Cultural Chasm II

From a NYTimes Week in Review article titled “Crime (Sex) and Punishment (Stoning)“:

Stoning is not practiced only among Muslims, nor did it begin with Islam . . . The Old Testament includes an episode in which Moses arranges for a man who violated the Sabbath to be stoned, and stoning probably took place among Jewish communities in the ancient Near East. Rabbinic law, which was composed starting in the first century A.D., specifies stoning as the penalty for a variety of crimes, with elaborate instructions for how it should be carried out. But it is not clear to what extent it was used, if ever . . .

Stoning is not prescribed by the Koran. The punishment is rooted in Islamic legal traditions, known as hadiths, that designate it as the penalty for adultery. While the penalty may seem savage to Western eyes, scholars say it is consistent with the values of Arabian society at the time of Muhammad, Islam’s founding prophet. Adultery “was considered to offend some of the fundamental purposes of Islamic law: to protect lineage, family, honor and property,” said Kristen Stilt, an associate professor at Northwestern University who has written about Islamic law. “It was a tribal society, and knowing who children belonged to was very important.”

That may help explain the link between sexual crimes and stoning, as opposed to another form of execution. A crime that seemed to violate the community’s identity called for a communal response.

Some scholars . . . argue that the stoning penalty is meant more as a symbolic warning against misbehavior than as a punishment to be taken literally.

2 Replies to “Cultural Chasm II”

  1. Julien Paul

    Dear Professor Randall & Monica,

    I find this post very interesting as well, and cannot believe that such a punishment is still used today. What intrigues me even more however, is the difference between U.S. law and laws in different countries. Imagine someone being stoned in the U.S. for ANY crime. It would be an outrage. I think that this shows how different and advanced our legal system is at this time. However, then I tend to think about the fact that so many terrible punishments are still used within the U.S. Waterboarding for instance. To simulate a death by drowning is barbaric, and in my opinion almost as terrible as stoning. How can such an act still be acceptable or legal in the United States, while other countries have clearly condemned it? Just my thoughts.

    Julien Paul

  2. Monica Ch.

    Dear Professor Randall,

    I find this post very interesting because only the other day did my father talk about the act of stoning women due to adultery. He said that recently there has been reports of an Iranian woman, who committed adultery and was sentenced to stoning, however many people campaigned to prevent this sentence and thus she was hanged instead.

    Even though committing adultery is wrong, I do not believe that stoning women as a form of punishment is fair at all. It is quite barbaric and unfortunate that anyone has to go through this type of torture. I believe that no one deserves to be treated in such a degrading way. No law should allow a government to punish people in this manner.

    -Vichada (Monica) Chuangdumrongsomsuk

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