Amina Lawal Must Not Face Death by Stoning
August 31, 2002 1:11 AM   Subscribe

Amina Lawal Must Not Face Death by Stoning says UK Amnesty International. Nigerian woman, divorced & single, with 3 kids, to be executed by a Sharia Court for giving birth outside of wedlock. Other pregnant unwed mothers, such as this computer student, are seeking asylum outside of Nigeria to avoid being stoned to death by a Nigerian Sharia Court in accordance with Islamic law principles. Amina's whole convoluted and horrible story is laid out nicely here. Sharia Courts, and their ilk, punish sexual and "moral offenders" through stoning, amputation, crushing the victim with walls, hanging, or even rape.

Meanwhile, in another universe, the Nigerian 419 scam has mutated into Amina Lawal's "barrister" spamming the net with pleas for cash. Instead of that, sign the open letter to the President of Nigeria asking that death by stoning be stopped.
posted by filchyboy (14 comments total)
Just so you know, Sharia law does not apply to all of nigeria. Given that about half the people and the leader are catholic, this shouldn't be suprising.

The case will probably go to the suprime court and be overturned.
posted by delmoi at 2:28 AM on August 31, 2002

Crap - so what you're telling me here is that not only am I not going to not get rich quick, but that even if I do, I'm not going to get stoned? Foo!
posted by MeanDean at 2:45 AM on August 31, 2002

yah that's true delmoi but the individual nigerian states don't have to follow federal law even at the supreme court level; their constitution apparently allows them this freedom and the people of katsina seem pretty hot to bury this woman up to her waist and commence with the stoning. the situation still needs attn and pressure from outside parties interested in human rights.

in the most recent but unconfirmed news amina's case may have been held over til january 2004...
posted by t r a c y at 3:31 AM on August 31, 2002

The January 2004 date was set so she could breastfeed her baby long enough before they stone her to death. There are lots of paper and internet petitions going around. I really think this has been held off this long because of international outcry and that if we keep it up she could be saved.
posted by Zootoon at 4:43 AM on August 31, 2002

PR view: if you live in a glass house, don't toss stones.
posted by Postroad at 5:31 AM on August 31, 2002

yah that's true delmoi but the individual nigerian states don't have to follow federal law even at the supreme court level;

That sounds like a good plan.
posted by insomnyuk at 6:05 AM on August 31, 2002

I wonder if Britain would recognise a woman escaping from a country with Sharia law as a genuine asylum seeker?

It makes me wish there was some kind of 'underground railroad' for women in these situations. If only there was some feminist version of the Scarlet Pimpernel who would go round and snatch these women from danger!

Damn, I wish there was some way to do more than just sign a petition.
posted by Flitcraft at 7:26 AM on August 31, 2002

What is happening to this woman is a horrible story, no doubt about it. But "in another universe", as filchyboy puts it, it's important to see how this is the perfect media story.

For the left, you have an oppressed woman of color. For the right, you have a victim of the brutality of Islamic law. And for everyone, you have a perfect photo of the innocent and long-suffering Madonna and child.

Meanwhile, were you aware of the genocidal conflicts now going on in the same region? For example:
The UN estimates that more than 2m people have died in Congo because of the conflict, mostly civilians killed by starvation and disease.

In some regions, whole towns have lived in a perpetual state of terror for years, with women subjected to repeated mass rape by combatants, along with indiscriminate killings and severe food shortages.

A recent peace appears to be failing. More than 2m are probaby dead in N. Korea from government-imposed mass starvation as well.

I'm not trying to troll, I just wonder at the process that enables some issues to get our emotions going while we find it easy to ignore others. The Congo genocide has never been discussed on MeFi.

When Flitcraft says, "I wish there was some way to do more than just sign a petition", the reality is that the only solutions to these kind of problems involve ugly compromises, hard political negotiation, and the threat of war to provoke a regime change. If Britain recognises escapees from Islamic law as genuine asylum seekers, it would be declaring that opposition to Islamic law everywhere is an official part of its foreign policy. This decision would have huge consequences not only for British policy abroad, but also at home for British Muslims.

That kind of complexity does not make for a story that pulls at our heartstrings.
posted by fuzz at 8:38 AM on August 31, 2002

More complexity and some background on Nigeria's religious breakdown:

45% of Nigerians are Muslims, 45% Christian, the remaining 10% practice African Traditional Religion or nothing. Religious persuasion breaks down along ethnic and regional lines. There are three major ethnic groups in Nigeria: Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. Northern Nigeria, where there are states with Sharia law, is predominantly Muslim, like 90%. Most people in Northern Nigeria are Hausa. The Igbos live in the Southeast and are mostly Catholic. The Yorubas live in the Southwest and are pretty evenly split between Muslims and Christians, with a small percentage practicing traditional religion. No states which are predominantly Yoruba have sharia laws. Most Yoruba Christians are not Catholic, they are either Pentecostal or belong to Baptist, Anglican, or Methodist churches. And of course there are hundreds of smaller ethnic groups in Nigeria, both Christian and Muslim. Many of these smaller groups live in the oil-producing region of Nigeria but don't see any financial benefit from it.

This is important to understand the current issues concerning Sharia law in Nigeria because it is connected to long standing political divides in the country, dating back to the colonial period. So sharia, as a states rights issue in Nigeria, is more than religious fanaticism, but is about who gets to hold political power and thus control the oil money. (The 419 scams are related to this too.)

The current president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, who is a Yoruba man, is a born-again Christian and belongs to a Pentecostal church. He is currently under pressure from the Senate to resign or be impeached for a number of reasons, mostly because of his failure to implement a budget for this year. Many of the politicians behind his impeachment are from the North. It is thought that he was elected in 1999 as compromise candidate between the North (who predominates in the military, and have been responsible for many of the coups which have plagued Nigerian politics since independence in 1960) and the Southwest (because he is Yoruba; ethnicity being an important factor in politics here). He was a military man himself, and actually was one of Nigeria's military dictators but he gave up power voluntarily to a democratically elected president. At this time he has lost the favor of the North because many of his programs have been aimed at reducing corruption and distributing the wealth (not completely, but more than the Northern politicians are comfortable with).

I've been in Nigeria since April (I'm an anthropologist doing research on Yoruba Christian churches), and the Amina issue is huge here right now. And just this week another Muslim man from the North cut his wife's leg off because he suspected her of having an affair. Two more people (a man and a woman) have been sentenced to die by stoning for admitting to adultery. I'm in Lagos, which is Nigeria's largest city and is located in the south west and most people are appalled by what is happening. The sense is that she ultimately won't be stoned. Further, sharia may end up to be the reason why Obasanjo won't be re-elected next spring.

Sorry that this post is so long, but Nigeria is so complicated and the way it's often portrayed in the Western media can be a bit too simplistic and also just plain depressing. I'd have to agree with fuzz's comments about the attraction of the Amina story for the western media. If you want to understand more about what's happening in Nigeria you can read articles from Nigerian newspapers at One interesting story that is a contrast to the Sharia issues are those that concern the women's protests at the Chevron-Texaco and Shell oil fields.
posted by vitpil at 8:47 AM on August 31, 2002

Big Thanks, vitpil. Your comment is the reason I love MeFi: a link to a media-hyped story, followed by an informed response by someone who actually lives there and understands the situation.
posted by fuzz at 9:26 AM on August 31, 2002

That sounds like a good plan.

yep. so any day now you may see florida deciding to stone unwed mothers who try to put their babies up for adoption. oh wait, didn't they already try that...? hooray for weak federal gov'ts, yah. 8-)

fuzz - yes i was aware of all those other issues. i learned about them from cbc newsworld (similar to cnn), and 2 major daily papers in canada. not everyone's media goes solely for the simplistic, easy to tell stories, all the time. however i think it's unreasonable to expect the average person to pay attn to all the issues, or the larger picture first. too much shit is going on all at once and you have to pick your battles, so to speak. most people get overwhelmed and just turn away entirely so it's (much) better than nothing if a story about an individual grabs their attn. many of us will then delve further in and discover the larger picture, once we've been introduced to the individual.
posted by t r a c y at 10:51 AM on August 31, 2002

As it happens, I'm quite aware of the situation in Congo via charities which I support like MSF

If you care so much about the situation in the Congo, Fuzz, nobody was stopping you posting those links long before now. Don't use it to distract attention from another serious issue.

Yes, this case is an attractive one for the media, but it's also symbolic of the plight of millions of women elsewhere who either live under Sharia or live under legal systems which increasingly incorporate elements of Sharia which lessen the status of women. It stands in a long tradition of cases which 'personalise' a big issue by putting a particular human face or story to them.

Personally I'd love the British government to declare that opposition to this sort of application of Sharia is an 'official part of its foreign policy' just as I wanted government opposition to Apartheid. However this is unlikely to happen because of British links to Saudi.

Mostly though, I'd like to see direct-action protest groups which were prepared to fight these applications of Sharia in the way that Abolitionists fought the slave trade - groups willing to rescue people and help them escape whether their governments are prepared to do anything or not.
posted by Flitcraft at 11:04 AM on August 31, 2002

Sorry, meant to post this link, duh.
MSF in Democratic Republic of Congo
posted by Flitcraft at 11:31 AM on August 31, 2002

Vitpil's comment comes from someone who is there. This comment comes from someone on perhaps the exact opposite part of the planet. Maybe geography means I have no validity. I disagree, because we both live on the same stupid pale blue dot in space, so what goes on anywhere in the world does effect everyone else. And yet at the same time geography prevents me from picking up a stone and standing between the mob and this woman, and throwing stones back at them. Which is really what I'd like to do, even though I know even that would be a fruitless endeavor.

I just got a forwarded email about this from a trusted friend over the Internet. One of my friends who knows how much I despise anything being forwarded spam-like across the planet. Get rich quick schemes. Virus scare hoaxes. Claims that if I forward something to a hundred of my closest friends some kid in south Africa will get a bowl of rice. Claims from people who obviously have no clue how the Internet works, or how the world works for that matter.

I thought I'd come here to post a link to MeFi about it. See what others thought or if it's some kind of sick hoax or if there really is something more that can be done than forward this email to twenty other people. And I did a search and lo and behold, a thread's already been made about this almost a month ago. And no one else has posted to this thread since August 31 of this year.

And I looked at this and many of the above sentiments came to my mind before I even made it to this thread. How can signing a damn petition save this woman? I look at the petition. Okay. So a million people have signed it before me. Probably people like me who aren't there and don't know the whole story. Of course what does one need to know? Somewhere on this planet there are people who are still using violence as a deterrent for 'crime' or deviant behavior. As if thousands of years of history haven't proven that violence doesn't stop these things from happening. But this is happening here in my own nation. In my own state. We use lethal injections and granted we don't do it to women who have children out of wedlock. We reserve our equivalent of stoning to mass murderers, or at least those successfully accused and found guilty by a dozen of their peers. However, I'm beginning to question the difference. They stone a woman with a child out of marriage, and women are still having children out of marriage. We lethally inject poison into a murderer, and people are still murdering people. It's been a few millenia and we still haven't gotten the clue.

We're outraged, but those who believe it's a crime against society and god(s) and everything to do something like have a child out of wedlock, well, they're outraged too. They want this behavior stopped. They want everyone to adhere to whatever they see as ideal behavior, but in many cases behind closed doors they have their own skeletons they take out of their private closets. Their own little secrets and white lies that they rationalize is okay for them because they're not as deviant as that person they hope to throw stones at someday.

The season premiere of The Twilight Zone was last night, and on it was a story about a sheltered community taken to the extreme, where families chose to live inside the equivalent of a militarized state, and deviant behavior among young people was dramatically punished to the point of weeding out bad eggs by killing them and turning them into fertilizer. Literally. The adults believed the sacrifice of losing their more unruly children was tolerable, because it served a greater good for those who survived. It actually argued a good case both for the pro and con of it all. Where can the line be drawn, if you want to live in a community where there is absolutely no wrongdoing? Truth may be stranger than fiction, but when we see what goes on in the world today, fiction often struggles to keep up.

The Twilight Zone is everyday for some people, like a woman in Nigeria breast feeding her child, knowing that when her child no longer needs her milk, her community will no longer see a need for her to go on living. I mean it READS like a Twilight Zone episode to me.

Nothing stops deviancies in human behavior, and in fact there's forever an argument over what exactly is deviant. We're human. Some use violence not only as a deterrent, but also to feel superior to those who do commit crimes against their community. And no two communities are identical, yet historically one can find running themes and disturbing similarities. It reminds me of the scene in the Monty Python film Life of Brian, where all these women (for whom it was against the law to stone people in public) hid behind fake beards so they could attend a stoning of a man who blasphemed by saying "Jehovah" in public.

*in unison, everyone in MeFi throws stones at Zach*


That wasn't funny. My point is, stoning's been going on for millenia. It's sickening to learn that it's still happening somewhere in the world, but what are we to do to stop this? Stone the stoners? Where does it end?

There comes a point where the violence is not to stop the crime, but to take vengeance on those who did the crime. How dare that person get away with it when I could not? A death sentence for any crime, even capital murder, has at least a tinge of hypocrisy in it. Commit violence upon the violent in order to stop violence. Am I the only one who finds the sick humor to this?

The Judeo/Christian God said vengeance is his job. I don't know if the Muslim God ever offered similar sentiments. In my mind, He must've cuz to me they're the same guy. But then, I don't live in Nigeria. Maybe we should only allow aetheists to pass judgment, because they're the only ones without a belief structure that makes them hypocrites when they do press judgment. They don't believe in a god that tells them judgment is His job. So an aetheist pressing judgment isn't being hypocritical.

This is a classic example of Man using God as an excuse to do what Man wanted to do anyway. Punish a woman who doesn't adhere to Man's interpretation of God's laws. And of course Man's interpretation includes the need to keep the woman subservient. I doubt there's more than a slap on the wrist for the guy who shared in her adultery, yet she gets her head stoned. This is justice?

But again, the nagging question on my mind is this: how can I, a small voice in northern Texas, USA, make any difference for the life of this woman in Nigeria by adding my name to a silly petition? There is quite literally nothing I can do, and adding my name to this petition seems to be more for my edification than hers. I can add my name, then feel I've done my part to help save her life, which is ultimately what I most desire here.

And yes, even before coming into this thread I thought, well they must have been doing this for thousands of years. Why is it now suddenly a big deal? Why has the media singled out this one woman? Surely she's not the only woman in Nigeria who had a child out of wedlock? What about all the rest of them? And what about all the laws laid down in a god's name that are also suppressive and unjust and downright ludicrous? What am I supposed to do about any of that?

Nothing. There is nothing I can do. I mean hell, I couldn't even get the right bozo into office. I can't even get my local government to stop putting money into yet another big arena for annoying sporting events when what we really need to do is fix potholes.

And in a couple days, or sooner, this very thread will freeze by order of the reknowned Mathowie, and it will soon be forgotten by most of us, archived along with all the other millions of words which have been stored in this server.

Over a million people have signed that petition, but there's over seven billion people on this planet, and less than half of them will ever see that petition, and even less than that really care. Many don't care about things like this until they happen in their own backyard, and maybe that's the problem. We in civilized parts of this planet try to fix the uncivilized parts when we can't even fix our own potholes, both literally and figuratively.

Anyway. I just hate it when trusted friends email crap like this to me, cuz it makes me have to think about all the things on this planet that I can't do anything about.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:44 PM on September 19, 2002

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