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Raffique Shah


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Almighty God, where art thou?

By Raffique Shah
December 09, 2007

Imagine, if you will, the execution last week of a 20-year-old Iranian whose family was told to "collect the body", the first they would learn of their son's sharia-decreed death.

The young man's crime? At age 13 he is alleged to have buggered three boys, an offence that draws the death penalty in most Islamic states. Now, many Trinis, would probably shout by way of approval: Way to go! After all, the savages who stalk our once-peaceful paradise have driven us to the point of exasperation. Their gruesome crimes compel even those among us who are against capital punishment to turn a blind eye to their summary execution, be it at the hands of the police or their foes.

But wait. In this case the young man was charged only last year after the alleged victims complained, and a confession was extracted from him. The accusers subsequently withdrew their allegations, the country's high court ordered a retrial, but the almighty mullahs would have none of these interventions. Hang him high, they ordered. And so another likely-innocent victim was strung up in the name of Allah.

Two weeks ago, a young woman in Saudi Arabia who had complained of being gang-raped by some men in whose vehicle she accepted a ride, was ordered by another sharia court to be dealt 200 lashes! That after she had appealed a 70-lash sentence! I think the perpetrators were given light jail sentences. And in Dubai, a European boy who claimed to have been buggered by some Arab boys who offered him a lift, fled the country with his family before he, too, was subjected to lashes for being buggered.

Shift the macabre stage now to a very Christian, very prosperous Germany. Last week, in a village of about 450 residents, a mother was taken into custody after it was discovered she had killed her six sons, aged between three and nine, by suffocating them. Suspected reason? Poverty. She could not afford to care for them. That incident came on the heels of another in eastern Germany where a woman had stashed the bodies of her three infants in travelling bags, claiming they had died at birth.

And this latter followed a gruesome case in which a mother had buried her nine infants' corpses in flower pots. According to the authorities, all these cases are linked to poverty, to children being seen as hindrances to the mothers' social lives. So critical is the infanticide situation, Germany has instituted a policy whereby mothers with unwanted babies can discreetly dump them at "drop-off" points at hospitals from where the state would care for them.

Move to India, which is gaining ground as one of the strongest economies of the world. There, it is estimated that thousands of girl children are put to death every year, no questions asked, no charges laid, because boy children are the preferred choice.

This ritual has resulted in an insufficient number of brides for boys of marriageable age. A hot issue in Gujarat state where elections are due to be held this week is the 2002 massacre of an estimated 2,000 Muslims. This occurred after an incident in which Hindu pilgrims returning from a ritual had their train set on fire, killing around 50 people.

One probe into the blaze said it may have been caused by a cooking fire lit in one carriage, not unusual in India. The state's Chief Minister, the BJP's Narendra Modi, stands accused of fomenting the massacre by refusing to deploy the police to protect the Muslim minority. In this pogrom a Congress party MP, Ehsan Jafri, who, with others, took refuge in his house, was hacked to death, his body chopped up like pork at Christmas by a merciless Hindu mob that Modi failed to stop. While civil society in India has called for a full probe and action on the charges, Modi now enjoys increased support from Hindu fundamentalists.

I turn now to another simmering conflict in Kosovo, where the mainly Muslim Albanians want to declare the one-time province of Yugoslavia an autonomous state. During the barbaric conflict in the 1990s, Slobodan Milosovic and his Serbian forces killed millions of Albanian males in the worst mass killings since World War II. As Kosovo prepares to declare itself an independent state, the Serbs across the border are threatening to once more invade the tiny country "to save Europe from fundamentalist Islam".

In the face of the few incidents and conflicts I have outlined here, I hope that Trinidadians realise that for all our problems, the race polarisation at elections, the rampage of murderers, the excuses that pass for politicians, we are far better off than many countries elsewhere.

For me, given that so many of these massacres are committed in the name of one God or another, why must I believe in His omnipotence, His compassion? Indeed, why must I believe that He exists? If He did, would He not use His infinite powers to steer stupid people away from their murderous folly? Would He not want mankind to live in peace, in harmony? Convince me, please, someone, anyone, that I am wrong.