It is important to understand the spirit of justice before implementing its laws
Richard Rochford, a burglar and a junkie in Britain, acquired his drug habit during one of his several stints in prison. Following his most recent burglary, he was brought before Judge Peter Bowers, who did not send him to prison again, saying that ‘prison very rarely does anyone any good.’ Instead he gave Rochford a drug rehabilitation sentence, ordered him to put in two hundred hours of unpaid work, and disqualified him from driving for one year, in other words punishing and offering an opportunity for Rochford to correct himself.
Judge Bowers’ sentence included the remark that it takes ‘a huge amount of courage as far as I can see for somebody to burgle somebody’s house.’
It would be naïve to expect a judge to get away with these remarks, and he didn’t expect it, because he added that he’d ‘probably be pilloried’ for uttering them, and he was. Public outrage caused an investigation to be set in motion by the Office of the Judicial Commission, and Prime Minister David Cameron himself came on air on a television show to say that he was sure that burglary was a cowardly, rather than a courageous act.
A few days ago, I was fumbling around with an outside door. It was dark, and I was alone and afraid. I realized then that scared as I was of being burgled it must also take a certain amount of guts to burgle a strange house equipped with an unknown number of traps and danger for an intruder. But I prefer to call it guts rather than courage, because courage implies something more positive and pure, such as the force that drives those who lay down their lives to defend their country. The judge used the wrong word. In fact he ought to have refrained from saying any such thing in his judgment. There is a responsibility placed on the shoulders of public servants whose words and actions are heard and often acted upon by the public (highlighting the importance of gagging persons such as our Interior Minister who has a penchant for making foolish and harmful statements at every opportunity).
The negative aspects of prison are obvious, but if it can be considered unjust in Britain where the state looks after its underprivileged citizens by means of child care and unemployment support, how much more so in this country where the state provides all of nothing at all?
In this country, crimes are commonly committed because of sheer callousness and malevolence, but much more often due to sheer desperation and genuine need. The imams of many mosques in their daily rants teach members of their congregation to hate, and instigate violence. If reports are accurate, the culprit and the actual blasphemer under the anti-blasphemy law in the Rimsha case for example, is now allegedly the imam of the mosque, and maybe also another ‘religious’ leader the imam supposedly took orders from, who appears to have had an interest in the piece of land that the Christian community occupied. In this particular case in fact, many persons are guilty, including the ineffectual police of the area, the unauthorized person who registered the FIR, the neighbours who threatened the Christian community, etc, etc. There can surely be no alternative to punishment (prison or more), for such people. The same goes for persons in other positions of trust who use their rank to snatch at greater wealth and benefits, for no reason beyond a love of power.
For the common man on the other hand, even the basic necessities of life are an unattainable luxury, nor can he better himself unless a wealthy patron supports him. Who is to blame if such a person commits a robbery?
It is an act of bravery to try to feed one’s children against insurmountable odds. And then to be cast into prison, leaving the remaining family even more helpless; even more likely to resort to similar acts of desperation, where is the justice in that?
If Pakistan, as an aspiring Muslim state, is to implement Islamic law and system of justice, it must first learn to understand the spirit of the justice and its laws without which the punishments prescribed by Islam cannot and must not apply. I beg to differ from those who persist in calling Europe ‘kafir’. It may once have been, but it no longer is. Sadly, justice is far more likely to be applied in countries which do not call themselves Islamic. Ironically so, because that is the last label that they would choose to apply to themselves.
The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at http://rabia-ahmed.blogspot.com/