Tuesday, August 03, 2010

the Inquisitor state

Slate has a story on the history and process of stoning in Iran. Truly gruesome stuff, and people are condemned to it for adultery and prostitution. Also, the judge doesn't actually need any evidence or witness testimony whatsoever to condemn a woman to die this way.

Did I mention that you get buried up to your chest before you are stoned to death by rocks the size of tangerines?

The Slate story was prompted by the plight of Sakineh Ashtiani, a woman condemned to exactly such a penalty (despite the supposed moratorium on stonings in Iran) and an offer from the president of Brazil to grant her asylum.

I point this out first of all because it should have been us that offered asylum. I don't care if it's a publicity stunt, or if there's any chance of her getting an opportunity to take Brazil up on it. The combination of Ashtiani's charge, trial, and sentence encapsulate a horrific complex of police state tactics and medieval theocratic values, an "Inquisitor state" that we should be attempting to expose and humiliate at every opportunity.

Iran's example reminds us how Bush and Cheney had it wrong when they argued that our civil libertarian values make us weak and vulnerable. Rather, it is precisely our principles, our belief in everyone's right to privacy, religious freedom, and the rights of the arrested that make our society not just different from Iran's, but superior.

I also bring this up because stoning seems like an old ritual punishment that shows how Iran never progressed beyond the Middle Ages, but in fact it has only existed in Iran since 1983. We forget that Islamic fundamentalism is a recent phenomenon, a reaction to western colonialism. The United States' first participation in a coup of a democratically elected foreign head of government, in fact, was committed in Iran by the Eisenhower Administration.

It seems all our current nemeses are our own creations.

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