Stopping Stoning-Through Thought and Action
On May 13th, 2012, a Sudanese court announced the penalty of stoning to death against a woman on a charge of zina (adultery). Intisar Sharif Abdalla was sentenced after an ‘admission of guilt’ instigated by repeated brutal beatings and other acts of torture by her brother, who brought forward the case. Her co-accused remains un-convicted.
Intisar was convicted and sentenced to be stoned at her first hearing without legal representation, and had initially denied the charges. The sentence came in accordance with Article 146 of the Sudanese Criminal Act.
This decision demonstrates the inhumane and brutal sanctioning of death as a punishment for sexual relations outside of marriage. Furthermore, it calls into question the very legal institutions and frameworks applied, especially as in this case the admission of guilt was made under severe duress.
Fortunately the sentence was appealed, and upon appeal was not implemented! How did this happen?
A group of Sudanese activists launched a campaign to stop the implementation of the stoning sentence, and to delete the article prescribing stoning from the Sudanese Criminal Act. This campaign targeted many levels - international, regional, national and the general public. A group of lawyers, led by the Mutawinat organization, also came together to provide legal aid to Intisar. Many events were held all over the world, and one of the major events took place in London on 6 June 2012, organized by Amnesty International, REDRESS, The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies, and Sudan Change Now movement in London, UK titled Stop Stoning in Sudan Now!
One of the tools used in reaching out to the general public was Facebook. The anti-stoning campaign ran discussions about the case and the issue on social media. But I found what many of the Sudanese youth were writing deeply upsetting! Several of them said that the sentence was in line with the Islamic Hodood (fixed punishments for serious crimes) and should be carried out. And most of them were referring to a tradition/hadith on stoning a woman called “Al-Ghamedia.”
This made me start thinking about stoning, and its relation to Islam. How could stoning be a fundamental principle if this story showed reluctance? I noticed also that there is no verse in the Quran that says anything about stoning, and that the verses on doubling and halving of sentences are inconsistent with the practice of stoning.
I am not finished yet with my questions and research, and I will never stop questioning because I firmly believe that Islam has come - the same like other religions - to spread peace, mercy and love. So stoning can never be an Islamic thing!
Tarig Mustafa Ali, Gender and Peace Program Manager, NCA Sudan