As the debate over the resumption of hangings rages on, members of the Muslim community yesterday pledged their support for the implementation of the death penalty. Islamic scholar Dr Waffie Mohammed believes "it is impossible to make a case for the abolishment of the death penalty," since it is a "divine" decree in the Qur'an that the punishment for murder is death. Mohammed, addressing a symposium on the Muslim position on the death penalty, at the Markhan-al-Ihsaan Centre for Refinement, Hermitage, San Fernando, said in Sharia or Islamic law when someone was found guilty of murder, that crime was punishable by death in a public place. "There are those who advocate the abolishment of the death penalty, but this should not be so, it is divine...It has been prescribed by Allah," he said.
Justice Minister Herbert Volney, who was present at the symposium, said he was invited to listen to the views of the Markhan-al-Ihsaan members and would take their views back to Cabinet. He admitted that swift justice was a major problem in T&T and likened the criminal justice system to a heart whose arteries were clogged with plaque. "It makes no sense sentencing a man ten or 15 years after the event," Volney said. "For there to be deterrence, for people to feel there has been a sense of justice, the sentence must be carried out, whatever crime, within a short space of time of the commission of the crime.
"There must be a correlation between the carrying out of a sentence and the commission of the crime." This point was echoed by Mohammed who said justice in Islam was "speedy" because in ten years waiting for a trial to begin "witnesses can disappear and evidence can be lost...Islam wants this to be swift, too." Mohammed said the victim's family was allowed to choose the manner of death for the murderer which was either the same death as their relative or being beheaded. Sometimes, he said, the family can forgive the killer and he was not put to death. Mohammed, referring to the recent murder of Central businessman Neeshad Ali, said the punishment must fit the crime.
"When you have a man put on his knees and his throat cut, that punishment must be equal to the crime," he said. While he admitted that some of the punishments under Sharia law may seem cruel, Mohammed said it was "preventative laws." "When capital punishment is inflicted on a criminal, it is always done in public to ensure that others do not commit the same crime," he argued. Mohammed advocated the need for compensation to be a consideration when issuing a sentence.