Standards of Evidence: Sharia vs. Rape Deniers vs. US Courts

Content Notice for Discussion of Rape and Sexual Assault. Also note that for purposes of comparison, the only crimes being discussed are male-on-female. There is shamefully little-to-nothing in Sharia regarding men and boys who are sexually violated and rape deniers rarely take the issue of male-on-male or female-on-male rape into consideration.

Conclusion: You just might be a hypocritical misogynist if your standards of evidence for rape are more stringent than those of certain iterations of traditional Sharia. Thank goodness for the American justice system which, flawed as it is, has not such victim-blaming standards.

Sharia

Never-Muslim Americans, atheists and Christians alike, seem to greatly enjoy both fearing and berating Sharia. Every state in the Union but 16 has considered a ban on Sharia law despite no serious talk, let alone from movement, from American Muslims towards actually implementing Sharia in the US. Seven states have codified such bans into law.

What does Sharia have to say about rape? As with many questions of Islamic law, it depends on who you ask.

  • According to your garden-variety Islamist, a woman needs four witnesses to “prove” she has been raped, with the implication that those witnesses be male.
  • According to one account from the life of Muhammad, rapists are to be punished without the need for four witnesses.
  • According to Islam Q&A (via On Islam) as well as an Al-Azhar cleric, a judge has discretionary ability on what punishment to mete out to a rapist depending on a few factors, including whether or not there were four witnesses.
  • According to a Canadian cleric, the onus is on the alleged rapist to prove his innocence rather than vice versa.
  • According to Islam Help Line, the woman is to be believed without witnesses and to not be prosecuted for extramarital sex. There’s a catch: The conviction can only be obtained if there are four witnesses and barring that, the woman could be held accountable for making a false accusation.

Rape Deniers

Court- and legislation- based movements from Christians aside, the response from atheist men active in the US to non-male pleas for gender equality often is “Well, at least it’s not as bad as if you lived in an Islamic state!” This sentiment is not expressed only by fringe atheists with no clout, mind you. Those who have said such things include a rather famous atheist man of British origin whose expression of that idea lends itself to the naming of the trope. I’ll stop short of calling Dear Muslima a fallacy, since others already have.

Another defense that American men love to trot out in response to gendered issues is “Well, we don’t have enough proof.” or “There was no conviction.” This is usually in response to an allegation of sexual assault or harassment. Their conclusion is that, barring a court conviction, allegations must be false. Mindbogglingly, some iterations of Sharia are more compassionate to women alleging sexual assault than these men are, if not exactly the pinnacle of justice and mercy.

The US Court System

Much of the evidence dismissed as “hearsay” or “not scientifically falsifiable” on its face by rape deniers is absolutely admissible in a court of law and could lead to a conviction. The standards required to verify a scientific theory do not apply in a rape trial. As beyond flawed as the court system is, its approach stands as the best of the three discussed here.

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Standards of Evidence: Sharia vs. Rape Deniers vs. US Courts
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5 thoughts on “Standards of Evidence: Sharia vs. Rape Deniers vs. US Courts

  1. 1

    I’m not sure I understand the argument here, I was hoping you could clarify.

    Are there example of rapes that rape-denying atheists have been denied that meet this standard of four witnesses of the same rape or sexual assault?* Are you saying there are atheists who (have said they) would hypothetically not accept four witnesses describing a single rape (or sexual assault) as sufficient evidence for a conviction? Do you have any solid examples of either?

    Or are you simply saying their idea of not relying on a few witnesses could be extended to the cases in which there are four witnesses, where their stance would look ridiculous? I.e. You want rape-deniers to concede there are some number of witnesses (or some cumulative witness credibility) that should to establish guilt or concede that their standard of evidence is worse for women then Sharia.

    A related idea would be four or more witnesses describing the same person as committing different acts of rape or sexual assault, but with no single act having four or more witnesses. As I understand it, neither the US court nor Sharia courts permits evidence from different cases to be considered in conjunction (except sometimes in class action lawsuits which are settled civil court). But most people find the existence of multiple accusations against the same person to be telling, in a way that goes beyond the success of each case. And I think most of the charges of atheists harassment meet this standard, of having four witnesses spread over multiple events*. We might propose it as a new standard of evidence. If so, I find that very interesting and I’d be curious to hear people share their opinion on the joint consideration of multiple cases.

    PS: I’m really not trying to be hostile or trolling, I hope that comes across. I value your opinion and I really am just curious about your position here and its implications.

    * http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2013/08/12/sexual-harassment-accusations-in-the-skeptical-and-secular-communities-a-timeline-of-major-events/ I’ve read most of these but I haven’t gone through it with the mind of counting the number of direct witnesses. I believe in the typical case the worse stuff happens when the victim has been isolated (less than four witnesses) but the same sorts of accusations appear many times in reference to the same person (more than four witnesses). The best example I could find was Ashley Paramore’s description of an assault witnessed by 10 people: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BK3g86Hp93I Although its worth mentioning the people in the comments who doubt her story are doubting that there were witnesses that she could produce, they aren’t doubting that something witnessed by ten people probably happened.

    1. 1.1

      No, the argument is (correct me when I’m wrong, Heina):
      1. The “four male witnesses” is bullshit anyway, as a number of examples show.
      2. In the west and among atheist men, women are not actually likely to be believed why they say they were raped, even when there’s a huge amount of evidence and witnesses. They just don’t set “4 male witnesses” as a fixed prerequisite (heavens forbid, there might be a woman who meets that criterium), they simply move the goalpost as they go along.
      3. Atheist men use the oppresion suffered by muslim women in more regressive political systems to demonify muslims in general on the one hand and to shut up western feminists on the other hand (while being unable to wrap their heads around the idea of a western muslim feminist)

  2. 2

    I would have to read up on sharia to understand this. As things stand, I don’t understand how a help line and an account from the life of Mohammad are similar authorities or how either is constituted into something like a legal system. I can’t gauge what effect any of these things have on victims, defendants or decision makers (or even who the decision makers are). Obviously it’s a problem with my ignorance first and foremost, not the post.

    I do know that atheist rape deniers have no authority per se, though they may have cultural influence and may also occupy posts where their views affect their actions. I also know in principle what kind of authority the courts have, how laws regarding rape are made and recorded and how they vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction so I’m a bit less ignorant there.

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