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Stoning Highlights Extremism of Taliban

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In a widely publicized incident this week a man and a woman in Afghanistan were stoned to death for adultery at the orders of a Taliban commander. While this incident has been promoted in the media as an example of the problems with Sharia law, what has largely been overlooked is that this level of punishment for adultery is not actually common under Sharia law nor is it authorized by the Q’ran.

In this instance as in many of their other extreme religious views, the Taliban and other groups like the Wahabi and Salafi sects go far beyond the punishments described in the Q’ran in how they punish certain social sins and especially in how they treat women, who are accorded some very clear protections in the Q’ran which these groups routinely ignore.

The specific guidelines for adulterous women in Sura 4-15 of the Q’ran are that they must be accused by four witnesses, which does not seem to have happened in this case, and that the punishment is that the woman should be quarantined in her home until she is no longer adulterous. The Q’ran is quite liberal about marriage and divorce and the solution which it specifies is for the woman to get married. In this case the proper application of the law would have been for the man involved to either divorce his wife which Islamic law allows him to do very easily and marry the unmarried woman he had an affair with, or take her on as a second wife because the Q’ran allows each man to have up to four wives.

However, in Sura 24-2 a more rigorous punishment for adultery is outlined in which both parties are to be given 100 lashes. While that might well be fatal, some scholars suggest that the lashes are to be more symbolic than real and it still isn’t as bad as stoning. This Sura also echoes Sura 4 in emphasizing that true repentance should exempt someone from punishment.

This practice of singling women out for extreme punishment seems to be a product of the internal culture of the more radical Islamic sects, and it is a political strategy and clearly not religiously inspired or approved. They discourage literacy and the actual reading of the Q’ran and teach doctrines which are more political in character than truly religious. They have specifically targeted countries like Afghanistan and Iran which have long histories of treating women with relative equality and have worked to radicalize the population in a way which does not fit with the teachings of the Q’ran on issues of personal morality or the cultural traditions of the tribal societies of the region.

If there is anything heartening about human rights abuses of this sort, it is that while they may intimidate, they are clearly not popular with the general population in Afghanistan or other parts of the Muslim world. When extremists like the Taliban impose this kind of perversion of Islamic law on the population it builds resentment and drives a wedge between them and the population. The intent is to terrorize the population into obedience, but that kind of strategy often backfires. Reports suggest that in this case it was mostly Taliban soldiers who participated in the stoning while forcing reluctant locals to observe.

It’s important to remember that in the war for the hearts and minds of the people of Muslim countries we are not the only ones sending a message by our actions, and that the fear and intimidation preferred by our opponents may not be the most effective long-term strategy.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • Ruvy


    I decided to look at Leviticus 20:10. Read it. You may find it enlightening. The majority of the population of Afghanistan is Pashtun. They follow their code of law, the Pashtunwali. The Pashtunwali is an unwritten version of the first four books of the Torah, and those who stoned this woman were following the direct guidance of the first four books of the Torah (as the Pashtun understand it) rather than Sharia – or the Qur’an. And for most Pashtun, the Pashtunwali rates higher than Muslim law any day.

    The key was the lack of witnesses in the case. Under the Torah Law, capital punishment needs to be administered upon the eyewitness testimony of two to three witnesses. But this concept is in the fifth book of the Torah, Deuteronomy – which the Israelites who fled this country under the Assyrian lash – who were to become Pashtun – did not know. Deuteronomy, a book of exhortation by Moses, was “forgotten” until priests found it in the Temple of during the reign of King Josiah – which was after the Israelites were forced to leave Israel.

    Ironically, you seem to be blaming the Wahhabi for the wrong things the one time I’ve seen you single them out for blame.

  • Dave,

    Are there any examples of this?

    Afghanistan and Iran which have long histories of treating women with relative equality ?

    boy, I wish you would use more links in your articles.

  • Women are not chattel! but, as long as we believe some blah blah blah so and so wrote 1000,000 years after any fact, then we will have this injustice.

  • Jeannie, I lived in Iran and have Iranian relatives, so I’m speaking from personal experience. You can go look it up yourself if you don’t believe me. Iran and Afghanistan have both historically never segregated women or made them wear the hijab. These are imported ideas originating with extremist sects dominated by Arabs.

    And Ruvy, the Wahabi are at least partially to blame because it is their promotion of extremism which creates the political environment which spawned the Taliban. The Wahabi are political and cultural extremists even more than they are religious.

    And the only point here about religion is that they’re not really following it. The inhumane behavior of the Taliban is a political strategy meant to terrorize the people and the reaction to and view of it is primarily a political phenomenon. Whether they are religiously correct is interesting but ultimately secondary.


  • Baronius

    Dave, it’s been said that Islam didn’t conquer the Arabs; the Arabs conquered Islam. The Arab culture of SW Asia predates Islam, and still dominates the perspective of those countries. Islam is very different in Afghanistan, the Shiite countries, and in SE Asia. Indeed, one could spend a childhood in Indonesia and be unprepared for dealings with Arab Muslims.

  • Dave,

    I didn’t know that, very interesting. Did the women of Iran lose their rights to drive, work and dress in western style clothing at the same time as Saudi Arabia, or did Iran follow?

    I thought this was a very thorough and my ,blah,blah,blah line was directed at all religions.

    : )Good article!

  • From the NY Times:

    “Perhaps most worrisome were signs of support for the action from mainstream religious authorities in Afghanistan.

    The head of the Ulema Council…said Monday that stoning to death was the appropriate punishment for an illegal sexual relationship, although he declined to give his view on this particular case. An Ulema Council is a body of Islamic clerics with religious authority in a region.

    And less than a week earlier, the national Ulema Council…issued a joint statement on Aug. 10 calling for more punishment under Shariah law, apparently referring to stoning, amputations and lashings.

    Failure to carry out such “Islamic provisions,” the council statement said, was hindering the peace process and encouraging crime.”

    Being unfortunate enough to be a woman in such an environment is bad enough, certainly. But imagine being gay: a capital crime in Iran, and I assume in much of the Arab world as well.

  • Dave, I am struck by your final paragraph: “It’s important to remember that in the war for the hearts and minds of the people of Muslim countries we are not the only ones sending a message by our actions ….”

    Whom do you mean by “we”? The United States of America? I thought your position was that we (USA) shouldn’t be and never ought to have been involved in the War in Afghanistan. Did I get that wrong?

    If we (USA) shouldn’t be engaged in a war “for the hearts and minds of the people of Muslim countries,” then our only concern with how women are treated by the Taliban is humanitarian. That’s no small deal, of course. But supporting Muslim women in their quest to be free from the intolerance of religious extremists does not necessarily mean we must engage in war, whether literal or metaphorical. Correct?

  • think about it

    women are always in charge so in their society that must be what they want. They make up the majority in every religion. My only question is what aspect of motherhood are they stripped of that doesn’t allow them to usurp authority over society? Their fault they don’t kill the bastards when they are small.

  • Dave, the New York Times reported that villagers took part in the stoning and that many laughed and smiled during the event. This doesn’t sound like what you reported. It sounds to me like the Taliban has somehow won over some of the locals all over again and all the work the U.S. (and to some degree Karzai) did to liberate the Afghans from such medieval thinking has been for naught.
    What do you have to say about this?
    Is the NYT just wrong or do different sources have different ways of looking at this? I’m a journalist and I know how difficult it is to get the story straight when there are so many points of view.

  • Zedd


    I hope you are right.

    It is true that to everything there is a season. This too shall end. I agree with your premise that these bullies will go too far some day and that will bring on their demise.

  • Ruvy

    I read the NYT article and what was not in it was even more interesting than what was. Its deliberate inspecificity made it read like one of those abstruse articles one used to find in Pravda. Welcome to the Union of Soviet Socialist American States!

    It talked loosely of “Northern Afghanistan” and Funduz Province. The question I had is which of the two dominant nationalities live in Funduz Province – the Pashtun or the Hazara? The answer to that question was not part of “all the news fit to print”. Neither was the fact that Afghanistan is predominantly Muslim – or that the Taliban are an extremist “Muslim” sect from Deoband, India, under heavy Wahhabi influence. All this evidently was not “news fit to print” in what is laughingly called “America’s newspaper of record”.

    I grew up reading the New York Times. It is no longer worth using to wrap fish in (of course, fish from the Gulf are presently unavailable). O! How the mighty are fallen!