Eye for an Eye?

(There’s a NSFW image at the bottom of this post, just fyi.)

You may have already heard this disturbing story: An Iranian man (Majid Movahedi) blinded a woman (Ameneh Bahrami) with acid in 2004 after she refused a marriage proposal from him.

“I decided to splash acid on her face so her husband would leave her and I could have her,” he told the court. He said he had earlier contemplated suicide.

Asked if he would still be prepared to marry Bahrami despite her injuries, Movahedi replied: “Yes. I love her.”

Now, he has been sentenced in this crime: He, too, will be blinded in both eyes from drops of acid.

The punishment is legal under the sharia code of qisas, which allows retribution for violent crimes. The court also ordered Movahedi to pay compensation to the victim.

This punishment is partly due to a plea from his victim. She wanted to make sure he never hurt women ever again.

Asked by the judge if she wanted Movahedi’s face to be splashed with acid, she replied: “That is impossible and horrific. Just drip 20 drops of acid in his eyes so he can realise what pain I am undergoing.”

Everywhere I’ve seen, the response has been mixed. Some people think this punishment is just and deserved — literally, an eye for an eye, right? Others think this is unnecessary and cruel.

Normally, I’m against the death penalty. Right now, I side with the people who find the punishment cruel. But I feel like I could be convinced otherwise.

Don’t let this image of Ameneh Bahrami influence you at all:

SarahH writes this in the Forums:

… the legal system should be a way to make sure our brains trump our guts in situations this serious, and religious law apparently has a lot of catching up to do in Iran.

Where do you stand on this matter?

  • PrimeNumbers

    The whole idea of a justice system is so that violent retribution is not handed out. Now, if that woman met that man in the street, and said I will personally throw acid in his face, (given this is highlight unlikely to happen, but say it could) I would understand that. I wouldn’t like it, but I’d understand it. The state, however should just lock this evil man up. The state is very powerful, and hence should not send out the message that it is “right to right a wrong with more violence.” Death penalty is wrong, as is torture and physical punishment.

  • Gabriel

    I understand revenge. I understand the want to hurt those who hurt us. I would want to kill the person who did this to my child, wife, parent etc. I might even try and kill him myself. But that is revenge. Revenge isn’t justice and the state shouldn’t be in the revenge promotion business. Put this man in jail for a long time even the rest of his life but not revenge.

  • http://noodleguy.wordpress.com noodleguy

    I’d classify that as “cruel and unusual punishment” so, yeah, I’d be against it. Sure as hell the guy deserves it but governments shouldn’t sanction that kind of thing. It’s just government sanctioned vigilante justice. An eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind.

  • Mark

    Pry his eyes out with a bayonet. Take your time doing it. Do it out of love, not revenge.

  • elianara

    I’m all for not letting him hurt other women ever again, but acid drops for his eyes? That is just cruel, and wrong. I’m so sorry for her, and the pain she has, but there are so many other ways of punishing somebody for crimes like that. Jail, compensation, working for the blind, anything but revenge.

  • http://blargen.com/blog/ postsimian

    I’m all for loading him into a rocket and shooting him into the sun! Why hasn’t this option been considered?

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    What was done to Bahrami is horrific but I can’t condone the sentence that is to be meted out to Movahedi.

    I understand the desire for “an eye for an eye”. However that’s not justice, it’s revenge. That’s one of the things the legal/justice system was designed to prevent. We need to address current atrocities and prevent future ones, not perpetuate them ourselves.

  • http://www.nicest-girl.com Izzib3th

    I’m…. slightly torn? Though I feel like the victim has made her decision and it should have some weight. She did not deserve to have acid thrown in her face. She did nothing wrong. He, however, has done something very, very wrong (essentially ruined another human being’s life for his own selfish gains and with no regard for her well-being). Does he deserve to have acid dropped in his eyes (and honestly, although he would go blind, the damage done to his face and body would most likely not even come close to resembling the damage or pain done to hers)? Well.. that was up to the court to decide.

    I don’t think I would make that same choice. Perhaps I would, though. I have never been in that situation. But she was attacked viciously and knows the pain he will feel. “An eye for an eye” is kind of a relative term, I think. In this case… I say they’ve done the right thing in letting her choose his punishment.

  • http://mattcbr.wordpress.com/ Matt

    The immediate reaction to support the punishment is tempting but it’s unnecessary pain being inflicted on another – that’s pretty damn hard to justify.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    Don’t let the image influence me? You’ve got to be kidding.

    I don’t agree with “an eye for an eye” or “turn the other cheek”. But this guy should get locked up and the key thrown away forever. And the fucked up society he lives in is also partially at fault. So how do you even begin to deal with that level of problem?

    But when I hear of crimes like this or of people doing really horrific things to children, I can’t help but thinking that they really do deserve to suffer horribly. Locking them up in a clean cell with three meals a day is not bad enough treatment. I don’t want to feel this way about it, but I can’t help it. I do.

  • Aj

    Seems like a bad strategy for reducing harm, doubling it. Life is unfair, retribution won’t get her sight back. This has nothing to do with him hurting other women.

  • Sean

    No, it’s just barbaric – no sane person can justify this level of horror. I feel for the poor woman but vengeance only serves to belittle when state-sponsored. Iran should be more introspective and try to see what breeds this in their men. I would however lock the bastard up for ever in the deepest pit they can find.

  • Brian

    I don’t find the argument that the punishment should not be supported because it amounts to government-sponsored revenge to be persuasive. Aren’t all punishments imposed in response to a crime, including those imposed by the government, tantamount to revenge? That is, isn’t putting someone away “for the rest of his life” a way of avenging the crime?

    I think the main issue here is the severity of the punishment, not whether it constitutes revenge.

    Whether the punishment is “cruel and unusual” should be based, in part, on the crime that was committed. That is, one must consider the cruelty of the punishment relative to the harm caused by the crime.

    I think most people would agree that the amputation of a criminal’s hands for the act of stealing would be “cruel and unusual”. The punishment is “cruel” because it vastly outweighs the harm caused by the crime. The punishment is also “unusual” because it bears no reasonable relationship to the criminal act or the caused harm.

    This does not appear to be the case with regard to the punishment of applying acid to the criminal’s eyes for the crime of deliberately splashing the entire face of the victim (including her eyes) with acid. The punishment would only serve to blind the criminal rather than blind and disfigure the criminal. Therefore, the punishment is not “cruel” because it appears to be less harmful than that caused by the criminal act. The punishment is also not “unusual” because it is extremely similar to the crime and the caused harm.

    Additionally, there appears to be no doubt that the accused committed the crime. Under these circumstances, I believe the punishment is reasonable.

    One poster implies that it would be foolish (i.e., not using our brains) to impose such a harsh penalty for the crime. Why is that? I think it is clear that one could reasonably believe that the punishment is proper.

    I am not in support of modifying the U.S. criminal justice system to begin allowing for corporal punishments to be imposed on criminals in order to inflict an amount of pain to the criminal that is similar to that inflicted on the victim. I am not in favor of the death penalty either. However, my reasons for not supporting these punishments are not based on a belief that such punishments would inherently be “cruel and unusual.”

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    The desire for revenge is an emotional response to a crime. Emotion should have no place in handing down punishment to criminals for obvious reasons. The law should be impersonal and coldly unemotional.

    Here is what I wrote in the forum:
    Well that’s just disgusting. Both the attack and the punishment. The punishment should fit the crime but this is ridiculous.

    What is the purpose of punishing criminals? In secular law a punishment for a crime is threefold:

    1. Reforming the criminal so that they do not commit criminal acts again.

    2. Protecting society from the criminal.

    3. Providing an example to the criminally inclined as to the likely punishment of similar behaviour.

    Mutilating a criminal does not reform them but it may prevent them from being able to act on their criminal inclinations. Similarly society may be protected from the criminal if they are blinded but this is not as effective a method as incarceration. As for providing an example I suppose there will be some who would be deterred from the commission of a crime by the sight of a mutilated blind man but the punishment seems far too arbitrary for anyone to expect a similar punishment for a crime.

    The totalitarian in me can see the point of this punishment but the humanitarian in me is just revolted by it. Religious law is about tradition and sticking with what has always worked, not about what is most appropriate or what works the best today. There is no mechanism to change the religious law either. Society may move on but the religious law is unmoving. To change it would be a denial of it’s divine origin and those who control the law and the faith don’t want to see that.

  • Aaron

    I want to preface by saying I am a death penalty supporter. I don’t support cruel and unusual punishment, but I think that punishment should fit the crime. There are some crimes where I believe the death penalty is justifiable.

    This poor woman is disfigured and blinded for the rest of her life. I can’t even imagine the pain she must have felt as the acid ate away at her face. It makes me cringe just thinking about it.

    What I can’t get over in my mind is how the criminal gets off so much easier than the victim, not just in this case but in so many cases each and every day. The victim is horribly scarred and suffers for the rest of their life, while the criminal usually spends a few years in jail, gets out, and goes about their lives. This guy will at least get a taste of what he did to this woman. Wether or not you agree with the punishment, I am certain he will never do this again, and maybe it will make someone else think twice about doing it too.

  • Pamela

    I really don’t know the right answer to this. Violence against women, influenced by patriarchy and backed by many peoples’ religious beliefs on a whole has got to stop.

    Do I think he *deserves* acid in his eyes? Yes, I do. It’s not just her sight and her physical appearance he took away. He may very well have taken away her ability to simply thrive. If someone can give some statistics on unmarried women in Iran? How many go hungry if they are not married, etc? How will her life be? Unfortunately, equality of the sexes doesn’t seem to be very important there.

    Do I think it’s a a *just* punishment? No. I do not. I do not think that putting acid in anyone’s eyes helps anyone else. I do think he should be in prison until his natural death, though.

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com/ Transplanted Lawyer

    A question to consider when a government is asked to mete out punishment for a crime is whether the method of punishment meets with the society’s ideals. If a society has an ideal of avoiding cruel and unusual punishment, then it’s not just a question of giving the criminal what he deserves — there is no doubt in my mind this guy deserves to get back exactly what he gave.

    So here in the USA, we would not do to the guy either the literal or the scaled-down version of the maiming he gave his victim, because we have a separate ideal of refraining from torture (one that, sadly, we’ve not always lived up to). But I don’t think Iran has any such compunction in either its legal code or its culture. So, it’s acid in the eyes for this guy. And I can’t say as I’m particularly upset about that.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
    – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

    I would agree that this man deserves to suffer as much as his victim has. But no sane, civilized or remotely moral society would ever allow such a thing to be done.

  • Dallas

    I lived in Texas when James Byrd was dragged to death by white supremacists. Some letters to the editor called for the murderers to receive the same cruel treatment that they meted out to Mr. Byrd. However, when civilized people are revolted by a sadistic, brutal act, they cannot in good conscience condone ever repeating that act. Those who stand in judgment must be far more decent and humane than those they judge.

    An act of savagery not only punishes the recipient, but diminishes the humanity of the perpetrator. As Gandi said (and as noodleguy reminds us), “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

  • SarahH

    However, when civilized people are revolted by a sadistic, brutal act, they cannot in good conscience condone ever repeating that act.

    This sums up my position on this issue (also the death penalty and torture) very succinctly.

    A question that’s been raised in the forum thread is whether religious law is dangerously static – set in stone, immune to changes despite the progress of society or the lessons we could learn from the past – and whether that’s playing a part here. Would a secular government, with no authority from the Koran, even consider this option? I think it’s less likely.

  • Shane

    “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

    An eye for an eye only makes those who blind other people blind. It was originally a very progressive policy i.e. the punishment should not exceed the crime.

    It is hard to know where to stand on this. Justice is ultimately what is fair or equitable to all parties. Is it fair to just splash acid in someone’s face and get a few months in jail? She is blind and scarred for life… Is that “equitable” to all parties?

    I’m kind of having trouble thinking of a reason why this guy doesn’t deserve a quick and humane death because ultimately we don’t need people in society who think it is alright to splash acid in other people’s faces.

  • http://mylongapostasy.blogspot.com ATL-Apostate

    If the state put him to death, he would definitely never harm another woman again.

  • stephanie

    I think justice would be sentencing the man to support her and pay for all rehabilitation and pain meds and really anything she might want for the rest of her life without ever being able to go near her again. But there’s no real theater to that, so I’m sure it wouldn’t fly.

  • Polly

    Just what is justice?

    If a murderer was guaranteed never to commit another crime ever again and his release would in no way influence anyone else, would releasing him be a violation of justice? If so, then what’s the difference between justice and revenge?

    The justice we all talk about and know isn’t purely pragmatic, though punishment has the deterrent aspect to it, there is a certain amount of eye-for-eye thinking involved.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    I’m kind of having trouble thinking of a reason why this guy doesn’t deserve a quick and humane death because ultimately we don’t need people in society who think it is alright to splash acid in other people’s faces.

    Amen. I’m against the death penalty but not for the “standard” reasons. The only reasons I am against is are a) sometimes mistakes are made and innocents are killed and b) it’s too expensive to go through the appeal process, cheaper to keep the guilty party in jail for life w/o parole. If it was not so expensive and the error factor was eliminated, I have no problem humanely killing rapists, murderers, and anyone who commits horrible violent crimes, especially if the victims are children.

    I agree that we don’t need people in society who think it’s all right to splash acid in other people’s faces. And I could make a list of other things as well. And we sure as hell don’t want these people reproducing or raising children.

  • Norm

    I don’t know if anyone else read Nicholas Kristof’s column in the Sunday NYT, but in it he talked about a woman in Pakistan who suffered the same kind of disfigurement. Unfortunately the man who did it was never caught, and this sort of crime is widespread in that area of the word. Thus to me the fact that the Iranian victim is even seeing justice, however barbaric, done at all in her case is a relative plus. It is ironic that the most openly theocratic regime in the region is also the best at protecting womens’ rights, at least compared with its Muslim majority neighbors.

  • http://www.runicfire.net ansuzmannaz

    Given that this is, essentially, a hate crime (or a love crime—even more warped!) he should be locked up until he drops dead at least. I don’t know about dripping acid in his eyes… the part of me that partakes in shadenfreude likes that part, but legally it would have disastrous consequences.

  • lynn

    I think that if you take away a right (in this case sight is a right, since she was born with it) from someone else, you don’t deserve to have it yourself.

    I don’t have a problem with eye-for-an-eye; as someone mentioned above, it only makes those blind who blind others.

    I don’t like prison. It’s too easy for people who aren’t going to spend time in jail to say that a given length of time isn’t long enough for whatever crime. You don’t hear a lot of people complain that a sentence for any crime is too long, unless they’re talking about drugs, and even then only if they’re for legalization.

  • Jen

    I am against the death penalty. Generally, I would be against something like this, but when I think of how terrified I would be to be a woman in that society, where men who throw acid don’t suffer. I would want to hurt him. I do want him to be hurt. What a creep.

  • ThatOtherGuy

    I say seize everything he owns and all his funds, sell everything, and use that money (and perhaps some additional) to get that woman facial reconstruction surgery so she can be seen in public without causing gasps. Then toss the bastard in jail for the rest of his life.

  • Marsha

    I can’t agree with blinding him – it might feel good and just in a revenge-ish way – but how does that help her situation? Plus that revenge is short-term and after a little while that feeling is empty.

    If I could be judge and jury and case-worker I would like to force this man make her life easier by having to pay all his earnings to her, yet never ever be allowed to be with her or other women, and have to live in jail except for working to make money for her. Her sentence is a lifetime… so would his, if it were up to me. No freedom, ever.

  • http://www.hackification.com/ Stu Smith

    OK, I have no sources for this, just a vaguely remembered fact.

    I once heard that the origin of the “eye for an eye” idea wasn’t a suggested punishment: it was a maximum.

    See, the normal (and definitely not the best) response to something like this is for the victim’s family to go and brutalise the perpetrator, along with maybe members of his family. Then in turn, the perp’s family retaliate, and it leads to ever-increasing violence.

    The idea of an eye for an eye was simply to stop the cycle of violence. If the victim (or victim’s family) were satisfied with a more “normal” punishment (such as incarceration) then so much the better.

    If however the victim did retaliate in a similar manner then the matter would end: no punishment for the victim for the retaliation, and no scope for retaliation-in-kind from the other clan.

  • Oli

    The guy blinded a woman because he wanted her ugly so her husband would leave her and he could have her? Now i don’t know about you but it seems to me that this man is um….crazy.

    Are we to believe that maiming mentally ill people is a good method of punishment? I think not.

    He is dangerous and he has blinded and maimed that woman for no good reason. He deserves a stiff sentence, but not maiming. Prison, preferably a psychiatric prison would be best. An interderminate sentence (not sure if you have those in the states or in Iran where this chap is) so that he can be monitored and not released until he has a) served his time and b) is safe to release.

    The downside with capital punishment is that human courts are fallible and people do get wrongfully convicted. You need one rule for everyone. No innocent person should be maimed/killed for a crime they didn’t commit. Prison is a better option for serious offenders.

    Iran, it has to be said isn’t exactly progressive though. I recall a case a few years back where a pair of young lads were hung for being gay. Utterly sick.

    Iran has so much potential, if only they could get rid of the bloody mullahs.

  • Spork

    Given the very short shrift arab women get in life, I think this is a very creepy and odd step in the right direction.

    Hey, at least she isn’t being stoned to death for having the gall to go and get raped…

  • Steven

    Although it might be emotionally satisfying to apply a “just punishment” I can’t see any good coming from it. A blind, mentally ill criminal simply becomes a burden to the state for decades. Perhaps a more useful course would be to find the most disgusting, demanding, yet necessary task available and sentence him to do that until he expires – many years from now. That would give him plenty of time to reflect on his crime, provide a useful service, and punish him as well.
    The only downside is that it takes a job away from a lawful citizen.
    Another option, though I’m not sure I’d have the stomach for it, would be to end his life and give the victim all the money it would have cost to keep him incarcerated. It is a strange world in which violent criminals sleep warm and full while children go to bed cold and hungry.

  • Vystrix Nexoth

    If it were possible, with current medical technology, to restore her vision (at his expense, of course), then I would be opposed to inflicting either blindness or death on him.

  • Don Pope

    I only oppose the death penalty because I don’t believe a notoriously imperfect judicial system should have the power to kill.

    However, as an atheist, I don’t believe in any absolute sanctity of life. There are people in this world who definitely deserve death (or worse).

    If we had an infallible justice system I would be all for the death penalty, or for more fitting punishments, like the one in this article.

  • http://elisverse.wordpress.com/ Elis

    I’m against the death penalty and against blinding the accused as punishment. No matter the crime, choosing strange punishment like this tells more about ills the society struggles with, more than it tells you about the criminal. Looking at the woman’s face, I must admit my reaction of anger, I want the most severe punishment imaginable, but what good will that do if you honestly think about it? Will this prevent another similar crime? Will it cure the victim? Of course not, so basically all you get is a temporary satisfaction from revenge. If this demonstrates anything, it’s societies incompetence in preventing crime in the first place and they try to hide the incompetence by handing out outrages punishment.

    I can’t think of an appropriate punishment, I have no sympathy for the criminal if he does indeed get blinded. But for the good of humanity, I think it’s best he is forced to pay the victim major compensation and serve a moderate prison sentence.

  • Flonkbob

    Wow. I’m interested in the fact that so many people instantly recognize this as revenge…and are against it. I don’t think revenge is always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a requirement for Justice. How can you possibly do justice for what happened to this woman? Just revenge, meted out quickly.

    I wouldn’t care at all about the ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment if he did this to my wife. I would applaud punishment in kind, and would deal with it myself if I had to.

  • humanist

    “I feel like I could be convinced otherwise.”

    Then you aren’t sane.

  • Kerrie

    This punishment might actually be a deterrent for others. Men in Islamic societies hurt women all the time and go unpunished while women get stoned to death for getting raped.

    This acid crap is not that uncommon either. Others might think twice if they might have to feel the pain they inflicted on others.

    When MEN have to really suffer under sharia law, they might rethink sharia law all together.

    Guys who find this abhorrent…. Where the hell have you been all of those years when women have been treated so horribly? Pre 9/11, no one cared about the women living under the Taliban. Footage of beheadings on soccer fields was available, but no one was interested. Even after 9/11, it took Bush FOREVER to even mention the women living under the Taliban. How about speaking out for women for a change? How about getting angry at what is happening to the women in the Congo? How about realizing that by having millions of women being mistreated worldwide, we are all diminished.

    I feel like men have really failed women in this society. I hope things will change very soon. I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to be outraged and speak out against violence towards others. Why do so many people ignore it when it is just happening to women??

  • humanist

    “when civilized people are revolted by a sadistic, brutal act, they cannot in good conscience condone ever repeating that act”

    Indeed. But then the conclusion must be that very few people are civilized, very few people are revolted by sadistic, brutal acts, and/or very few people are of good conscience.

    I myself am revolted by how many people here nonchalantly justify putting acid in Majid Movahedi’s eyes. Someone said that we don’t need people in society who think it’s ok to splash acid in other people’s faces. I agree, and that goes for all who justify maiming Movahedi. Which doesn’t mean we should jail or kill them, it means we should educate them.

    Someone said in regard to “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” that it only blinds those who blinds others, but that woefully misses the point — the revenge-takers become victims of revenge in return.

    For some sanity about justice and punishment, see naturalism.org

  • Scotty

    I find it really interesting that people don’t consider being locked away in a deep dark pit cruel or unusual punishment or revenge. Imprisonment seems to have some kind of social immunity from liberal criticism. It seems to me that punishment is always revenge.

    On the other hand, there is the matter of deterrent.

    If the world operated on an eye for eye basis, then it seems the whole world would go blind only if half the people committed eye gouging crimes.

    On another note: I’d have to agree with Don Pope. I suppose the only real reason that I’m against the death penalty is because of the possibility of incorrect convictions.

  • humanist

    “we have a separate ideal of refraining from torture (one that, sadly, we’ve not always lived up to). But I don’t think Iran has any such compunction in either its legal code or its culture. So, it’s acid in the eyes for this guy. And I can’t say as I’m particularly upset about that.”

    It’s not much of an “ideal” when you’re fine with it being violated. This is the route to “extraordinary rendition”.

  • humanist

    “Aren’t all punishments imposed in response to a crime, including those imposed by the government, tantamount to revenge? That is, isn’t putting someone away “for the rest of his life” a way of avenging the crime?”

    Uh, no. If that were so, there would be no parole boards. The stated reasons for state punishment are protection of society from criminals and deterence.

  • http://magnificogiganticus.blogspot.com/ Magnifico Giganticus

    “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” – Fedor Dostoevsky

    In my life, I have changed my mind. Reasoning side to side, with two or three major shifts, until I met Bertrand Russell and, to a lesser extent, Dostoevsky. It is easy to understand that a)punishment and b)revenge are empty actions insofar as they cannot make it so that the violation of a person’s negative liberty never happened. Those actions would be pointless (at best) and for that reason alone they are worth leaving undone. If rehabilitation (what I have come to think would be the most constructive in the stead of options a and b when it can be done) is to also be left undone, which is to my knowledge the universal on Earth, then rendering the offender incapable of offending by imprisonment is the only meaningful option. Worse though than the pointlessness of a and b is what it is indicative of in the person or society that would carry out such actions. I need not go on about that, or in any case I won’t here. “Ignorance” and “viscera” should be words enough. I know they’re easy to say when you haven’t been violated with acid but as a species we will never move on if we do not abandon them.

  • humanist

    the punishment is not “cruel” because it appears to be less harmful than that caused by the criminal act

    I guess those quote marks give “cruel” a totally different meaning from its normal one. In normal parlance, putting acid in someone’s eyes is cruel, period — regardless of whether it is less harmful than something that person did to someone else.

    The punishment is also not “unusual” because it is extremely similar to the crime and the caused harm.

    More magic quotes. That one eclipse is extremely similar to another doesn’t mean they aren’t unusual.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ hoverFrog

    What purpose does revenge serve? The purpose of revenge is to hurt the others to achieve the satisfaction of getting even after they have hurt us. Except that we don’t really achieve that satisfaction, nothing is put right by an act of vengeance. Indeed revenge compounds a wrong with another wrong and provokes others to seek revenge against us.

  • humanist

    But when I hear of crimes like this or of people doing really horrific things to children, I can’t help but thinking that they really do deserve to suffer horribly. Locking them up in a clean cell with three meals a day is not bad enough treatment. I don’t want to feel this way about it, but I can’t help it.

    Yes, actually, you can. That you don’t “help it” is because you do want to feel that way — you get a rush out of the thrill of retribution and imagined harm — the fantasy makes you feel powerful and superior and feeds your inner savage beast. The first step to “help it” is to be honestly introspective.

  • Scotty

    I find it difficult to believe that there is no real satisfaction from revenge. It may not restore life to its original state, but usually people feel some amount of solace in knowing that their enemy has been punished for what they have done.

    How would you punish somebody who is guilty of imprisoning an innocent in their house for years or longer? Would it then be imprudent to punish that person by locking him away? Hm…

  • Eric

    As a ‘liberal atheist’ I find myself at odds with a lot of people in threads like this.
    All justice at some level is revenge. Many people somehow compartmentalize the two. I don’t see how.
    How is throwing someone in a 6×6 box the rest of their life not revenge?
    That it’s considered punishment on any level implies society is avenging a wrong.

    Regarding the death penalty. How is it cruel or unusual? Neither adjective makes sense. Death is just desserts the world over for colossal stupidity – and particularly of intentional stupidity. A man playing chicken with a locomotive or a man shooting up a school – both deserve death. There’s no cruelty in it, nor is it unusual.

    And drop the, it’s state-sanctioned “murder” argument. It too is misplaced.
    Capital punishment is state-sanction killing, not murder.
    Murder is a specific socially/legally defined form of killing. Not all killing is murder. But all murder is killing.
    Other types of killing that aren’t (generally) murder: in self defense, euthanasia, oops-I-shot-my-friend-while-hunting, falling asleep at the wheel then plowing into a brick wall killing your passengers, accidentally running a red light and nailing a nun, etc ad infinitum.

    As some folks have noted “an eye for an eye” was originally a progressive concept in that the punishment should fit the crime (and not be excessive). And in that context I agree with it.

    Additionally, the quote attributed to Ghandi about “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” is simply not true. It’s an emotional plea, and at some level a great ideal. But that doesn’t make it useful or true.

    To me, in the story about the acid thrower, the punishment is fitting. Not for the crime of throwing acid, but for the underlying arrogance and willingness that somehow justifies it. Throwing acid was the vehicle of violence, the hate/fear/arrogance underneath is the true crime.

  • Drew

    Great question.

    Can guilt be established without doubt? In this case it can. And therefore in this case, I do not think blinding this man is as bad as “eye for an eye” would be in other situations.

    That said, would such a sentence help this woman, help this society, or give justice? If I were dictator for a day I would not blind this man – I would garnish a portion of his wages for this woman, for as long as he lives, and make him perform manditory community service for women’s charities (if they exist in Muslim societies). Of course, that presumes a society affluent enough to pay for such administration and policing.

    I realise that I am out of step with many or most humanists on this, but I do think there are cases where a death penalty is warranted, or where a physical punishment like this is not morally wrong.

    However, what always makes me say “yes, but . . .” are those people with life sentences who have recently been set free by modern science (ie DNA tests). Sometimes we get verdicts wrong. And that, perhaps, is the best argument against irreversible penalties.

    This is truly a question which the humanist is much better equipped to ponder than the dogmatic theist, though.

  • Kerrie

    Humanist says:

    “I myself am revolted by how many people here nonchalantly justify putting acid in Majid Movahedi’s eyes. Someone said that we don’t need people in society who think it’s ok to splash acid in other people’s faces. I agree, and that goes for all who justify maiming Movahedi. Which doesn’t mean we should jail or kill them, it means we should educate them.”

    How do you propose we educate this man? He has been raised in a society where women’s value is their chastity. The misogyny is ingrained in these men. I don’t think we can sit him down in a “Why You Shouldn’t Melt Women’s Faces Off By Throwing Acid On Them: They won’t necessarily love you for it” class and expect a changed man.

    An example needs to be made of this man. Men don’t give up their unearned exalted position in society voluntarily. Women have been voting in this country for less than 100 years. The movement started in 1848. When men decided to give women the right to vote it was 1920. It took 72 years for men to do the right thing, and yet you think these men can just be educated?

    Sharia law is a problem and their misogynistic society is a problem. I think the only way men might actually THINK before doing something so terrible is to show that there are consequences.

    Nonviolence isn’t happening in Iran anytime soon. Until sharia law and religion stop ruling their country, this will continue. I just want to make sure that other men hear that torturing women can lead to their own demise. It doesn’t make us evil. His torture might possibly prevent others from experiencing it. It’s all very ugly, but that’s the way religious societies function.

  • Awesomesauce

    Kerrie,

    Read humanist’s post again. S/he wasn’t proposing to educate this man. He/she said that we should educate the people who think it’s ok to melt the man’s face.

  • http://magnificogiganticus.blogspot.com/ Magnifico Giganticus

    Kerrie Says:

    How do you propose we educate this man? He has been raised in a society where women’s value is their chastity. The misogyny is ingrained in these men. I don’t think we can sit him down in a “Why You Shouldn’t Melt Women’s Faces Off By Throwing Acid On Them: They won’t necessarily love you for it” class and expect a changed man.

    An example needs to be made of this man. Men don’t give up their unearned exalted position in society voluntarily. Women have been voting in this country for less than 100 years. The movement started in 1848. When men decided to give women the right to vote it was 1920. It took 72 years for men to do the right thing, and yet you think these men can just be educated?

    Sharia law is a problem and their misogynistic society is a problem. I think the only way men might actually THINK before doing something so terrible is to show that there are consequences.

    Nonviolence isn’t happening in Iran anytime soon. Until sharia law and religion stop ruling their country, this will continue. I just want to make sure that other men hear that torturing women can lead to their own demise. It doesn’t make us evil. His torture might possibly prevent others from experiencing it. It’s all very ugly, but that’s the way religious societies function.

    I mean no offense but I think you aren’t taking a long enough look. (To be fair, maybe I’m looking unrealistically far and thinking too idealistically!) It is indeed unlikely that this man could be changed meaningfully. But the effort should ideally be made.

    One, even if his behavior cannot be altered such that it would become less likely that he would offend again, we could learn from him what could be done in the future preventatively. This would be the general approach toward all violations of others’ liberty.

    Two, even though I’m pretty sure we know in this case what largely must be done to eliminate this kind of behavior, it will take time. A lot of time in even the most promising of environments I would say.

    Three, deterrence does not work. If it did then this wouldn’t be the world we had made for ourselves. I think it is safe to say that there has been an unknowable number of instances over time from which a would-be offender might draw pause.

    Four, I think that until we STOP thinking in terms of “punishment” and start looking at our societal problems scientifically, then we will be condemned to just keep remaking the same barbaric world we have been remaking for ourselves in all our time. It is all very ugly. Most ugly perhaps is that there will inevitably be victims who will suffer for no discernible reason and for whom there will be no recompense of any kind. It is a harsh truth that until we become determined to change our world and then have actually done it, there will be these people. I have to think that this idealistic future is made less likely every time we indulge ourselves in any but the most dispassionate and scientific of attempts to make it happen. In other words: Pouring acid into the eyes of another human being is not going to be the kind of thing that goes on in a world that has any promise of becoming enlightened.

  • MMM

    True justice would be to remove his eyes and give them to her, although this is not technically feasible. A man has ruined someone’s eyes and face. What is just? Maybe justice and revenge would seem less clear cut for many people if justice for her and justice for society were considered separately?

  • Paul

    I may differ from some of the so-called liberals, but I do believe that there is such a thing as an eye for an eye. If the account on this site is accurate and the woman had been blinded and disfigured as the photo, if it is accurate, indicates, then yes, I think that it is acceptable punishment and retribution for the blinder to be blinded in turn. Retribution and punishment seem to be be in bad odor among some liberals, but to me in some circumstances they are ethically acceptable.

  • Ed Oleen

    My take is that I am surprised – shocked to the core – that a Sharia court first of all allowed the woman to press charges against a man, and secondly found that a woman had been harmed. I furthermore find it absolutely amazing that they actually proposed to punish the man responsible.

    Sharia law is a sick joke, of course. It is a remnant of the dark ages which should be found only in history books and discussed only in works on deviant social behavior.

    It certainly has no place in enlightened society.

    That said, I am, as I explained above that they took the case and didn’t find the woman guilty of some sin against the man. Maybe there is some faint glimmer of hope for the Mullahs after all.

  • foot152

    This is the modern age, take his possessions and surgically his eye sight (humanely,of course) with the promise that when technology advances enough to restore her face and sight he can apply to have his restored. Maybe even have his vision restored 1 day every 5 years or so to remind him what he is missing.

  • crabbyjim

    I don’t believe in cruel and unusual punishment, nor extended imprisonment. Unless he could undo the damage he has done, I would simply kill him – and the world would be a better place for it.

  • http://flickr.com/groups/islam Husna

    Ok, I’m a bit late to the party, but I can’t believe the ignorance on display here.

    “community service for women’s charities (if they exist in Muslim societies)”

    There are tons of women’s charities in the Muslim world, and there always have been. The greatest universities in the Muslim world, in Egypt, Syria, Morocco, etc. were all founded by Muslim women’s organizations.

    Also, Iran is not a horribly misogynistic place. Over 50% of university graduates are women, and they generally don’t have problems making a living when single. It’s not perfect of course, but remember the nation-state is really only 30 years old and is still evolving rapidly.

    Muslim societies have already produced 7 or 8 female heads of state. The United States has yet to produce a single one. Go listen to Krista Tippett’s NPR interview with Leila Ahmed on iTunes.

    “Would a secular government, with no authority from the Koran, even consider this option? I think it’s less likely.”

    Without a believe in Absolute Truth, there is really no limit whatsoever. Look at China, totally atheistic. They put people in prison for political ‘crimes’ and harvest their organs to save other people’s lives. An atheist can not prove they are wrong to do so.


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