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Post no. 40 (Eye for a what?)

August 21, 2010

I came across this chilling news item. A man in Saudi Arabia  had been convicted for paralysing a man in a fight about two years earlier. For whatever reason his gaol term was halved. The victim’s family, namely his brother, are asking for a punishment equivalent to the crime the perpetrator had committed. They appealed – or whatever it is they do – in an Islamic court. Here comes the shocking bit. The judge has asked whether or not any hospital or medic was willing to perform an operation on the perpetrator that involves severing the spinal cord – resulting in lower body paralysis, presumably.

The victim’s brother based his request on the monstrously misquoted “eye for an eye” passage in Leviticus, Exodus and Deuteronomy. Brazenly he states that “There is no better word than God’s word.”

Admittedly the Old Law does have those words, but they are very often extirpated out of context and twisted beyond recognition. The idea behind “eye for an eye” is that if you’re primitive enough to want to exact revenge on somebody who wronged you, keep your retribution in line with the “crime”

If you steal my car, I don’t kill your wife and children, burn down your house and break both your legs. I can only steal your car back. Balanced reprisal, if you will. It is quite clear in the OT, too. “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” That reprisals should be “equal” is implicit. This does not mean that if you steal my car I am entitled to steal your car back. This only means that if I cannot conquer my baser instincts and check my desire for revenge, the most I can do is to “exchange like with like”.

No wonder many people blame religions for all the madness in this world …


From → The Gripevine

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