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Murder of Bangladeshi Girl Not Example of Shari’ah

February 5, 2011
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Religion Dispatches, 3 Feb 2011: The latest news out of Bangladesh is that a fatwa was issued for the caning of a 14 year-old girl, Mosammet Hena, because she had an affair with a married man. The girl was brutally beaten to death in this horrific crime. I can already see the way the AP is trying to frame the story as one of shari’ah gone wild.

Let’s actually look at the facts of the case and how the Bangladeshis are reporting it. So-called shari’ah courts are banned in Bangladesh, so this punishment does not have the sanction of the state. In fact, based on the coverage, most Bangladeshis are repulsed by this and do not see it as an expression of their Islam.


It is unclear if the individuals who issued the fatwa (a non-binding legal opinion) had any standing to either issue one or enforce one. If you also look at the issues involved, a 14-year old cannot give informed consent to a sexual relationship, so this is rape. Even if, by some twisted logic you think this girl was culpable, it’s a two-person relationship and the man should have been given the same sentence. As a result, this opinion violates shari’ah principles in at least two fundamental instances.

It seems the men who handed down this verdict were part of a local council that functioned where the government did not. As such, the story reads more like a village dispute and about the saving the reputation of a well-connected man at the cost of the life a young girl. This isn’t about shari’ah and to treat the vile ramblings of a village idiot the same as that of a scholar demeans the tradition and prevents us from focusing on the real issue, which is abuse. And just for the record, according to Muslim belief, God forbids the taking of the life of a young girl explicitly (16:58-59).


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