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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Sharia Law: What do you think?
An Islamic court in Nigeria has dismissed the appeal of a woman who had been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

Amina Lawal, a divorcee, was convicted by a court in Katsina state for bearing a child outside marriage.

Under the Islamic (Sharia) law introduced in the majority Muslim states of northern Nigeria, execution by stoning is the prescribed punishment.

Is Sharia the answer to Nigeria's crime-ridden society? Can stoning to death for adultery ever be justified?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Usman A. Khan, England, has pointed out that the actual punishment is 100 stripes (for BOTH parties). Has it not occurred to them that this "lesser" punishment was introduced precisely to put a stop to this practice. Stoning to death for adultery is actually a pre-Islamic practice dating back to the time of Moses, one of many pre-Islamic, tribal practices that the Koran sought to 'civilise'.
Mick B, UK

Westerners encouraging the spread of a deadly epidemic by forcing others to accept their infantile moral notions should be tried for genocide.

Aria, Cambridge, USA
The sexual customs of the occident and the western values they stem from are directly responsible for the staggering prevalence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Most countries in this region have an AIDS rate of around 20%, with some places, such as Ghana having a rate of 38%. Millions of people in these countries are dying because of the promotion of occidental sexual ethics. Meanwhile, Nigeria has an AIDS rate of 5%, while the Muslim Arab countries of the north have one close to zero.

The reason this has been possible is influence of Islamic values, of which Sharia law is a concrete manifestation. I am firmly of the opinion that westerners encouraging the spread of a deadly epidemic by forcing others to accept their infantile moral notions should be tried for genocide. it is only a typically western stupidity that prefers millions dead from aids over the occasional stoning of an adulteress.
Aria, Cambridge MA

For goodness sake, when is this type of rubbish going to stop? Death for adultery - I hope the people who pass sentence like this rot!
Toni, Australia

Humans have the power of choice. If people have chosen to be Muslims and are fully aware of the barbaric laws of the religion, they must be prepared to have such laws imposed on them. These Muslims are more often than not, opposed to a Christian faith where love and forgiveness is the message, perhaps this should serve as a wake up call for people to choose a religion that is sexist and teaches vengeance and hate.
Alice Odewole, UK

Many people on this board say that western culture is 'decadent' and 'disgusting' and that Sharia protects Muslims from depravity. Recently, in Nigeria, a young married man with children had his right hand amputated because he stole four planks of wood from a building site in order to mend the roof of his home. It was his first offence.
Andrew, UK

Does Islam promote killing?

Please Stop, please stop. Did this poor woman commit adultery by herself? Where is the man? Does Islam promote killing?

When a woman indulges in sex outside marriage it is condemned as adultery, but when a man is involved it is justified by the argument that man is polygamous. When a man and woman has equal existence given by the nature, why there should be different laws regarding sex?
Shrinivas, India

Death penalty for conceiving a non-marital child is an extreme punishment which cannot be justified in any civilized society. This especially gruesome death was not uncommon in many European countries several centuries ago. Europe has however undergone a religious reformation which made Christianity more up-to-date with sociological developments. Islam is in a desperate need of such a reformation which will provide this great religion with a new more humane face, more suitable for the 21st century.
Hendrick, New York, USA

Many Muslims are insisting that Sharia is divine law that came directly from God. If this is the case why are there several different versions of Sharia that contradict each other? Also doesn't the Nigerian version of Sharia contradict the Koranic directive to flog both the man and the woman who committed the act.
I have studied Islam and find no religious basis for the behaviour of Nigeria's Sharia courts. The men running them badly need a lesson in what their own religion teaches.
J Garner, USA

Whoever commits a crime should be ready to face the penalties

Name Here
Perhaps we should ask the westerners to teach us about "Morality". Whoever commits a crime such as adultery should as well be ready to face the penalties, if the laws of the land is against such crimes. Decadence in society evolves from such immoral acts... If Aminah is guilty of the act, then she ought to be abide by the laws. I wish to inform everyone that the laws were in place before she committed the crime.. So why all the noise, since she deliberately decided to go against the laws of the land?
Tunji, Nigeria

This is blind faith at it's most hideous and unfair. Where is the punishment for the male counterpart in this relationship? Is he not equally responsible or is the philandering of Nigerian men sanctioned by Allah? This act is rife with the hypocrisy of the self righteous and exposes the base and unquestioning ignorance of those who support it.
William Riley, Canadian in USA

The assertion made by defenders of this barbarity that western nations do not torture and kill people for having sex because we are "decadent" or "hedonistic" is amusing. The truth is, we do not murder people for these things because they are not crimes, and because, apparently unlike the defenders of Sharia, we believe that people have a right to live their own lives as they wish so long as they do not harm others. It is based on the assumption that human beings have rights, rather than being mere chattle for Allah.
Jeremy, Canada

You either believe in the human rights of the individual, or you don't

Peter, USA
The defence of murder on this board, in the guise of cultural relativism, shows how dangerously weak-minded Western liberalism has become. You either believe in the human rights of the individual, or you don't - it can't be true on one side of a border, and "culturally insensitive" on the other. Religious freedom is not negotiable. Equality for women is not negotiable. Civil liberty is not negotiable. This radical interpretation of the Sharia is inherently incompatible with Western values, and we most stop apologizing for it. They are murdering an innocent woman. Remember that.
Peter, USA

This woman chose the life of her child over a barbaric act of abortion. That she would pay for her courage and the life of her child by risking her own life only ennobles her. Her sexual union outside marriage was a mistake. Killing her is a crime. Nigeria must ask itself if it wants to return to the isolation of the Abacha era, or continue forward with Muslims and Christians worldwide who have learned to live side by side in a common culture of life.
Kathleen, US

Please remember that citizens of Nigeria are not all Muslim. There are millions who believe in the Christian faith and who also don't agree with the harsh punishments. My comment is not about the rights and wrongs of a particular religion. I just don't want people to cast a shadow on the entire Nigerian nation as a whole. Nigeria is a wonderful country and the southern people are very welcoming.
Sarah Williams, UK

This is a vile and outdated form of justice which serves only to punish the innocent.

Dan, UK
To those who support the verdict against Amina Lawal, think about this: Her child did not ask to be brought into the world, and yet it will be the one that suffers most from this punishment by having no mother. We keep hearing from Western Muslims how wonderful Sharia law is, but any rational person can see that this is a vile and outdated form of justice which serves only to punish the innocent.
Dan, UK

I am a Nigerian and I abhor what is being done in the bane of religion. This is not just barbaric it is pure wickedness and I pray and hope that GOD meets out the same punishment to those pushing for this. Isn't it ironic that all those involved in this process are men?

You are not a better or holier person because you do not do something for fear of the punishment. We should not want to hurt each other or commit sins simply because we know it is not right.
Anon, UK

Cruel, inhumane, barbaric. Coming from a Muslim country myself, I strongly feel that under no circumstances should laws that conflict with the basic fundamentals of forgiveness and getting a second chance, be implemented. A shame on humanity!
Suresh Gnasegarah, Malaysia

It pains me greatly to see such a great and noble religion dragged through the mud by its own.

Christopher Magee, USA
Much of the Sharia is very reasonable and as rational and well ordered as current civil law in the west. There are some bits throughout the Sharia that harken back to a day that has come and gone. And, as said above, many of the 'punishments' that have meted out under the name of the Sharia have no religious basis. It pains me greatly to see such a great and noble religion dragged through the mud by its own.
Christopher Magee, USA

I notice that many of the western readers are quite riled up about the severity of the punishment. Possibly because they do not realize the severity of the crime. Muslims who practice their faith are very serious about their family values and things like chastity, modesty and separation of the sexes in public. This compared to Western values which focus on hedonism, sex outside of marriage, and open sexuality etc. As a result, it should not be so surprising that adultery is considered a much more serious crime among Muslims than it is among Westerners.
M. Asif, US

The same countries that want us to ignore their brutal treatment of their own citizens are demanding Western aid. Some of the comments here state that we should not judge other cultures, but we are obligated to do just that.
Greg Burton, USA

Sharia is a clear violation of the principle of the universal rights of man proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.

Mark, USA
Whether it's the cruel and savage punishments, the inequitable treatment of women, or the lack of due process of law let alone the right of citizens to change it, Sharia is a clear violation of the principle of the universal rights of man proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is a crime against humanity. It is time for civilized people everywhere to speak out against it and to ostracise any country practicing it until they adopt a more enlightened rule of society.
Mark, USA

As Jesus said in the bible, "let he who has no sin cast the first stone"
Dan, USA

Respected Islamic scholars disagree on the interpretation of the Sharia. What is being forced down the throat of people in the far north of Nigeria is one interpretation of the Sharia among other interpretations. If this is nothing but an interpretation among other interpretations it is patently false to call it the law of God. God does not want this. The people who so are the political rascals desperately in search of relevance in Nigeria. It is not the business of politicians to enforce religious laws. Those who are behind this are not only giving Nigeria a bad name, they are acting like God without being like God. They are hypocrites.
Tony Akinwale, Nigeria

As usual in these debates, we see a significant number of Muslims supporting these practices, from the comfort of their homes in the West, where they are in no danger of suffering such punishments.
Adam Greaves, Briton in Saudi Arabia

All these comments about Sharia law being barbaric and a crime against humanity make me angry. Sharia is a law for the community whereas western law seems to be for the criminal. Do you think that you would have all the crime that you have in the West if we had Sharia Law? I think not! Sharia is divine law, western law is man's law, constantly changed for political reasons or on the whim of governments.
Ibrahim, UK

I don't condemn what Sharia law is trying to accomplish, but I strongly condemn the severity of their punishments

Ayoko, Togo
Adultery is wrong and is just cause for punishment but two wrongs don't make a right. Murdering someone as punishment for adultery is also a sin. My second opposition to the Sharia law is the double standard it upholds. The man can withdraw his confession and walk away a free man, while the woman bears the punishment alone. She did not commit the act alone. I don't condemn what I believe the Sharia law is trying to accomplish, which is upholding morals and minimizing crime, but I strongly condemn the severity of their punishments, and the inconsistencies of the law.
Ayoko, Togo

While it's important to show tolerance for other cultures, there must be a limit. Cultural relativism, when taken to an extreme, promotes acceptance of atrocities.
Leslie, Canada

Death by stoning is an inhumane act, regardless of the alleged offence. Misinterpretation of dogma is a dangerous and insidious abuse of power.
Barbara, USA

We try and put sentiment aside and face the fact, we have the one of the highest number of crime in Nigeria simply because we put morality into the dustbin and embrace western way of life.
Mohammed Tafida, Nigeria

I am a Nigerian, and I do not support this behaviour.

Joan Ogunaike, Michigan, USA
First of all I am a Nigerian, and I do not support this behaviour. I believe that people should be punished, but not by death because of sleeping with someone else. Why can't they ban her from the Society or state? What will people tell her child?
Joan Ogunaike, Michigan, USA

Cultural relativism is nonsense. We are all human beings, and there are things that human beings just do not do. Those who engage in such activities as the stoning of women for adultery are committing crimes against humanity.
Alexander, Germany

All I seem to hear about Sharia in Nigeria is cruel punishment. But I would like to know if this has actually made Nigerian Muslims in general more devout.
Bertha Owuor, Kenya

It is notable how differently Sharia law is implemented throughout the Muslim world. It seems women are more often punished than men. Also, corruption and cheating are seemingly not punished at all.
Annette, Hungary

I'm intrigued at the religious misinterpretation. What misinterpretation? Adultery is just as much a sin in the Christian belief system as Islam! The important difference is Christians believe in salvation by faith through Jesus Christ. Those who ardently believe in Islam will have these harsh laws.
Conal, Ireland

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone...
Alistair, USA/UK

This illustrates how interpretations of Islam, like many other religions, can be highly intolerant. The wider world must deal with this dilemma: should we tolerate such intolerance?
Jon E, France

Sharia Law is completely disgraceful and barbaric and simply reinforces the image a lot of people have, rightly or wrongly, of Islam after the September 11 atrocities.
Raju Patel, Mumbai

This punishment is rarely practised

Siefuddin A.Karim, Sudan
Punishments in Sharia are divine. They were stated by Allah. They constitute a very important part of Muslim faith. They aim at creating and establishing a pure society. This punishment is rarely practised because adultery should be witnessed by four. In this case the evidence speaks for itself.
Siefuddin A.Karim, Sudan

You have to abide by the laws of a country. This woman committed adultery, and although it is sad, she must pay for her crime. As a Muslim, punishment in this life means you are not punished for the crime in the hereafter.
Abdul Azeem, UK

There must be laws to deter people from committing fornication and adultery. These acts are common in societies such as Britain and it is disgusting. It breaks up families, creates unwanted pregnancies and spreads diseases such as HIV and AIDS.
Abdul, UK

A state under Sharia Law is no different from a state being run by an autocratic dictatorship. Autocratic regimes are neither a humane or sustainable way for countries to be run. They are a breeding ground for civil unrest, political extremism and even terrorism. Sharia Law is not the answer to Nigeria's problems. Terror in the guise of religion cannot rule a country.
Dileep Wijeratne, UK

If you lived in Nigeria, you would probably make the same choice

Jeff, USA
Lands where the government is weak require extremely high penalties in order to enforce order. When civic responsibility is a meaningless concept, the state must rule by terror. That is precisely what Sharia law does, and does well. Muslims in Nigeria are making a trade-off between mercy and enforcement. If you lived in as violent and lawless a place as Nigeria, you would probably make the same choice.
Jeff, USA

As a Muslim, may I point out that the true punishment of adultery in Islam is NOT stoning to death, as some so-called Muslim countries have imposed. The Koran, which is the basis of Sharia, clearly says "The adulteress and the adulterer flog each one of them with a hundred stripes..." (ch24:3). This can only be imposed if there are four righteous witnesses to the act of adultery, which clearly shows that Islam does not want to punish such acts if they are conducted in private, that at the end of the day is between you and God.
Usman A. Khan, England

We are choosing to murder our own citizens through barbaric means

Collins, Nigeria
It is unfortunate that in the 21st century we are choosing to murder our own citizens through barbaric means - by amputating their hands and stoning them to death. No wonder these states are still backward in terms of development. Because citizens who would have been great administrators, scientists and great men, have had their hands and legs chopped off. It is really sad.
Collins, Nigeria

I don't think that crying foul is going to help. The question is what can be done to save this poor woman's life and more importantly who has the guts to stop this from happening again. If we have to point fingers, let's point at the wielders of this law.
Simon, Uganda

The critics of this law don't understand. The aim of the Islamic punishment for adultery or any similar sin deemed to be inhumane, is a firm set of rules that have been put forward by God for the good of humanity. We are humans and not animals - that's why we are not allowed to have sex outside the legal bond of marriage. I am a proud Muslim and would absolutely accept to be punished this way if I committed such a sin.
Mohamed, Egypt

If people see a person being stoned to death it could stop them from committing adultery or theft

Kamran, USA
I agree that the man should also be punished, but I do not agree that the Sharia law should be banned. If people see a person being stoned to death, or the hand amputation of a thief (which is still practiced in Saudi Arabia), it could stop them from committing adultery or theft. AIDS is the biggest threat to human beings because of only one sin - promiscuity. Why don't you understand that there's always something right in what Allah has ordained, and we being humans with limited vision, can't comprehend it all.
Kamran, USA

I am a Muslim from Bangladesh. I cannot justify singling out women for adultery, and selectively applying Sharia law. Islam has strict laws against bribery, cheating and so on, but is any such law being applied? I am also appalled to see rituals like honour killing being performed in the name of Islam.
Hasan, USA

The majority of Nigerian Muslims want Sharia law, so if they want it why should the West condemn it? Western nations should not get involved in Nigeria's internal politics. The West needs to know that Muslims believe Sharia law is a divine law given to us by God and they should respect the beliefs of the Muslims.
Ayuub Rajes, Somalia

For the sake of modernity and civility, I hope to see these Sharia laws abolished. The declaration of the Human Rights charter at the UN is enough of an explanation!
Abdul, Ghana/USA

If they choose to practise the religion they must be ready to abide by the laws

Abiola Edun, UK
Muslims are fully aware of the laws of Sharia. If they choose to practise the religion willingly then they must also be ready to abide by the laws.
Abiola Edun, UK

You either follow the 10 commandments if you are a Christian or the Sharia law if you are a Muslim. If you contravene any of these, the worst punishment a religious organisation can award you is ex-communication. I believe what the Muslims call Allah is what the Christians call God. There is no way God or Allah can allow human beings to kill each other in such a barbaric way. This type of act has to be condemned by all God or Allah fearing human beings!
Jombole Nyirenda, Malawi

Why is it that when adultery is committed or any other immoral sin, it is the woman, and the woman only that is punished? There were two parties present, two people participated in the alleged adulterous act, yet the only one being sentenced to death is the woman. What kind of message does this send?
Angela Pelzer, USA

I support Angela Pelzer. It takes two to commit adultery! If there is conviction at all called for, it should be for both parties! No life is more precious or dispensable than the other!
Disgusted, Tanzania

It is cruel, inhumane and highly primitive

Paviter Singh, Singapore
The thought itself of stoning someone to death is cruel, inhumane and highly primitive. What makes it worse is that it's a woman and a mother. I'm totally against it and I'm sure most of the people around the world feel the same way.
Paviter Singh, Singapore

This is something from the Middle Ages, and is disgusting. Sharia law cannot be justified as a means of serving justice. This woman has done nothing wrong, and what about the man? It takes two to tango. Stop this practice now, the government of Nigeria, should ban Sharia law and take the powers away from the religious zealots who think this is the best practice.
Mark, UK

Parents are integral part of Islamic life. In the West children suffer much more than in Islamic countries because adultery is the norm. I would always vote against adultery and children being without father or mother. This issue is more important and that is what Islam teaches us. So try to improve your own society before talking about what is right and what is wrong.
Marium Ahmed, USA/Nepal

If stoning is to be given out as a form of punishment then it should be given to both the man and woman. However, I think that it is a primitive and outrageous punishment. I have travelled in a few Muslim countries and have found one thing that's consistent: one rule for the woman and one rule for the man. This is outrageous.
Louise, England

This type of behaviour should be condemned by the world

Gary Jarrard, USA
When you allow religious law to be the law of the land then you get this type of justice. This type of behaviour should be condemned by the world.
Gary Jarrard, USA

I am not a Muslim, but have studied Islam for a couple of years and understand the fundamental principles of the religion. However, I cannot understand this. Surely the feelings of guilt would be punishment enough for this poor woman who would have to justify her actions on the day of judgement. It is just such a hypocritical contradiction!
Paul, England

Unfortunately, the practice of Sharia only increases tensions between Muslims and the rest of the world.
Michael Hayes, USA

Stop, please stop. Did this poor woman commit adultery by herself? Where is the man? Think about the poor baby how is she going to survive. Sharia law will not solve the problem but create more problems.
Very sad, USA

We must be careful when applying our own culture and concept of morality to other cultures. I cannot say if it's good or bad that some cultures choose to continue with traditional views and are unwilling to accept new and modern views on morality, human rights and ethics. I do know that our modern society rarely accepts traditional ideals, perhaps we should be more open minded, even when our initial reaction is to fight it as a human rights violation.
Jonathan Mayo, USA

What does the devil want if God wants us to kill each other?

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19 Aug 02 | Africa
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