Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Beat Goes On: How Can I Keep From Singing?

According to the AP,

Pakistan's highest Islamic court has reinstated the convictions of five men sentenced to death for raping a woman on orders from a village council, following a firestorm of criticism after a lower tribunal ordered the men freed.
For the moment, it seems as though Mukhtar Mai, the victim of a village council-sanctioned gang rape, will be safe from her predators. What is interesting to note is that the higher court which reinstated the convictions of her rapists is not part of the regular court system; it is the Shariat Court, and claimed its superior judicial standing in matters of Sharia law. Islamic law considers rape and domestic cases within the purview of Sharia, rather than the jurisdiction of government law. Thus, the Shariat Court has stepped in to take over the case. They have not said what their ruling will be, only that the Lahore Court had no standing in the case.

Remember Sharia Law as it applies to allegations of rape? A woman has half the legal standing in one of these courts as does a man. If she alleges rape, there must be four men as witnesses who will testify on her behalf if her story is to be accepted as truth. Part of the horror of Ms Mai's ordeal was the 150 men who watched in silence as she begged for help, who watched as she was dragged away to be gang-raped, some of whom were participants in the "jubilation" during the actual ordeal, who were part of the crowd of 300 who witnessed her being forced to walk naked back into town. From where will come the four Muslim men required for Sharia law, to convict these rapists and acquit Ms. Mai of lewd conduct for her sexual congress with her aggressors? It remains to be seen how this 'higher' court will mete out justice and on whom Sharia justice will fall.

To what does Mai owe her current safety? For one thing, the public outcry. For another, the public beneficence of Western governments and NGOs. There is nothing quite like the fresh air of media coverage, public bestowal of funding, and public outrage to tip the scales in favor of justice and mercy.

To add your voice to the growing storm of concern, contact Ms Mai here: (from

The larger the choir, the more thunderous the song. And the less likely it is that Mai will disappear at the hands of her rapists.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble in their fear
and hear their death knell ringing,
when friends rejoice both far and near
how can I keep from singing?