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Friday, May 12, 2017

Majid Rafizadeh : Links Between Islamism and Executions


  • People have, it seems, often been arrested or detained on the basis of a rumor; then convicted without trial, counsel or often even the chance to mount a defense.
  • As Amnesty International points out, "In many countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, the proceedings did not meet international fair trial standards. In some cases, this included the extraction of 'confessions' through torture or other ill-treatment".
  • The laws under which these people are sentenced to death are often not only vague and open to interpretation. Charges that warrant the death penalty, for instance, include being "corrupt on earth", "enemies of Allah on Earth", or alleged "crimes against chastity". What exactly does "corrupt on earth" or "enemies of Allah on Earth" mean?

Just how strict and brutal it is to enforce Islamic law, sharia, has now been revealed by Amnesty International.

Amnesty's study, which details the number of reported executions around the world, clearly maps out the most at-risk populations. Lands ruled predominantly by sharia are apparently the most vulnerable to multitudes of executions without fair trials. At the top of the list, with the most executions, are those nations that enforce Islamic sharia law. Despite many human rights violations, these nations, apparently undeterred, continue to execute their citizens.

Sharia makes those in authority infallible and untouchable. Therefore, whatever the government or those in power deem to be "just" can be carried out without question or consequence. Under sharia law and the Islamic penal code, executions can be carried out in sickening forms. Those convicted may be beheaded, hanged, stoned, or shot to death.

As disturbing as the numbers in the report may be, they do not represent the reality that the citizens in these nations across the world face every day. There is, evidently, a connection between radical Islamist governments and extremist groups. The report does not include the gruesome executions that are carried out on a regular basis by extremist Islamist groups and non-state fundamentalists, such as members of the Islamic State (ISIS) and their affiliated groups.
These executions include, as we have seen, slitting throats, burning alive, drowning alive and crucifixion.

If these acts were included in the Amnesty International report, the total number of executions committed under the authority of Islamist law would be far higher. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, for example, pointed out that the Islamic State executed 33 people in the first week of April alone.

The report also did not include the number of Westerners being shot, executed and terrorized by Islamist groups. Many of these, such as ISIS, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), Kata'ib Hezbollah (KH), the Badr Organization, Or Kata'ib al-Imam Ali (the Imam Ali Battalions), are funded and trained by Islamist governments and oil-rich, unaccountable leaders.

Mass executions are evidently also being carried out by both extremist Islamist governments and Islamist groups. A culture of executions, often extra-judicial, as in Pakistan, seems to run rampant within the borders of these countries. Without any consequences for this horrifying disregard for human life, the numbers will only increase.


In Pakistan, Asia Bibi (pictured with two of her five children), a Christian, sits on death row for "blasphemy." Asia's "crime" was to use the same water glass as her Muslim co-workers. "You defiled our water," the Muslim women told her.

Both Islamist governments and Islamist groups justify their brutal acts by referring to the "religious" Islamist legitimacy of their murders. Members of fundamentalist Islamist governments, to legitimize these types of atrocities, also exploit the right of "sovereignty": they point out that they belong independent state with a fully operating and "legal" judiciary.

In the Amnesty International report, the Iran ranked number one, per capita, in executing people. It also accounted for 66% of all officially recorded executions in the region. Again, this amount only represents those executions that were officially registered.

It is also critical to point out that the statistics Amnesty International provides were given by the very governments that carried out the executions. This method means that those in power were the ones to calculate and decide what number should officially represent their country. The unofficial number is thought to be even higher. There is nothing to stop governments from simply keeping the true number to themselves.

Executions carried out under the strict governmental laws of sharia and Islamist judicial systems can have even more grotesque characteristics. The high number of executions included children, some convicted before the age of 18. Death sentences may frequently have lacked due process and what many would consider acceptable standards of proof. People have, it seems, often been arrested or detained on the basis of a rumor; then convicted without trial, counsel or often even the chance to mount a defense. As Amnesty International points out, "In many countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, the proceedings did not meet international fair trial standards. In some cases, this included the extraction of 'confessions' through torture or other ill-treatment".
Prisoners' vulnerabilities also had no bearing on their executions. Even those seriously ill were executed. Mass executions or stoning could be ordered and then carried out within a very short time, sometimes within days, giving those convicted no time to mount any form of appeal.

The laws under which these people are sentenced to death are often not only vague and open to interpretation. Charges that warrant the death penalty, for instance, include being "corrupt on earth", "enemies of Allah on Earth", or alleged "crimes against chastity". What exactly does "corrupt on earth" or "enemies of Allah on Earth" mean? There are no guidelines to establish guilt or innocence. Those in power are therefore able to decide who has violated what laws on what can only be a capricious basis. Islamist sheikhs, imams, or judges can subjectively interpret charges any way they like. A charge of being "corrupt on earth" can apply to having fun at a party or writing poetry that government decides is critical of it. A charge of being "corrupt on earth" can apply to someone who is homosexual, someone who is claimed to have committed adultery, or who has simply declined to accepted an unwanted advance. It can mean anyone who has done anything that the ruling leaders dislike.

These Islamist laws, moreover, also serve as a perfect tool for exploitation. A woman finding herself accused of breaking a law may be assured that if she agrees to sleep with a judge, for instance, he will interpret the law in a lenient way and protect her from the death penalty. After a woman submits to this, she can be executed nevertheless. Sometimes girls are forced into sighah -- the Shiite Islamist law of temporary marriage -- with a cleric, or a governmental official; after "consummating" it, they can also be put to death.

What does a charge such as "crimes against chastity" mean under sharia? This accusation can apply to a girl who has been raped. Instead of the law providing protection for the victim and consequences for the rapist, the victim is accused of the crime of "adultery", convicted without a fair trial, and swiftly executed.
When Islamist laws enter a land, it seems the number of stonings, beheadings, and executions goes up.

Leaders of these nations can use this flexibility to terrorize and control entire societies, expand their power, export their ideology, and ensure that there is no opportunity to resist. More disturbing is that those numbers are just a portion of the truth.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, political scientist and Harvard University scholar is president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He is author of "Peaceful Reformation in Iran's Islam". He can be reached at Dr.rafizadeh@post.harvard.edu.
  • Follow Majid Rafizadeh on Twitter

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