized female, the availability or the possibility of four witnesses readily agreeing to go to court have been completely overlooked.

From the picture that one can perceive in the mind is as if the woman was able to travel to a nearby court immediately after the crime and that the witnesses were all the time available to accompany her. In the meantime no one knows where the rapist would be: flee away from the scene or caught by someone and confined somewhere.

It surmises that the rapist or a group of rapists were committing their heinous crime in full view of many people with absolute day time visibility. One would wonder if the rapist would be an idiot enough to commit this despicable crime in the public and allow the four very pious people to watch his act for a certain period of time. The woman may scream or resist yet there is no injunction that witnesses or the onlookers should release the woman from the rapist’s clutches.

Can a rapist physically remain in a state of sexual intercourse or assault till all the witnesses have seen it? By the time the second witness gets closer, the rapist might have finished his satanic act. Also from where would those four chaste witnesses come all of a sudden? 

If the act is being done in a secret place or with a kidnapped victim which mostly is so in such situations, then how the witnesses could be produced? Another question is that how a victimized young child could remain in full senses and search for four witnesses and then persuade them to go with her in a court and give testimony in her favor?

Doesn't this entire look like a spooky facade never to be accomplished?  Even a moron would know that the criminals, the thieves and the womanizers seldom commit their crime in broad day light as to be seen by others and be caught. A rapist committing an appalling crime of snatching a female’s honor, virginity or chastity would be more secretive than a robber or burglar.

The social stigma attached to rape compels the victims as well their families to remain tight lipped. While Islamic law gives absolute leverage and escape route to the rapists, the poor and helpless victims do not have the corresponding protection and succor from the law to be bold enough to fight out the case.

In villages and cities, people know who molested an innocent girl. But besides muted gossips and limited protests, no one usually has the courage to challenge the savage perpetrators who stalk the streets with flattened chests and stiffened mustache.

But if a girl of an influential person or family elopes or falls in loves with a less privileged person, the honor killing becomes the paramount urgency with the family of the girl. These are paradoxically different yardsticks with which the society measures the rape or even infatuations. In Pakistan we learn and read about the honor killings of the wives or sisters. In many such cases, the female is totally innocent and would be brutalized by the callous and an overbearing husband.

In many instances, the husband wants to marry another woman and thus kills the previous wife in the name of honor (in Sindh it is called Karo-Kari). Additionally there are countless instances when the sisters and daughters were killed because they were in innocent conversation with a young male counterpart or were having an actual love relationship with a boy.

The horrendous dimension of this repulsive phenomenon is that the child born out of the rape is used by the law as a certified criminal act against the victimized female. It means that she is treated as the one who willingly slept with a roughneck. The rapist who committed this crime is not touched till the four witnesses testify against him.

Tragically, the poor and infirm female victim is put in jail with no chances of release or reprieve. Isn’t a gross travesty of justice? A strong and overpowering rapist subjects a female to a horrifying crime but is free to repeat the same loathsome act again and again, while the poor victim is lodged in jail for an indefinite period of time. There are many miserable women languishing in jails for an act that was forced upon them.

The argument given by the Islamic clerics is that the father of man cannot be traced but the child coming out of an unmarried woman’s womb is a sure proof of an anti Islamic act. It is simply overlooked that she was coerced by the powerful males to submit to their lust.

When the rape cases are referred to the civil courts, there are no witnesses against the culprits and they invariably are freed. If the case is referred to the Shariah Court, there is no way these monsters can be sentenced 100 lashes because of the lack of evidence supposed to come from the four absolutely immaculate Muslim witnesses.

Bu while we talk only about female raping we forget that young children too are hunted and molested by the insidious individuals. That crime is much more serious than the rape of a grown up young girl or female victim. The children should be protected from the habitual pedophiles that are everywhere in our society. 

They prey upon the boys of their localities and also carry away the runaway children found in parks or working in restaurants and workshops. Some of the boys carry the guilt feelings throughout their life that they cannot share with others. But this certainly corrodes their personality from inside.

It would be desirable and rather indispensable to try the rape cases in the civil courts. The proof of a rape committed could be determined by the latest technique of DNA. Once the women folks or their kith are confident that the culprit would be punished and law would prevail, they would be emboldened to identify them and provide all necessary information needed for the justice to take its course.

In the United States the laws about sex offences are absolutely strict. The rapist cannot go around and hunt down the females. The incidents of forcible sex do take place but once caught there is no mercy or leniency in American law for the sex offenders. There could be several years of jail term for the offenders even for sexual advances such as physical touch of a teen age girl or boy. 

For minor or major sex offences they are labeled as sex offenders forever or for a specified period of time. The felons cannot reside near schools or in the neighborhoods and are treated as pariah by the law. Their pictures are published and circulated in local magazines and newspapers.

Now this kind of strict and severe punishment in heathen or un-Islamic society should serve as a shining example for Islamic societies whose religion puts enormous emphasis on piety and sanctity of body and soul and where even going out of for a woman without veil or head scarf is treated as violation of Islamic laws.

It would be in order if some of the controversial Shariah laws are amended through Ijtehad (reinterpretation of Islamic injunctions without altering the core objectives) with regard to the rape (Zina-Bil-Jabr) so as to ensure the imperatives of justice. Only by fusing the modern laws with the Islamic laws can the Islamic polities dispense justice to the rape victims and duly punish the perpetrators of this most abominable crime.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Terrorism, Muslims and the United States

December 24, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

The emergence of ISIS in the Middle East landscape is a mind boggling phenomenon. How Al-Baghdadi and his cohorts could amass such a committed and huge force of heartless crusaders to rampage in the length and breadth of Iraq and Syria, fight the traditional regular armies and entrench doggedly either to kill or to be killed in return.

Thus far the mighty air power of many countries including both USSR and USA has been unsuccessful to dislodge and scatter the ISIS militia which in fact is a worrisome dimension for the world at large. ISIS is causing more destabilization of Iraq and Syria than the previous wars both internal and external.

The sordid fact is that in the Middle East, in the littoral states of Gulf and in the Arab peninsula there have never been a political government established through the will and franchise of the people. By and large these have been tribal dynasties and family dictatorships. 

The Arab spring brought in its wake, significant and formidable transformation in the system of governance or democracy elsewhere but not in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Arabia and Emirates remained unaffected by that historic watershed change. Yemen, Libya Iraq and Syria entered into a phase of civil war that is still raging ferociously. In Iraq and Syria this civil war is between the ISIS and the incumbent regimes.

In an atmosphere of political and social stagnation the dictatorial dynasties like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria and even Egypt draw their strength and legitimacy either from religion or military. These regimes lack legitimacy to rule as these are not born out of the people’s mandate given through ballot. 

Since these family or sectarian based dynasties or military outfits are backed up  by the foreign powers such as Syria by USSR and Iraq by the United State, a third force has emerged with the slogan of establishing an Islamic Emirate in Levant territories similar to that of  Taliban created in Afghanistan for a few years( 1996-2001).

In 2003 the so called Coalition Allies led by the United States eliminated the Iraqi Baathist regime of Saddam Hussain. Since then Iraq has a fragile and sectarian based democratic governments.  In Syria the Alawite government is under a family dictatorship using all brutal means against their people especially the Sunni population. 

Although there has been a simmering civil war going on in Syria, the Arab Spring that swept across the Islamic countries of Sahara and Middle East generated since 2011 a new wave of civil unrest in Syria which is apace now.

Ironically the deadly wars have been thrust upon the people of these lands either by local tyrants or by foreign interventions have shaken these societies upside down. Now the Taliban and Muslims crusaders or jihadists who fought for the west in Afghanistan against the former Soviet Union later were treated as terrorists and a new war was started against them in 2001. Thus the heroes became terrorists. 

But woefully the label of terrorism exclusively used for a limited group of Taliban started being used for the entire Muslim world. In the context of Middle East those challenging the autocratic regimes are also being dubbed as terrorists.

In case of such gruesome incidents as in Paris, San Bernardino or 9/11 the label of terrorism should be exclusively used for the specific groups of terrorists who carried out these horrific acts and not for all Muslims. That trend is leading to a clash of civilization based upon religion as predicted by Professor Huntington.

It should be in order if the Western World particularly the United States and politicians should correct this misconception because Muslims have stood by America in Afghanistan in defeating the former Soviet Union: the arch enemy of capitalism or the free world.

At the same time the international power brokers and super powers along with the UNO initiate a process of democratization of the Muslim countries that are still under the domination of family autocracies or the religious outfits or else under the military junta rule. That is going to be the best and a most preferable solution to bridle and nail terrorism.

The United States and its allies and Europe should use their clout and influence to change the regimes and ensure choice of the rulers through a genuine democratic process. We can see that in Tunisia the Arab spring was successful. The people’s uprising was aimed at a genuine cause which was the change of the rulers and a dysfunctional and corrupt government. 

The United Nations would rather move to ban the autocracy in any form and for that objective the Security Council and the world powers should play a decisive role. If the islands of autocracies and ruthless dynasties and dictatorships are dismantled to be replaced by governments chosen by the people, the society and government would be stable and accountable. 

The use of brute force to sustain proxy governments and sham regimes is a recipe for turmoil and chaos as we can witness all over in the Middle East, barring Morocco and Jordan.

The anti Muslim rhetoric and outlook has been there in the west, but of late this has assumed vitriolic proportions. Truthfully merely Muslim bashing and vilifying them en-bloc for isolated and odd incidents like San Bernardino and Paris would be counterproductive and an exercise in futility. 

Rather it would create ill will and tension between 1.6 billion Muslims and the Christian West which would be detrimental to the creation of a world free of terrorism, militancy and hatred. It would be a saner policy to take the peaceful Islamic states along to root out the menace of terrorism and for peaceful world. 
At the same time it is also inevitable to debilitate the radical militants as Taliban and ISIS to pave way for the regime change from autocracy to democracy. In that regard the strategy unfurled by president Obama can be decisively effective and definitely result-oriented. 

He has submitted a Draft resolution to the Congress for permission to go ahead with his anti ISIS plan. President Obama doesn’t want American ground troops in Iraq and Syria because in his reckoning that was what ISIS wants and the America is not going to commit that blunder. 

He wants to break their command and control system, block their channels of funds, recapture the oil refineries under their control and stop sale of oil. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the front runner Democratic presidential candidates have expressed their support for that approach.

About domestic ill will towards the Muslims, Hillary Clinton has asserted that “we must work more closely with Muslim-American communities. Just like Martin, I met with a group of Muslim-Americans this past week to hear from them about what they're doing to try to stop radicalization. They will be our early warning signal. That's why we need to work with them, not demonize them, as the Republicans have been doing
Sanders opined, “I believe in action in which we put together a strong coalition of forces, major powers and the Muslim nations.”

These are the saner voices that goad caution and restraint and not to dub, discriminate or profile the Muslims as terrorists as it would not only be a violation of  the American constitution but would also isolate the United States from the entire Muslim world by way of interaction and adverse impact on  the  mutual trade and cooperation.
Currently USA and Russia are seeking the Security Council’s approval to build up an international coalition for action in Iraq along the same lines that United States had earlier formed twice in Iraq. The first was the Operation Desert Storm built in February 1991 consisting of   34 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait

The second was "shock and awe that led to the invasion of Iraq and collapse of the Ba'athist government, capturing of Terrorism, Muslims and United States in December 2003 and his execution by a military court three years later.Such a coalition was built in Afghanistan in 2001 under the title of “Operation Enduring Freedom” to dislodge Taliban.  

The United States officially withdrew in 2011 from Afghanistan after the fulfillment of the mission but became re-involved in 2014 at the head of a new coalition.

The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog www.uprightopinion.com.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

President George Bush Turnpike (PGBT) is Hazardous

December 9, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

The commuters plying on the newly constructed President George Bush Turnpike (PGBT) may bear me out that some of its segments are bumpy and uneven causing rude jerks and shake-ups to the speeding vehicles. 

The major faulty portion of this otherwise immensely useful highway starts from the precincts of the Irving city or precisely when it crosses over the State Highway 183 and up to the point when it joins with I-35.

The cars and other vehicles get jolt after jolt and tilt on the spots where the surface is depressed or elevated from the normal surface. All of a sudden the bump or uneven patch would rock the vehicle shaking the passengers rudely. 

The kind of smooth surface that one can find on I-30 or I-20 is sparse on the PGBT and may look like an oasis in the wilderness. It surmises that a portion of this 62 miles long traveling artery has been subjected to the faulty workmanship. 

After the commissioning of the 8th segment of PGBT in December 2011, this highway has been repaired intermittently. Later its faulty surface with bulging or protruding bumps has been smoothened and leveled by grinding or slashing. That repair work continues since 2011 particularly on the segment linking State Highway 183 with I-35. 

But it seems that it would be utterly difficult to bring the surface on an even keel as that would be tantamount to spending several millions more dollars on such a venture. As a matter of fact this faulty portion needs a new layer of resurfacing to make it smooth and jerk-free.

One might conjecture that the underneath base or foundation of the Turnpike has not been solidified enough to save it from sinking or getting depressed on various sections. That is the reason that at many places the surface is pressed below and which causes sudden jerks to the speeding automobiles both cars and trucks. At the faulty places whether depressed or bulged, the overtaking of other vehicles seems to be a daunting task.

This Turnpike has been dedicated to George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States of America and rightly so. Its importance is like the main blood carrying artery in the human body. 

But poor quality of construction and ensuing jerky driving overshadows its pristine objective which is to provide a sort of wider and safer highway to all the main cities along the route and thus saving the time of the commuters.

The Turnpike passes through three Texas counties viz.Dallas, Collin and Denton and nine Dallas suburbs Rowlett, Sachse, Garland Richardson, Plano, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Irving and Grand Prairie. Its segment IX would be extended to Garland and Mesquite and is currently at the planning stage. The final segment X would be started tentatively in 2030.

The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) that operates this Turnpike and its maintenance agency Roy Jorgensen Associates should take urgent heed of the defects being developed in this extremely vital link between various cities in Dallas and devise a strategy to repair those spots that hinder the smooth flow of the traffic on PGBT. 

If neglected and left unattended its viability and efficacy might further be eroded. The cost would go up astronomically in subsequent times if left as such.

The Awesome View of 408 Spur on I-20

December 3, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi
Those motorists who take a detour from I-20 to 408 spur must bear me out that a wondrous spectacle of captivating natural scenery opens up before the eyes. The green and salubrious hillock around which the exit spur road circulates is a treat to the eyes of the beholders.

The thick forest starts at the end of the detour link road branching off from I-20 and extends on to the both sides of the 408 spur as if it is a part of the Switzerland hilly slopes. Mythically one may say that this forest could have been the abode of the proverbial gods that used to reside in inaccessible valleys and mountains. On the higher altitude both sides of the spur are laden with thick forest studded with tall pine trees.

As an ardent lover of nature I am immensely fascinated and rather captivated by the serene beauty of this unique valley. This spur that winds through a breathtaking beautiful valley is not very long. Yet it offers a natural phenomenon on both sides that enlivens the soul and uplifts the subdued spirits.

The slopes on the mountains are studded with trees that are very old and must be treated as relics and preserved. The trees in wild jungles decay on their own and are reborn and the same process is taking place here. But this reminds one how in the past this short strip would have been replete with eye-catching and wondrous facets of the virgin nature. This forest adds to the grandeur of this natural resort.
While ascending you may look towards the right side and you will see a valley as charming as it is mysterious. Surrounded by the thick cluster of tall trees there is a lake down below with sparkling water like a glittering jewel. This is a different lake from the spacious lake that covers large on area on the eastern periphery of the city of Grand Prairie and over which more than a mile long bridge links the Baptist University with the city of Grand Prairie and joins with the 408 spur. This road in Pioneer Parkway and is also called 303 spur.

The landscape down below around the lake and surroundings is simply panoramic. Near the lake there is a small naval complex that might have been operational in the past or may be is still functional for maritime purposes. And there is a huge and imposing complex of the Dallas Baptist University that too adds to the majesty of the valley. The Pioneer Parkway runs through the naval complex and the university compound. Also situated nearby is the National Cemetery.

After dusk when you are descending to join the I-20 Highway, you would witness yet another mesmeric panorama. A sea of lights interspersed on a vast land of Arlington and Grand Prairie dazzles the eyes of the motorists.One would wonder if these sprawling cities could be the most lighted and glittering in the entire state of Texas or even the whole of the United States. 

This spectacle keeps commuters so engaged that for a while one tends to forget that he or she was driving on a winding road ascending and descending both the ways. One may come across one or two odd forlorn coyotes in search of food. There might be other animals in the forest and the wildlife department should preserve these animals from being killed by the speeding vehicles or die of hunger.

Alas the serene and virgin beauty of this wonderful two or three long stretch of the spur better be called a valley, has fallen victim to the prying eyes of the real estate builders. During the past few years the chaste beauty of this valley has been sullied and woefully tarnished by construction of two eyesore complexes. One is an apartment complex and the other is a church building both built by denuding a part of the thick forest. These look ugly spots on the fair landscape of this charming valley. But I would wish these buildings were not there.

There is a lurid possibility that in due course, more commercial buildings might emerge on both sides of the 408 Spur and thus this three miles segment of a natural resort would lose its serenity and beauty. The commercial lust and greed is swallowing this delightful eye treat for the travelers.
City fathers must do something urgent to save this valley as a natural heritage and further construction should be banned along the spur in order to retain its natural and pristine beauty.

The portion of the spur that turns into loop 12 is now dotted with commercial buildings, gas station and apartment complex. In the past this tract too must have had a forest on both sides of the Loop 12 and as green and unspoiled as a part of the 408 spur now is. 

There are still one or two ranches or farm houses on the 408 spur where farming is being done even now by some left out residents.  This gives one a feeling that this place should have been a farmers’ village in the near or in the distant past.