An Eye for an Eye

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/13/iran-blind-criminal-acid

In a literal application of the sharia law of an eye for an eye, Iran is ready for the first time to blind a man with acid, after he was found guilty of doing the same to a woman who refused to marry him.

I know that many people will see this as justified because throwing acid in someone’s face and blinding them is clearly an horrific crime. We rightly feel anger at such violence and want revenge on the perpetrator. We want to see justice done.

This isn’t justice. This is violent revenge torn from the pages of barbaric Sharia law. This is retribution, not justice.

Majid Movahedi should be imprisoned for a very long time. He should compensate Ameneh Bahrami, his victim, for the rest of his life and he should be made to see how vile his actions were. The law should be dispassionate even as we cry out for revenge, even as we understand the anger of the victim. That isn’t justice.

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3 Comments

Filed under Religion, You decide

3 responses to “An Eye for an Eye

  1. I’m actually really conflicted about this story (which will be no surprise). I didn’t hear about it until this morning and was about to blog about it. The first part I heard was about the barbarism of the proposed punishment and I felt sick. But when I heard about the rationale for the punishment, I had to reconsider. Yes, it is an eye for an eye but I have to be completely honest and say that I feel it may be deserved.

    • I feel the same way and I think we both recognise that feelings aren’t how the law should operate.

      2400 years ago when the Torah was written, 1700 years ago when Christianity was recorded in the Gospels, 1300 years ago when Islam was codified, and probably much, much nearer to today, the idea of retributive punishment was probably the best we had. Modern philosophical ideas about crime and punishment have moved on somewhat even if the human brain has not. We look to the utility of punishment and how crime is perceived. We’re a long way from a system where the purposes of a criminal justice system (rehabilitate the offender, protect society, provide a deterrent, restoration for the victim) are in place but we’re doing better than simply exacting revenge to appease our outrage.

      • Yeah, I know all about the system of punishment (I’m a criminologist so I would need to) and I have never been keen on either the theory or practice of retribution but several other criminologists (some of whom I have worked with and admire) are very keen on retribution (well, just deserts, which is a modified version). It’s not a principle that can be written off completely just because it makes us uncomfortable and appears to serve little purpose.

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