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Harshness of Hudud - Jonathan Brown

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He says a lot of insightful things here on punishment in general and hudud in particular.  A few things in particular stood out (although there is much more that is worthy of reflection)-

1.  Hudud punishments are harsh, and they need to be to function as a deterrent.  As per Bentham, the deterrent effect of any threat of punishment depends on (i) the severity of the punishment, and (ii) the chance of being caught.  It was much easier to get away with a crime 1400 years ago then it is today, so to achieve the same deterrent effect, the severity/harshness of the punishment needed to be greater.  Today, on the other hand, with advances forensics, CCTV, police etc. its harder to get away with crime, so the chance of getting caught is greater.  Therefore to achieve the same level of deterrence, the harshness of the punishment doesn't need to be as high.

2.  Because hudud punishments are harsh, they are deemed to be cruel.  But cruelty is relative to social and cultural norms.  Is being flogged really worse than losing your freedom?  

3.  The costly nature of prisons, and the fact that they have failed at reform.  Criminals are surrounded by other criminals, drug use is rampant, and sexual violence is widespread.

4.  Many modern objections to hudud arent about the punishments themselves, but that acts such as fornication should be regarded as crimes in the first place.

5.  Having said all that, historically many hudud were rarely implemented, eg for sarq and adultery.  This is because of the stringent  criteria required for them to be applicable.  

6.  What is the point of having hudud that are rarely, if ever, implemented?  It's a message to people that certain actions are reprehensible and worthy of severe sanction.  An example would be the threat of £1000 fine for littering -  no one is ever fined this much (perhaps there are 1 or 2 cases, but the point is that it sends a message).

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