Thursday, October 31, 2013

Islamic Codes Called into Question in Response to Hamed Case in Sudan

By: Holly Moody
Produced & Edited by: Sandhya Kambhampati
  One woman’s refusal to abide by the criminal code in Sudan has turned into a public outcry to end the abuses of the Sudanese government on women for breaking Sharia law.
 The case of Amira Osman Hamed, 35, and the implications of the public order code in Sudan has gained international attention causing an uprising of campaigns against the law as well as questions as to the religious motivations behind her punishment.
  According to the Sudan Tribune, Hamed was arrested on Aug. 27 for refusing to wear the hijab in while she was entering a government office in Jebel Aulia, just outside of Khartoum.
  Hamed is being charged under Article 152 of the Sudanese Criminal Code of 1991, which prohibits indecent clothing. 
  Her trial date was formerly set for Sept. 19, but has been pushed back until Nov. 4, after her lawyers submitted a request for postponement to the Attorney General of Sudan, Omar Ahmed.
  If she is found guilty, Hamed could face up to 40 lashes.
  “Flogging is a deliberately designed to humiliate and to violate the human dignity,” said Abdullahi An-Na’im, a Sudanese citizen and professor of law at Emory University. “How come Islam and Sharia law has nothing to say about forces shooting and killings on the streets? Hundreds of women have been killed in Khartoum that have not even been a part of any demonstrations. How come Sharia is present in flogging women for the way they dress but very absent when it comes to fundamental justice?"

Sharia Law in Sudan

Sharia law is defined by the precepts of the Quran.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons 
President Omar Al-Bashir institutionalized Sharia law in Sudan when he came into power by military coup in 1989. Sharia law is defined as the moral code and religious law of Islam based off the precepts set forth by the Quran.
  However, the Quran advocates for a modest style of dress for all of its followers and does not specifically note regulations for wearing a veil or hijab.
  According to translation of the Quran, Surah 7:26, “It is the right of both sexes to use clothing to enhance their beauty as well as cover their nakedness. The most important thing is to be modest and righteous.”
  “The Quran does not prescribe any particular style, but it insists on modesty for both men and women. The particular style that we see now is driven by ideology not Islamic scripture or Muslim practice,” An-Na’im said. “The government has nothing to do with what women wear and whenever they intrude in that way, the motivation and the outcome is a political and ideological agenda, not a religious one.”
  In Turkey, women abide by the same Islamic codes as Sudanese women. Ironically however, according to An-Na’im, it is prohibited for a Turkish woman to wear a hijab in public in order to protect their secularist ideology.
  In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights decided to uphold Turkey’s headscarf ban to deny those who chose to wear it the right to higher education. 
  “What is the difference between a state like Turkey that prohibits women from wearing the scarf in educational buildings and a state like Sudan which flogs women for not wearing the veil? To me this is two sides of the same coin,” An-Na’im said. 
  The punishment of flogging for not wearing a headscarf is not consistently implemented in Sudan.
  “Basically you have an Islamic ideology in Sudan and from time to time they try to make some sort of symbolic action by having a woman executed or flogged but they don’t do this consistently throughout the country,” An-Na’im said.

International exposure of the case

Women of Sudan wearing traditional hijabs.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons 
  Several women’s rights campaigns and organizations have taken action in response to the international exposure of Hamed’s trial in effort to repeal Article 152 of the Sudanese Criminal Code.
  The case has caught the attention of Amnesty International. The human rights organization issued a press release on Sept. 20 urging people in the U.S. and abroad to send appeals to the Sudanese authorities including the Minister of Justice, Mohamed Bushara Dousa.
  “I think the most telling response that we’ve gotten was that immediately after the case there was a really big appetite from our activists to get started,” said Jasmine Heiss, Amnesty International’s Individual and Communities at Risk Campaigner. “We are calling upon the Sudanese authorities to abolish the penalty of flogging and to drop the charges on Amira.”
Amnesty International has not yet heard from the Sudanese authorities regarding Hamed’s case since issuing its call for action.
  “All of our stances are on treatment guided by international human right documents, so really what we are calling on the Sudanese authorities to do is to act in conformity with their obligations on international human rights law,” Heiss said. “We hope that the international activism is having an impact on this case."

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