All over Saudi Arabia, Twitter users have voiced their outrage to a sentence, which was presented to Fayhan al-Ghamdi for the torture and murder of his 5-year old daughter, Lama. Although the country of Saudi Arabia has primarily been seen as one that favors the death penalty, al-Ghamdi was sentenced to eight years in prison and 600 lashes. Several social media users have compared the injustice of the sentence provided to the preacher with minimal crimes, which have received almost a similar punishment. Recently, a Saudi activist was convicted and sentenced to almost a similar punishment for violating an anti-cybercrime law. However, just a year ago a Saudi Arabian mother was sentenced to the death penalty for the torture and ultimate death of her seven-year old stepdaughter. Why should this situation be treated any differently?
Unlike the somewhat lenient sentence provided to al-Ghamdi, in the United States most sentences for first degree murder vary between which state the crime occurs in. If a suspect commits a first degree crime in a state such as Florida, the suspect will either be condemned to the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Other states provide sentencing of a first degree murder in two-tiers, depending on the ability of the prosecution to prove that certain factors were present. The first tier offers a range of years up to and including life in prison. Those who fall into the second tier face much graver circumstances. This tier involves the options of either life without possibility of parole or the death penalty.
What do you think the appropriate punishment for a crime such as this should be? Could it be that his sentence was at a lesser degree then others because he is a popular activist who has been seen on many televised shows? Do you think that cultural differences should play a role when it comes to sentencing?
In a largely religious country like Saudi Arabia it can be seen how easily the line between church and state can be blurred in the eyes of justice. Although this may seem like a grossly outrageous sentencing and a slap in the face to an individual that arguably deserves much worse it must also be taken into account the cultural differences between these societies. Not only is Saudi Arabia a patriarchal society it is also as aforementioned very religious therefore justice is easily skewed to further one of the two policies. In a case involving a preacher in the United Kingdom a Muslim preacher who tried to strangle his 16-year old daughter after she refused to enter into an arranged marriage with her cousin avoided jail. The preacher who grabbed the neck of his daughter and said ‘”If you don’t follow my rules I will kill you” was avoided jail time presumably after the cultural differences of the preacher and his “modernized” daughter were taken into consideration. This on its face seems like a terrible precedent that individuals can avoid harsh punishments due to their cultural influences but after all that is an issue to be evaluated on an individual basis.
This story is such a tragedy and I believe Saudi Arabia made the wrong decision in sentencing al-Ghamdi to only eight years. I do not understand the discrepancies between his case and the case of the Saudi Arabian mother who killed her stepdaughter and received the death penalty. While one would assume that the identity of the particular defendant came into play, since al-Ghamdi was a popular activist, I think gender has an effect on the rulings of the Saudi Arabian court. This is a male defendant who killed his female daughter. Unfortunately this ruling will most likely not deter others from committing such a crime.
While I do believe cultural differences among countries should play a role to some degree when it comes to sentencing, I think basing it on gender is wrong. While religious and moral values can be a valid justification for the court’s decisions, when it is so violative to a particular group and not another, there is no fairness in that. Ms. Ibrahim does bring up an interesting point when she distinguishes the death penalty laws of the differing states. In comparing this to the discrepancies of Saudi Arabian law, while not every murderer in the United States is subject to the death penalty, they still receive a relatively harsh sentence.