11 July 2011

A stone at rest gathers no blood

Today is International Day Against Stoning, part of a campaign to raise awareness (and, in turn, condemnation) of the barbaric practice of battering people to death with rocks.  It's a striking anachronism to see it listed on Wikipedia's capital punishment article as a "current" death penalty method.

It turns my stomach to imagine myself half-buried in a pit, feeling the impacts shatter my bones and teeth and rupture blood vessels.  It's even more revolting to imagine myself in the mob surrounding the victim, my peers coercing me to pick up a stone and throw it at the shrouded, bleeding figure in the pit.

It's likely the oldest form of execution employed by our species, and though it predates Islam by eons its continued use today seems to be most prevalent in theocratic Islamic countries.  I hate to jump to conclusions about blaming religion for human evils that could exist independent of such beliefs, but there's really no way around it in this case: fundamentalist Islam is the most prominent force keeping stoning alive today.  The penalty of death by stoning is implemented not for only the most heinous crimes, but for mere violations of social norms.  Adultery, fornication, homosexuality, being a rape victim, and refusing to go along with an arranged marriage are all offenses punishable with death by stoning in some parts of the Islamic world.

What sickens me the most about this brutality is that I'm practically helpless to stop it.  What are we to do, invade every country in which stoning still occurs?  That won't fix it.  Such a conflict could go on forever.  Is it too much to hope for that our species could cast this horror aside once and for all?  Or is it only realistic to expect that it will endure in some communities on and on into the future?

For now, we can at least put strong diplomatic pressure on countries like Iran whose governments do have the power to curb the practice.  It's worked before, or at least is working so far for one case.  Apart from foolhardy armed intervention, it's all we can really do.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License