arson, terrorism, burning, torture

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Posted by Brett Zamir ( on July 06, 2002 at 11:23:26:

Sorry, I know, not a very appealing title (but it got your attention apparently).

In the wake of 9/11, there has been an unprecedented interest in the U.S. in permitting the use of torture.

While the Baha'i Writings and Institutions would (and do) certainly condemn such basic violation of human rights, and the discussion often revolves around the need to extort further information, it also, I think, raises the issue of whether the legitimate outrage at such vile acts is being met by ample punishment from the legal system.

The Baha'i International Community (?), in responding to why Baha'is do not join Amnesty International because of supporting the right of a society to have the death penalty (though obviously with justice, equity, and other caveats, and I think I even remember reading 'Abdu'l-Baha implying that certain European societies were enlightened in discussing abolishing it, though I cannot find this now), might have added further support to such concerns by stating "Appeals for the humanitarian treatment of human error and for patience with the process will ultimately prove effective only to the degree that confidence in this moral order is secure. That, for growing numbers of people in many Western lands, this confidence is being gravely eroded by a prevailing philosophical attitude that places an ultimate and unconditioned value on the individual rights of the criminal seems, alas, all too clear." ( )

Of course in the case of suicide bombers who succeed in their quest this desire of society's members for just punishment (or deterrence) is a moot point. But as to those would-be killers who are perhaps more fearful of killing themselves in a suicide but who are willing to plan the deaths of others (or even those would-be bombers who might fear the consequences of failing in their suicide bombing), there is the following to consider.

Baha'u'llah states, in the Kitab-i-Aqdas:

"Should anyone intentionally destroy a house by fire, him also shall ye burn; should anyone deliberately take another's life, him also shall ye put to death. Take ye hold of the precepts of God with all your strength and power, and abandon the ways of the ignorant." (paragraph 62, on-line at )

For the notes which clarify this, see note 86 on-line at .

Though its application has not been elaborated (and probably will not be for quite a while), I was wondering whether others thought it might be worthwhile to consider the applicability of this principle of burning alive indiscriminate murderers to the question of terrorism. With such a horrible death awaiting them, it may, as the harsher laws of the Islamic Dispensation demonstrated, have a large effect in deterring the crimes as well as appeasing society (though again, vengeance is not to be the motivation).

best wishes to you,

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