It takes a strong stomach to view videos of people being executed by means of stoning. No form of execution would make for pleasant viewing, but there is something both frightening and demoralising about watching what are essentially ordinary citizens, hurling rocks into the heads of other people—perhaps even their own neighbours.
Currently there are dozens of condemned women and men awaiting this brutal punishment in Iran. A report produced by Amnesty international (24th February) lists the cases of eight people due to be stoned to death, including another man who was to be stoned, but was instead executed by hanging. The common threads running through these cases are stories of alleged abuse, murder and adultery. It isn’t the murder or the physical abuse that earns this sentence, it is the adultery.
To understand this it’s also necessary to understand the Islamic republic’s official view on using law to try and arrest family disintegration. The position taken is that adultery leads to family breakdown and this in turn causes society to break down. This is a fairly straightforward theory about social cohesion, however it is entirely another matter when it comes to devising solutions to the perceived ‘problem’. Interpretations of Islamic law do not treat adultery as an unfortunate breakdown in relations, rather it is treated as a capital crime and the prescribed punishment is death by stoning. It is clearly evidenced that there is no mention in the Qu’ran of stoning being prescribed as a punishment, so why is the practise carried out as a part of Islamic law?
It is in the Hadith, the various books of so-called ‘scientific’ compilations of the prophets sayings, where this prescription is supposedly found. The claim there (in the compilation by Sahih Bukhari) is that there was once such a verse in the Qu’ran, but that it was eaten by a goat! The same text also recounts another incredible tale in which the prophet allegedly assisted a group of monkeys in the stoning of another monkey ‘guilty’ of adultery, whom the other monkeys had caught in order to bring it to justice; it is an interesting question as to how this information was elicited from these monkeys. Tales like these in the Hadith abound, they are also riddled with errors and contradictions, yet they are still widely taken as the legitimate companion to the Qu’ran and a tool for Qu’ranic interpretation.
In the Iranian code of punishment there are two categories: Hodood and Tazirat, the former are punishments supposedly prescribed and set by God, and as such can’t be deviated from; the latter, the Tazirat, are those punishments devised and prescribed by legislators and are thus subject to repeal and change. Stoning is considered Hodood, despite the evidence that it appears nowhere in the Qu’ran and only in the Hadith.
All of this is of course, mere religious chicanery. On the strength of idiotic stories about the prophet stoning monkeys, people who succumb to sexual temptation find themselves condemned to being buried in a pit to have rocks thrown at their heads by their peers, all of whom appear to have accepted that this barbarian punishment is sanctioned by the holy books and the so-called religious experts who interpret the law for the Islamic state. The main reason behind this interpreatation is clearly the desire to avoid the moral ‘cess pool’ that is perceived as the trajectory of western morality.
On a technical point it’s interesting to note that the adultery has to be confirmed by the testimony of four men who are religiously qualified, yet the idea that anyone would engage in extra-marital sex in the presence of four men who could ensure that they will be buried in a pit and stoned to death is clearly ludicrous. This particular problem is neatly sidestepped by means of forced confessions.
Despite the claims of the Islamic regime in Iran, there is only one thing that will end the practice of stoning as a punishment, and that is the fall of the Islamic regime itself.