We in the West think that the punishment was wrong . . . completely and absolutely wrong. But then we believe in something that the Saudis don't and that the Muslim religion disagrees with: women are people in their own right and not the possessions of their husbands, or their fathers, or some other male member of their family if not married. The Muslim world is ruled by the Muslim religion . . . and men.
In the West we also believe in something that the Muslims don't: the principle of individual, or inalienable rights. At least most Western governments, the United States included, give the principle of individual rights lip service. (Quite often what is taught in schools and what the politicians and leaders say is different from what laws they pass and enforce, as we shall see, below.)
The Muslims believe that it is okay for a man, if he can afford it, to have as many as four wives. We believe that is immoral. We believe that it is okay to make, sell, and drink alcoholic beverages. The Muslim religion, and therefore the laws of their governments, such as in Saudi Arabia, believe that is immoral and strictly forbid alcohol, punishing severely anyone caught making it, selling it, or drinking it.
Because I am a product, if you will, of the West, I believe that our tradition of individual rights, when it is actually upheld, is the only logical and correct way for a society to be truly free, with liberty and justice for all. There is a problem, however, as I have indicated. Quite often the principle of individual, or inalienable rights is only given lip service. The so-called war on drugs is an important example of the violation of the rights of otherwise honest citizens by the government.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that there is no definite legal--or socially accepted--definition of what an inalienable right is. That is why I have proposed my own definition:
Any and all non-violent, non-coerced, non-larcenous, consensual adult behavior that does not physically harm others or their property, that is not a direct and immediate threat to others and their property, that does not disturb the peace or create a public nuisance is an inalienable right.
Therefore, if a person grows, sells, or uses, say, marijuana, that is that person's right. The government, of course, has the legitimate power to regulate the growing, selling, and even use . . . to some extent, as it does with alcohol and tobacco. And this right extends to all of the presently illegal drugs, also.
I should not have to remind you that alcohol is a true narcotic drug. It is also the drug that (the mere use of which) causes about 50% of all violent crimes, including murders. And its abuse by pregnant women causes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the greatest cause of retardation in newborns. Yet this drug is legal and marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and so forth, are illegal. Those drugs, combined, the mere use of them, doesn't cause one-tenth the problems that alcohol does. And tobacco is even worse (in terms of premature deaths per year, medical costs, lost work time, and so forth). Yet they are legal.
Well, in Saudi Arabia it is legal for a man to have four wives. It is legal to kill a woman who has committed adultery . . . or even fornication. Several years ago one of the Saudi princesses was caught in a sexual affair with a man. She was not married. She was condemned and publicly beheaded . . . so was her lover. Does that shock and disgust you? It should. But there are people in the United States who have not violated any one's rights either and they are on death row, or serving life in prison, or just serving 20 to 30 years . . . for non-violent, non-coerced, non-larcenous, consensual adult drug behavior. That should shock and disgust you too. It should shock and disgust you that our supposedly free and liberty-loving nation, the people of it, allow the government to pass laws that violate the rights of otherwise honest people.
You don't have to agree that using certain drugs or substances is moral, but to agree to allow the government to put people in prison for using them is immoral also. Vices aren't crimes. The use of "recreational" drugs is a vice; that includes alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, and heroin, among others. If you say that it is right that heroin sellers and users should go to prison, then what about the alcohol and tobacco makers and users, as those two drugs are much, much more harmful to indviduals than the presently illegal ones. And I wish to make it clear that I am talking only about adults, never minors. Besides, under a system of regulated re-legalization it would be harder for minors to obtain the drugs that are now illegal but available nearly everywhere and anywhere by anyone who wants to buy them, adults or minors. .
If we don't have a solid foundation on which to place the principle of inalienable rights (such as my definition), then we are no better than the Saudis and the other religiously-ruled Muslim nations. If a person does not have the right to use his or her body and mind in any way he or she chooses, where such use does not violate the rights of others, even if it brings a person to ruin (as alcohol does to so many), then we are not truly free and do not truly have our liberty. We only have the right to do whatever the government allows us to do. And that is not acceptable to me. I hope with all my heat that it is not acceptable to you either. Remember, America, the so-called land of the free, with only 5% of the world's population, has 25% of the world's imprisoned population. We have over two million people in our prisons and jails, nearly half of whom are there for drug behavior that did not violate the rights of others. That is an outrage and an obscenity . . . but it is legal.
* Two hundred lashes, administered with a proper whip and as they are supposed to be administered, can and, quite often, will kill the recipient of the lashes, especially a 19-year-old woman.