Who knew there would be a day where I would be more sympathetic to a jihadist than an American citizen? Well, my friends, that day has arrived as hell has literally been handed to me in a hand-basket!
Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, a member of a jihadist group linked to Al Queda, has been sentenced to 9-11 years for destroying Muslim shrines in Timbuktu, Mali. Ahmad, who was born in 1973, was given a sentence that The New York Times describes as "at the low end of the prosecutors’ recommendation" and that "the crime of destroying cultural heritage is punishable by up to 30 years in prison."
Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan's lighter sentence was, reportedly, due to five mitigating factors, which included that he: "admitted his guilt, cooperated with prosecutors, had shown remorse, expressed initial reluctance to carry out the destruction, and stopped the use of bulldozers at all but one of the shrines, limiting the extent of the destruction."
Meanwhile, Brock Turner, the Stanford rapist who drew ire from the entire country when he was given a sentence of six months in prison for raping an unconscious girl in 2015. His father pleaded with the court for a lighter sentence, stating that he didn't want his son's life ruined by this one mistake. Ultimately, Turner only served three months of his six-month sentence. (You can read my detailed commentary on this case in a previous blog from June.)
When I saw the headline of the man destroying the Muslim shrine getting 9-11 years in jail, the Turner Case immediately came to mind. Though I don't condone the destruction of religious shrines and artifacts, the plain fact is that no human beings were maimed or killed while Ahmad carried out his acts. What he did was demolish a building and, while it is sacred ground to Muslims, he was not charged with murder. Brock Turner raped a girl, a physical act on another human being. For that, he was rewarded with a light prison sentence and a possible lecture tour on the dangers of drinking.
In John Galt's speech from the third part of Ayn Rand's monumental novel Atlas Shrugged, he describes Physical Force as follows: "Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate—do you hear me? no man may start—the use of physical force against others." (Source: The Ayn Rand Lexicon.)
Ultimately, the act of using physical force on another human being is more egregious than destroying the brick and stone of a building. Though I understand the gravity of demolishing a sacred building, I don't believe it compares with being raped against your will.
The basic premise of sentencing is the old adage of the punishment fitting the crime. But, how are we supposed to objectively decide a sentence for a specific crime? How could Ahmed, who showed remorse, get a longer sentence that Turner, who showed no genuine remorse greater than that of a toddler whining about getting a time-out after shoving a ham sandwich in his underwear.
Raping a person is negating the consent of a human being to choose what to do with their own body. A building is inanimate, no matter how holy or sacred. A body is animate, containing a rational mind that can make decisions about its use.
Though war crimes are touchy in terms of objective law, there has to be a standard of sentencing that differentiates between using physical force on a man and demolishing a building without permission. I do not want to be a lawyer, just as I don't want to stick my foot into a nest of hornets, but I can still see these cases from a purely objective standpoint.
The ultimate question is this: Is a rape victim less sacred than a building?
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