Women Drivers and the Veil

UAE : Unlike Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates does allow women to drive, so long as they keep their veils on. However this tradition is being turned to the women’s advantage in some ways. Since veiled women feel that police officers will not ask them to lift their veils, the ones without a licence often use the licence of another. Completely veiled women have a limited field of vision, and some pay so much attention to adjusting their veils that they lose control of their cars. Police have now set up female-only highway to crack down on these veiled outlaws.

You Can Never Be Sure

Kabul : The Taliban religious army banned the sale of books and magazines published outside Afghanistan because they may contain information against the principles of Islam, Information Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said. It has also banned the use of paper products, saying the paper could be the product of recycled pages of the Koran.

Why Not Legalize It?

Dhaka, Riyadh : The Koran, as ever, has contradictory things to say about alcoholic drinks, at one point it definitely permits it : sura xvi.67 : "And among fruits you have the palm and the vine, from which you get wine and healthful nutriment : in this ‘truly, are signs for those who reflect;" whereas sura ii :219 forbids alcohol. Muslims have devised a most ingenious and totally arbitrary way of getting round such absurd contradictions in their holy book, the theory of abrogations. Some inconvenient verses are cancelled by others putatively handed down later by God. How an omniscient and omnipotent being should get so many things wrong the first time is a mystery that only Muslims seem unaware of.

The fact is that despite the Islamic law that forbids alcohol (ironically an Arabic word that has passed into Indo-European languages), it is available throughout the Islamic world from Morocco to Indonesia. While the rich and sophisticated drink their smuggled bottles of whiskey and gin, the poor produce their own wine from dates, palms, and sugar cane.

Recently, Saudi customs guards arrested two men who were trying to smuggle alcohol into the kingdom on the back of donkey from Yemen. The donkey was carrying 35 bottles of alcohol and large quantities of fish.

Last year in eastern Bangladesh, at least 30 people died and 50 became seriously ill after drinking adulterated liquor. The victims bought cheap whiskey mixed with methyl alcohol from shops in Narsingdi town, 25 miles from Dhaka. Methyl alcohol is poisonous to humans in large quantities. The victims were celebrating the coming weekend after a week’s work. The police arrested four people for unlawful selling of liquor.

Government inspectors in Sharjah, one of the seven emirates within the United Arab Emirates, have found that so-called non-alcoholic beer in fact contained small amounts of alcohol, produced while the "non-alcoholic beer" was fermenting in storage. Shops have been told to get rid of their stock within six months since selling and consuming alcohol is against "Islamic values and tradition."

Taliban Justice

Kabul : Homosexuality is strictly forbidden under Islam, and punishable by death. But in reality Islamic civilization has always been very tolerant of it. In the 19th Century, Richard Burton wrote : "The cities of Afghanistan and Sind [modern Pakistan] are thoroughly saturated with Persian vice [homosexuality], and the people sing :

‘The worth of cunt the Afghan knows,
Kabul prefers the other 'chose!'" 

"The Afghans," continues Burton, "are commercial travelers on a large scale and each caravan is accompanied by a number of boys and lads almost in woman’s attire with khol’d eyes and rouged cheeks, long tresses and henna’d fingers and toes …they are called Kuch-i-safari or travelling wives."

In January last year in Kabul, Shuma Khan was convicted of sexually assaulting a boy and condemned to be executed by having a tank knock over a wall onto him, the punishment for homosexuality under the Talibans. The tank pushed over the 15-foot wall, and Khan was buried in the rubble. He appeared to be dead and his body was taken to a hospital. But doctors at the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital later said that the 60-year old man had only been knocked unconscious and had suffered serious head injuries. According to this Taliban law, if the person survives the wall-toppling method, the death sentence is commuted.

"My whole body aches with pain, but thank God I have returned from the jaws of death," said Khan."  I was wrongfully convicted for sodomy. God has proven my innocence."  Khan said he was an old man unable to perform sexually.  "For the last five, I have not even made sexual advances towards my wife …how can I do this thing with a boy?"