Thursday, September 29, 2005
It seems that Mohamed Kamal Mustafa, imam of a mosque in the southern Spanish resort of Fuengirola, wrote a book that instructed, inter alia, how to beat one's wife without leaving any marks ("The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body."). Apparently the Spanish have little enough regard for freedom of the press or the free exercise of religion that the mere publication of this advice led to a criminal case against Mr. Mustafa. [All those Europeans who complain about America's disregard for human rights should take a hard look at their own practice of criminalizing speech. - ed.]
Convicted for "inciting violence against women," the court sentenced him to 15 months in prison, which seems like a reasonable penalty if one accepts the extremely dubious premise that the publication of a book other than the Torah, the Christian Bible or the Holy Koran can ever incite violence. The judge, however, let Mustafa out after having served only 22 days -- approximately 5% of the original sentence -- on the condition that Mustafa undertake a "re-education course" consisting of spending "six months studying three articles of the [Spanish] constitution and the universal declaration of human rights." The constitutional provisions in question address "the dignity of a person and inviolable rights," equal protection before the law, and the Spanish ban on torture or "inhuman or degrading punishments or treatment."
Even ignoring the curious use of the word "re-education" (freighted as it is with totalitarian application especially for the purpose of extinguishing religious vitality), the judge's sentence begs more questions than it answers. How can one possibly spend six months "studying" three provisions in the Spanish constitution and the four-page Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Won't the Imam be able to get through this material during a couple of long sessions on the toilet, perhaps after his morning coffee? And even if he were assigned back-up reading -- say, one law review article per constitutional article and one manly treatise on the Universal Declaration -- couldn't even a lunk-headed imam get through it all in a week? Indeed, if the judge is serious that the imam should spend "six months" studying this small body of law, is the judge not, in fact, violating the Spanish constitution's injunction against "inhuman or degrading punishments"? Or is this sentence a mere slap on the wrist? So to speak.
It is worth taking a closer look at the speech that gave rise to this stupidity. Mr. Mustafa's book is, at one level, deeply offensive:
In his book "Women in Islam," published four years ago, Mr. Mustafa wrote that verbal warnings followed by a period of sexual inactivity could be used to discipline a disobedient wife.
If that failed, he argued that, according to Islamic law, beatings could be judiciously administered.
"The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body," he wrote.
Yuck. What an idiot. But is it any more likely to "incite violence" than saying "spare the rod and spoil the child"? If the imam has these opinions, why is it either just or sensible to prosecute him for uttering them? Isn't it better to leave him free to write these things, and leave us free to ridicule him? ("Hey, imam, what wife wants to have sex with a man who would beat her?") Or is ridiculing an imam "inciting violence"?
Alas the sex thing will only increase the beatings. Under his system, the poor wives will try to maintain a Sufficient level of disobedience that keeps him 'withholding' sex. But it's hard to toe the line precisely with an irrational psychopath.