(W)hat makes (Abdul-Rahman al Lahem) such a formidable foe in the courtroom is his own strong background in sharia.People can change when given opportunity, support and objective information. You can't bring back the dead, but redress for even the most heinous of grievances can be had in many forms.
Until the late 1990s, Lahem -- who holds a degree in sharia -- was an Arabic teacher and an activist with the conservative Islamic Sahwa movement. Like most Sahwa adherents, he wore a long traditional white robe and let his beard grow long and scruffy, considered signs of piety.
His mind-set was similar to that of the austere Wahhabi judges he now battles in court, he explained with a wry smile.
Teaching in the isolated city of Hafr al-Batin, about 250 miles northeast of the deeply conservative Qassim region where he was born and far from his closed Sahwa circle, he discovered different Muslim thinkers, such as the Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. It was the first time that Lahem, then in his mid-20s, had read anything outside the official Wahhabi version of Islam taught in school.
His transformation took an even sharper turn when he enrolled in law school in Riyadh. Unlike his strict religious education, his legal studies required ordered, logical thinking, not learning by rote. Students could also argue and discuss concepts with their professors, something impossible in the rigid hierarchy of sharia school.
"From the first class, I fell in love with the law," Lahem said, extracting a Marlboro from a front pocket and lighting it. "I started learning to depend on my mind, not just on ideas I'd been spoon-fed. It was wonderful. I felt as if I had found something I'd been looking for for years."
Death both prevents such restitution and is an extreme and nearly indefensible penitance to force upon another human being. Unless, of course, you follow archaic proscriptions for emotional retaliation and enforcement of your own beliefs onto others.
The hurdles Mr al Lahem must leap are also why I am so proud of and adamantly supportive of my own nation's secular Constitution.
No one nor no thing is perfect, but some things really are obviously better than others.
Happy Holidays all!!!