Sharia law is the law of Islam. Sharia (also spelled ‘Shariah’) is cast from the Quran, the actions and words of Muhammad, and the collective reasoning and deductions of Muslim imams.
As a legal system, Islam’s Sharia law covers a wide range of subjects. The stipulations of the Sharia law, however, are unlike any other legal system in the world.
According to the Sharia law:
• Theft is punishable by amputation of the right hand and left foot
• Criticizing or denying any part of the Quran is punishable by death.
• Criticizing or denying Muhammad is a prophet is punishable by death.
• Criticizing or denying Allah, the moon god of Islam is punishable by death.
• A Muslim who becomes a non-Muslim is punishable by death.
• A non-Muslim who leads a Muslim away from Islam is punishable by death.
• A non-Muslim man who marries a Muslim woman is punishable by death.
• A man can marry an infant girl and consummate the marriage when she is 9 years old.
• Girls’ clitoris should be cut (per Muhammad’s words in Book 41, Kitab Al-Adab, Hadith 5251).
• A woman can have 1 husband, but a man can have up to 4 wives; Muhammad can have more.
• A man can unilaterally divorce his wife but a woman needs her husband’s consent to divorce.
• A man can beat his wife for insubordination.
• Testimonies of four male witnesses are required to prove rape against a woman.
• A woman who has been raped cannot testify in court against her rapist(s).
• A woman’s testimony in court, allowed only in property cases, carries half the weight of a man’s.
• A female heir inherits half of what a male heir inherits.
• A woman cannot drive a car, as it leads to fitnah (upheaval).
• A woman cannot speak alone to a man who is not her husband or relative.
• Meat to be eaten must come from animals that have been sacrificed to Allah – i.e., be Halal.
• Muslims should engage in Taqiyya and lie to non-Muslims to advance Islam.
• The list goes on.
Sharia is the national law of Saudi Arabia but has been seeping into Europe, UK, Canada and America as Islam expands, led by the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Speaking from his hospital bed, a young man whose hand and foot were amputated this week by the radical Islamic group controlling northern Mali described an agony unlike any other — “a pain that made me forget everything.”
Youssoufa Hamidou borrowed the phone of a hospital attendant and braved the guards posted outside his door to call a journalist hundreds of miles (kilometers) away in Mali’s capital and tell the world what he went through.
He is one of five cousins, all in their 20s, and all but one from the village of Fafa, who were convicted of carrying out highway robberies.
It’s a crime punishable by double amputation, according to the strict form of Shariah, or Islamic law, being applied with increasing frequency in the northern half of Mali, which fell to al-Qaida-linked rebels five months ago. Since then, an adulterous couple was stoned to death, a thief’s hand was cut off and numerous people have been publicly whipped, including at least one woman.
Monday’s amputations of the five cousins in the northern city of Gao shows how much Mali, once praised for its democracy and whose undulating deserts and camel caravans were a magnet for Western tourists, has changed in just a few short months.
“When it was my turn, they took me blindfolded, and tied my right arm and my left leg just above the ankle with plastic ties to stop the circulation,” Hamidou said. “Suddenly I felt a pain in my right hand that was out of this world. My hand had just been chopped off. They put a compress on it. Very quickly they cut off my left foot, and they also put a compress on it to stop the bleeding.”
“At first I was afraid — but the pain I felt made me forget everything, even my fear. Then the Islamists put us in a car and drove us to the hospital.”
The 25-year-old spoke to The Associated Press on a phone handed to him by a hospital worker. He spoke in his native Sonrai language in a voice so weak that, at times, the attendant had to take the phone back to relay his words. The interview, conducted over several hours Tuesday evening, was interrupted more than once when the guards posted by the militants checked on the amputees.
Before the north fell to the rebels in April, Hamidou and his cousins belonged to the Gandakoy, a self-defense militia made up of people from the Sonrai ethnic group.
“When our militia was chased out we held on to our weapons, and we used them to hold up buses on the road between Gao and Niger. That was until someone denounced us” to the Islamists, said Hamidou.
North Mali’s Islamist rulers make public spectacles of the brutal Shariah punishments.
Ibrahim Toure said he was talking with friends near the public square in Gao, some 750 miles (1,000 kilometers) northeast of Bamako, when the Islamists drove up and ordered people to gather around.
“We understood that they were going to carry out a Shariah punishment, but we could not have imagined what was about to happen,” Toure said.
The crowd tried to enter the square, but the fighters stopped them. “The Islamists told us to go outside the square, and to stay behind the iron bars that encircle it. … It was then that we started to really worry, because normally when they whip people, they let us inside. … So we realized that something even more horrible was about to happen.”
Toure and his friends watched as the fighters brought out a chair and tied its legs and back with a rope to a pillar on a stage inside Independence Square. Then the long-bearded “cadi,” or Islamic judge, arrived and gave a sermon, saying that within the territory the Islamic militants control Shariah law would be applied.
“He said that for highway robbers, Shariah calls for the right hand and left foot to be cut off. And that four people had already had their limbs cut off. And immediately a small child came running out of one of the cars with a bag. We saw that it was dripping with blood,” said Toure.
The judge said the chopped off hands and feet of four of the accused were inside the bag. The fifth man’s limbs would be amputated in public in order to serve as a lesson.
The militants then brought the young accused robber out of the car, and pushed him toward the chair.
“It was unbelievable. The young man, he just followed calmly,” said Toure. “He had his eyes closed with a bandage. … He put out his hand to be cut, then he put out his foot to be cut. … He didn’t cry out, he didn’t even move. It’s my impression that they must have drugged him — if not how can you accept to let someone cut off your limbs?”
One of the doctors who helped treat the amputees, said the Islamists initially came to the hospital and asked the medics to carry out the amputations.
“We categorically refused,” said the doctor, whose name is being withheld by AP out of concern for his safety.
The fighters left, and returned sometime later, carrying in the five young men who were trailing blood, he said.
“We could see that their feet had been badly amputated. They were in indescribable pain. You could read that on their faces,” the doctor said. “To treat them, we were forced to break the bones in their feet, so that the skin could cover the bone, which was poking out.”
Last week, the government in Bamako, which still controls the southern half of Mali, asked the 15 nations in western Africa for military help to take back the north. Radical militants in northern Mali were drawing disaffected youth from other countries, warned the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, in an opinion piece published in The New York Times titled “Why Mali Matters?” The situation in Mali threatens to create an arc of instability across the neck of Africa, he said.
International condemnation has done little to stop the abuses in the north.
Aliou Mahamar Toure, the Islamic police commissioner in Gao, said Shariah law distinguishes between unarmed thieves and those who rob at gunpoint, a crime that requires a greater punishment. He said the Islamists were only carrying out the word of God, and that they had done everything they could to make the amputees as comfortable as possible.
“We took them to the hospital. … Today we gave them new clothes,” he said. “And we have put them in an air-conditioned room. When this is over, we will give them money — like a gift. … They are now Muslims like us. They are our brothers.”
It is Saturday night, and the streets of Banda Aceh are packed. Cars and motorcycles jostle for space on the roads, while “Bentor” taxis – motorcycles attached to wheelbarrows – scout for passengers.
Like any big city in Indonesia, Banda Aceh comes to life at the weekends. It is hard to believe that this city was once a devastated wasteland, laid to ruin by the powerful tsunami that destroyed everything in its trail just five years ago.
But it is not just the brand new roads and fancy buildings that are different about this place now. There are also the Sharia police. They were set up in Aceh in 2003 but only started their operations in Banda Aceh after the tsunami.
I went to visit them before some of the officers were due out on their evening patrols.
Nindy says she does not have to wear a headscarf to be a good Muslim
There I met Iskandar, head of the religious taskforce in the Banda Aceh district, who was busy barking out orders to the rest of his team before they went.
“The duty of the Sharia police in Aceh is to keep the regulations of Islamic law, to make the Acehnese care about their religion,” he told me as he showed me around their dingy offices.
The Sharia police see themselves as the guardians of Islam in Aceh.
Decked out in military-style, olive-green uniforms and berets, they cruise the streets in their open-top vehicles, looking for anyone breaking Islamic law.
Their first stop is the beach. It is a popular destination for teenagers in Aceh at night.
A romantic ballad plays on the speakers, while young couples lounge on plastic chairs, in front of makeshift cafes.
Boys in their jeans and some girls in their jilbabs, eating corn on the cob and sipping Coca-Cola.
A picture of harmless, innocent adolescence.
Under our laws, an unmarried man and woman who sit alone together in the dark are immoral
But the party does not last long. The Sharia police are here – and they zero in on their first target. A young boy and girl, sitting too close to one another in the dark.
What happens next would be almost farcical if it was not so humiliating for those involved. The Sharia police surround the couple, demanding to see their identity cards.
The young girl, wearing a bright yellow jilbab, turns away, too embarrassed to speak.
The boy, clean shaven and handsome, tries to explain that they were doing nothing wrong – just hanging out and talking, but is cut short by one of the men in charge.
They are told to get out of the dark and leave the beachfront. It is late and they should not be out at night – especially since they are unmarried and not related to one another by blood.
“Under our laws, an unmarried man and woman who sit alone together in the dark are immoral,” Zaki Almubarak tells me.
“To prevent them from committing adultery, we stop them.”
Veranda of Islam
Religious law has penetrated all parts of Aceh’s life – even making its presence felt at an ordinary high school basketball game.
Girls and boys sit in different sections to watch their school’s baseball game
Like anywhere else in the country, the youngsters cheer enthusiastically for their teams.
But here in Aceh there is a difference – the boys and girls sit on opposite sides of the court.
They are forced to sit apart by the Sharia police who are patrolling the auditorium looking for any violations of Islamic law.
Nindy, 18, has come to watch the game with her female friends, but, unlike the other girls, she stands out because she does not wear the traditional Muslim headscarf.
She refuses to comply with the Sharia police’s rules.
Outside the auditorium, I ask her why she is willing to take this risk in deeply Muslim Aceh.
“I know that people here are pious and they really love their religion. I just never thought it was going to be this fundamentalist,” she says, playing with the tassels on her shawl.
“Aceh’s changed a lot. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good Muslim if I don’t wear this – my headscarf. It’s my right to live the way I want to.”
Aceh is one of the most deeply Muslim places in Indonesia. Often called the veranda of Islam, it is seen as the birth place of the Muslim religion in Indonesia.
But many here are concerned about how quickly their province is changing.
It’s our right to wear what we want as long as we don’t go against our religion
Now a new law has people worried. Only in place in Western Aceh, and effective from January of this year, the law bans women from wearing tight trousers.
Even in Banda Aceh though, at least eight hours away from where the ban applies, Novi has seen the ban affect her business.
She sells tight trousers for a living and sales have slumped by 50% since the ban was put in place.
She tells me she is a devout Muslim – and wears a headscarf – but does not agree that these decisions should be dictated by an external body.
“They can’t impose that kind of ban,” she tells me.
“What we wear doesn’t reflect our morality. It’s our right to wear what we want as long as we don’t go against our religion.”
Lawmakers who support Sharia law say opinions were sought from Aceh’s citizens before it was introduced – and for the most part, people here approved of the law.
Sharia law is being enforced more strictly than ever before
Stoning for adulterers and banning tight trousers may sound harsh, but lawmakers say strict laws exist in other parts of the world too.
Burhanuddin is one of those who passed the law on stoning for adulterers in Aceh.
“Sharia law acts as a deterrent in Aceh. We need it,” he says.
“China has a death penalty, so does America. They even detain people without trial there. Why do people only point the finger at Aceh?”
But for Nindy and her friends, the answer to that question is fairly obvious.
At the end of the day I meet up with them again, at the beach where just the night before the Sharia police were conducting their raids.
Hanging out at the beach, they are like teenagers anywhere else in the world – laughing, gossiping about boys.
Sharia law is not new to them or to the people of Aceh – it was brought in in 2002 – but it is now being enforced far more strictly than ever before.
People in Aceh are some of the most devoutly Muslim in Indonesia, but many here feel you can be both Muslim and modern as well.