In the previous article of this series on sharia’ we looked at the way in which shari’a mandates or, at the very least condone, actions that are regarded as serious crimes in other jurisdictions. However this is not where the incompatibility of shari’a with other legal systems ends.
Here is a horribly plausible scenario: A woman living her life under shari’a is brutally raped. She is determined that her rapist will not escape justice and lays a charge against him. The case is brought before a shari’a court where she provides compelling evidence pointing to the guilt of her attacker. He gets up and testifies that the sex was consensual and that it was, in fact, her fault because she seduced him. Suddenly the victim is on trial. It ends very badly for her as she is sent to prison for ten years for sexual immorality. Far fetched? Not at all. Plenty of examples can be cited where what was described above happened in countries that are governed according to shari’a principles. Why this glaring injustice? Simply put, under shari’a there are fundamental value differences in the value attached to testimony.
One of the most important principles for a legal system to be regarded as just is equality before the law. In other words, the testimony of any witness should be of equal value to that of any other witness. A system where the value of a person’s testimony is diminished simply because of who they are, e.g. a woman or a non-Muslim, would rightly be regarded as fundamentally unfair by most right-thinking people. Yet this is exactly how shari’a operates.
Not all people who stand in the shari’a witness box are equal, not by a long shot. The testimony of a woman under shari’a is worth only 50% of that of a man. This is based on Qur’an 2:282: “And if there are not two men [available], then a man and two women from those whom you accept as witnesses – so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her”. Thus, if it is the word of a man against that of a woman he will always come out on top under shari’a rules of evidence.
Inequality before the law also extends to non-Muslims. In shari’a ruled societies disputes between Muslims and non-Muslims must always be tried under Islamic law (and not the law code favoured by the non-Muslim). Under some shari’a codes, non-Muslims are absolutely forbidden to testify against Muslims. Under others, their testimony will be valued at a certain percentage of the value of the testimony of a Muslim. This means that non-Muslims will always have the decks stacked against them in lawsuits where they have to testify against a Muslim.
Those who hold shari’a out to be a beautiful template according to which society can be run have yet to explain how a system so riddled with deep injustices can bring anything but hatred and division to 21st century society.
In the final article of this series on shari’a we will turn our attention to the barbaric punishments that are part-and-parcel of shari’a.