Both Sides Now

This story is a prime example of why I Am Against the Death Penalty: "... nobody is above the rule of law."
(W)hat makes (Abdul-Rahman al Lahem) such a formidable foe in the courtroom is his own strong background in sharia.

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."

[For the whole of the 3 web-page WaPo story...]

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.

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!!!


  1. We have our own little local leason on why the Death Penalty is no good:

  2. Sure enough, Frederick. Science is helping us to make the Law more Just, but there's not a scientist worth his salt who'd claim perfection in their arena either.

    It was only a couple of years ago that I finally got over my own emotional waffling on the matter, and realized that no human has the right to kill another unless in immediate and unequivocal defense of their own life or another's.

    We're making strides as a culture, though - as in the case o' Teh Chimperor's "elections" - it sometimes seems an impossible assertion to support.

    Catch ya later.

  3. I'll add another argument, the one that makes me an opponent of capital punishment: Governments simply cannot be trusted to define what constitutes a 'capital crime'.

    I wrote about it here.

  4. Well said at the linked post, Frog.

    Thanks for the heads up.

  5. I too enjoy the law as it has unending mazes and paths to follow and never gets boring. Thanks for the story and the link.

  6. For a long time, I was relatively neutral on the death penalty. Emotional reaction, I find, clouds our willingness to look at the topic objectively. However, after having reread a little Socrates, Peter Singer, and our own Consitution, I came to a rather startling conclusion: The role of government is to secure life, not to end it.

    The state should not hold the right to determine which members of society are not worth keeping around, regardless of the crime. Anything less marks a descent into the kind of cruelty which we seek to amend in so many cases.

    Of course, is war really is an extension of governance, to paraphrase von Klausewitz, you could say I'm acting in direct contradiction of my own philosophical coordinate. And you'd probably be right.

  7. I'm essentially unfamiliar with von Klauswitz - perhaps I'll change that in time - but do clearly see the truth in that aphorism.

    Thanks for sharing your insight here, Spc. It's pretty powerful, and not just cuz it comes from a god unwarranted. (Excellent post, amigo.)

    I hope you have chances to stop back again. Anytime.

  8. Hey Michael, just wanted to pop back in and wish you a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Spiffy Solstice!

  9. MB,

    Thanks man. Anytime :) I'll be back.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts