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Muslim Rape Victim Punished

Mar 17, 2008 — Categories:

International media recently carried the newstory about a Saudi Arabian woman who was gang raped and then sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes after she spoke out to protest the lenient sentences given her attackers.

International media recently carried the newstory about a Saudi Arabian woman who was gang raped and then sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes after she spoke out to protest the lenient sentences given her attackers.

The married woman met with a male acquaintance in order to retrieve an old photograph of herself. Seven men approached them and raped them both. The rapists received sentences of 1-5 years. Prior to the woman’s outspoken protest, she and the other victim had been sentenced to 90 lashes each for “illegal mingling.”

The criminalization of contact between men and women who are not married severely limits a rape victim’s likelihood of reporting rape. The law in confusing sex with rape can view a woman’s charge of rape with the admission of extramarital sex.

There has been a substantial outcry from both Muslim and non-Muslim voices condemning the action of the Saudi Arabian court. “Mahdi Bray, the Executive Director of Muslim American Society Freedom, issued the following statement regarding this incident:

"MAS Freedom views the sentencing in this case as an unspeakably cruel and brutal miscarriage justice, and a clear violation of the compassion and mercy taught by the religion of Islam. Not only has this woman endured the horror of gang rape, but she is now being subject to an equally terrible infliction of pain and harm by the legal system of Saudi Arabia.

We call upon the Saudi government to overturn this cruel sentence, and to immediately reinstate her attorney to the practice of law so that he can give her the legal representation that she is due. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught in his Sunnah (Prophetic tradition) that 'Paradise lies at the feet of our mothers.' How, then, can Muslims tolerate the violent abuse of women in the eyes of any legal system?

American Muslims must not be silent in the face of such blatant violations of decency and fundamental human rights. We call upon our entire community, and American Muslim organizations nationwide to condemn this terrible miscarriage of justice. MAS Freedom believes that the true value and beauty of Islam can only be manifested when women are afforded the respect, and human rights given to all human beings by our Creator. We reject the distorted, and un-Islamic idea, that regards the systematic oppression, and even physical violation of women as tolerable."

As a multi-faith organization that addresses sexual violence, FaithTrust Institute adds its voice to the international outcry against this injustice perpetrated by the Saudi court. This misuse of religious teaching to punish a rape victim must not go unnoticed nor allowed to stand.

The confusion of sex with rape still persists in areas of western legal tradition and practice as well. For example, when the court allows information about a rape victim’s sexual history to be entered in order to determine the veracity of her rape charge, it suggests that a sexually active woman cannot be raped.

The struggle to distinguish between sexual activity and sexual violence continues in every society and every religious group. But until we do understand this distinction, women (and men) everywhere will be twice victimized rather than receiving the support they deserve from society and from their religion.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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