A good argument for riding a bicycle

Try as I might to understand things, there are some things that elude my grasp.

What sort of "culture" tolerates heterosexual rape, while executing men who engage in consensual homosexual conduct?

Why, Saudi culture.

John Burgess has a post about what he thinks is a hopelessly misguided effort by influential Saudis to get President Obama to pardon a Saudi man convicted of imprisoning and raping his maid in Colorado. Burgess (an expert on Saudi Arabia) describes the case as "unfathomable" and thinks a presidential pardon is unlikely:

This is a story I find unfathomable. In 2006, Humaidan Al-Turki was found guilty of numerous crimes ranging from sexual assault to false imprisonment of a domestic worker in his employ while he was a student in Colorado. He was found guilty by a jury, not a Star Chamber. He appealed his case to the state Appeals Court and Supreme Court where the verdict was upheld.

Al-Turki, however, has something of a fan club. They asked Pres. George W. Bush to pardon him; Bush did not do so. The group now appeals to Pres. Barak Obama to pardon him. So far, there's no word from the White House, but I doubt that a pardon will be forthcoming.

The question to ask is, 'Why would Barak Obama want to pardon Al-Turki?' There's no indication, beyond his lawyers' assertion, that there was anything untoward about his trial. Presidents don't exercise their pardon power simply because of assertions. [That there are politics involved in pardons is true, but another matter.] The crimes for which Al-Turki was convicted are not petty crimes. They are crimes that particularly offend American sensibilities. Unfortunately, they are also crimes for which Saudis (and Saudi Arabia) has a reputation for both committing and ignoring, however fair that reputation might be.

I find it unfathomable as well, although unlike John Burgess I cannot claim to understand such people. They simply make no sense to me.

Nor did the video:

(Via Saudi Jeans.)

Many convicted criminals have families and friends who love them. The only difference I can see between this man and the vast majority of rapists in American prisons is that he's a Saudi citizen who apparently thought he had the right to rape domestic servants, and whose fellow countrymen likewise see little or nothing wrong with his crime, or else they wouldn't be demanding a pardon.

Even though I realize that morality can be a relative thing, I cannot but see this as yet another piece of evidence that Saudi culture is (at least by American standards) simply a savage and brutal culture. Male rapists are considered deserving of mercy, while consenting adulteresses and consenting homosexuals are tortured and killed. Sorry, I don't get it, and I never will.

I only wish I didn't have to give them money, but I love being able to drive my car.

Such freedom is not without its price.

posted by Eric on 09.22.10 at 10:12 AM


Saudi (that is, Islamic) culture tolerates homosexual rape too. I have heard that most boys in madrassas get raped by the older boys (and in turn rape the younger boys when they get older). This pattern is repeated across the Islamic world. The Taliban issued orders (how well obeyed I don't know) to its commanders to get rid of their boytoys.

Bob Smith   ·  September 22, 2010 11:54 AM

I guess as long as your victim doesn't consent, then you're OK.

Makes perfect sense, right?

Eric Scheie   ·  September 22, 2010 12:04 PM

@Bob Smith: Possibly true in specific cases, but not true in general. Male rape, especially of children, is a capital crime and capital punishment is enforced in the KSA.

John Burgess   ·  September 22, 2010 12:05 PM

"Possibly true in specific cases, but not true in general. Male rape, especially of children, is a capital crime and capital punishment is enforced in the KSA."

Yes, it is true in general, because a capital crime whose evidentiary standard is essentially impossible to meet is no crime at all. Where is a boy who's getting gang-raped by older boys going to get the 4 male witnesses Islamic law requires to press a rape charge? Making the allegation absent said witnesses is a formal admission of homosexual activity, itself a capital crime in Saudi Arabia.

Lest we forget that madrassas are sex segregated, lesbian rape is also a problem among the girls. With the bonus confounding factors that since there are by definition no male witnesses to the crime the perpetrators can't ever be lawfully punished, and the fact that daughters are frequently raped by their fathers in Islamic countries, it is surprising this isn't as universal a phenomenon as it is among the boys.

Bob Smith   ·  September 22, 2010 5:12 PM

Although I agree with the commenters regarding the crime, I wonder how the President of the US could even issue the pardon for a criminal tried in a state court?

My reading of the US Constitution does not lead me to believe that a pardon of this individual is a power granted to the POTUS. Does anyone have any knowledge on whether POTUS has the power to pardon individuals for acts against state lawas?

Michael M   ·  September 22, 2010 6:32 PM

The pardon power is of course limited to federal crimes. Unless this man committed a federal crime, the president lacks jurisdiction to pardon him.

Eric Scheie   ·  September 22, 2010 7:40 PM

@Bob Smith: You're switching horses in the middle of the stream. If you're looking for an apology for the Saudi legal system, you won't find it from me.

You will find, though, that the Saudis are undergoing a major revamp of their legal system, codifying laws and punishments for the first time. This is specifically to get away from the the arbitrary and often capricious power of judges at present.

'Four witnesses' are not necessary, doctrinally, for any crime other than adultery. Since male rape cannot possibly be adultery under Saudi law, it's not germane.

Just to note, too, that father's raping of their daughters is not restricted to Islamic countries. It happens in every country, every culture, and every religion. I've seen no date that suggests that Muslims rape their daughters more frequently than any other group, but I'd be happy to look at your sources.

John Burgess   ·  September 22, 2010 7:58 PM

Were I advising this group of concerned Saudis, I would tell them that their effort is misdirected, and they should be petitioning the governor of Colorado.

Eric Scheie   ·  September 22, 2010 9:04 PM

Leading to an interesting question.

What happens if Obama does pardon him? I mean, Obama doesn't appear to see (or respect) any restrictions on his power, so I could see him doing it.
Especially as he might not even understand that distinction.

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Corinne Lonon   ·  September 28, 2010 9:30 AM

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