Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Moderate Muslims Gain With Vote To Change Rape Law In Pakistan

It's important, as I've written before, to give attention to signs that moderate Muslims, reform in Islam, is gaining, whenever this occurs. Not all the news about Islam, it goes without saying, should be about the fanatics whose violence afflicts the world.

So I hasten this morning to pay tribute to the lower house of Pakistan's parliament for voting to put the crime of rape in that country under the civil code rather than under Islamic religious law.

Under the religious law, enforcement of the laws against rape has been grossly discriminatory against women who are victims of this foul crime.

Islamic laws against rape were introduced in Pakistan in 1979 by the military ruler of that day, Zia-ul-Haq, whose rule was an abomination. Under these laws, it is required that a rape victim be liable to prosecution for adultery unless she can produce four male witnesses to the assault.

This, of course, means that rape is seldom prosecuted, while some women are indeed accused of adultery. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has published the story of the woman sentenced to be raped by others because she was a victim of rape without the required number of witnesses willing to testify.

The new law, as adopted by the lower house, would simply adopt normal evidence as the criteria with which rape cases would be judged. If adopted by the upper house of parliament and signed by President Pervez Musharaff, who has indicated he is favorable, it will be a major step of reform, encouraging to Muslim progressives in many countries.

Predictably, the fundamentalists in parliament opposed any action. In fact, Islamist lawmakers walked out of parliament, boycotting the vote, after their corrupt leader, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, made the ridiculous assertion that taking rape from the religious to the civil law would encourage free sex.

"This is an attempt to create a free sex zone in Pakistan," said this jackass. "The changes are not in line with Islamic teaching."

If this is true, and it is by no means clear that it is, then Islam must be changed.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz hailed the vote in the lower house, saying, "It is a historic bill because it will give rights to women and help end excesses against them."

All our compliments should go to these parliamentarians, as they struggle to take Pakistan and the Islamic world in general out of the dark ages.

Not all the news as to Islam and women is good this morning. The New York Times has a lengthy article on attacks on women in the streets of Cairo, with the Egyptian police and other authorities not doing anything to stop them, but harassing people who say they occurred.


Henry Weinstein, the L.A. Times writer who won the $25,000 John Chancellor Award For Excellence In Journalism Award last week, has a lot to say about the L.A. Times' current troubles in an interview posted today by the Columbia Journalism Review Daily. Weinstein appropriately comments on why the firing of editor Dean Baquet by the squalid Tribune Co. was such a bad move and talks about perspectives at the Times.

The situation is not hopeless when really terrific journalists like Weinstein are still working for the paper. Needless to say, the Times needs its Weinsteins (and does not need its Chicago appointees as publisher and editor, David Hiller and James O'Shea). Weinstein is being nice when he says O'Shea has a good record as a journalist. But he has no business in Los Angeles, and, if he were really a good journalist, he would not have accepted the assignment by the Tribune. His editorship is like working for the Nixon Administration in the Justice Department after the Saturday Night Massacre.



Anonymous bjorn joffee said...

Mr. Reich,
I am making a documentary on the Century Plaza protest of 1967. I spoke with you before. Can I still interview you?

2/23/2007 1:48 PM  

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