Monday, December 3, 2007

The Lash, the Prison, and the World's Judgment

As the New York Times epitomizes in its editorial today, Lashing Justice , Americans have been quick to join the world's outrage at recent snap shots of Islamic justice in the form of lashes for a rape victim (for the crime of being alone with an unrelated male) in Saudi Arabia and insulting Islam (by allowing school children to name a teddy-bear "Muhammed") in Sudan.

Muslims who wonder why non-Muslims are often baffled, angered, even frightened by some governments’ interpretation of Islamic law need only look to the cases of two women in Saudi Arabia and Sudan threatened with barbaric lashings.

But as the Times editorial board well knows, America itself, with its extraordinary incarceration rate, including the use of life without parole prison terms for juveniles (practiced almost no where else in the world), and its continued use of the death penalty for homicides that would net a prison term of twenty years in most of the world, stands today as a frightening symbol of punitive severity around the world. As with our quick judgments about the lash and Islamic societies, the prison serves for much of the world, especially after Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, as a symbol of American lack of restraint and infidelity to democracy and the rule of law.

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