Friday, March 16, 2007


Crime and Punishment

Horace Jeffery Hodges at Gypsy Scholar has been following the career of "moderate Muslim" Tariq Ramadan, most recently in a post about Ramadan's arrest in France. Dr. Hodges quotes Jean Chichizola, "Tarik Ramadan brièvement interpellé à l'aéroport de Roissy" (Le Figaro, March 13, 2007, tr. Kevin Kim):
Tarik Ramadan will remember his most recent trip to France. A Swiss citizen, this Muslim intellectual who has been criticized, especially in France, for his pronouncements about stoning, found himself Sunday evening at Roissy/Charles de Gaulle Airport, in transit for London. According to a police source, Tarik Ramadan had been trying to move through an unauthorized area when a female police officer brought this to his attention. He twice insulted the young woman, who filed a complaint. Tarik Ramadan was arrested and placed under guard; he was charged with "offensive misconduct." When released, Tarik Ramadan acknowledged the facts and was summoned to appear on April 6 at the criminal court in Bobigny after prior admission of guilt.
Stoning is lapidation in French (from Latin lapis = stone), and refers here to "the stoning of adulterers, a punishment stipulated in the section of the Islamic penal code known as huddud," according to Dr. Hodges.

Arthur Stanley Pease, "Notes on Stoning among the Greeks and Romans," Transactions of the American Philological Association 38 (1907) 5-18 and Rudolf Hirzel, "Die Strafe der Steinigung," Abhandlungen der Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, Philologisch-Historische Klasse 27 (1909) 223-266, are not available to me, and I can't recall any examples of stoning as a punishment for adultery in Greco-Roman antiquity.

Douglas M. MacDowell, The Law in Classical Athens (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978; rpt. 1986), p. 124, discusses sexual offences and their punishments:
It seems strange to us that the Athenians thought that sexual intercourse outside marriage was a more serious offence if the woman consented than if she did not. Seduction was worse than rape, because it implied corruption not only of the woman's body, but also of her mind; a raped woman had not ceased to be loyal to her husband.

The penalty for rape of a free woman was only financial. Solon's law fixed it at 100 drachmas. By the beginning of the fourth century the amount was assessed by the jury for each case; the offender had to pay this amount to the woman's husband or other kyrios, and the same amount again to the state....

A seducer was liable to more severe treatment. A man who caught a seducer in the sexual act with his wife, mother, sister, daughter, or concubine kept 'with a view to free children' ..., could kill him immediately, and if accused of murder could defend himself by pleading that the homicide was lawful. Or he could maltreat him; favourite kinds of treatment for a seducer were to push radishes up his anus and to pull out his pubic hair.
Ouch! A very interesting speech has survived, delivered by Euphiletus, who was accused of murder for killing his wife's seducer. The speech was written by Lysias and is entitled On the Murder of Eratosthenes. MacDowell goes on to mention other penalties for adultery, but stoning is not among them.

Stoning is prescribed as a punishment for several offenses in the Old Testament. Adultery is one of them (Deuteronomy 22.22-24), and Sabbath-breaking is another (Numbers 15.32-36). Most scholars regard the story of the woman taken in adultery as an interpolation in John's Gospel, but most Christians still subscribe to the words attributed to Jesus (John 8.7): "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

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