A young couple were stoned to death last week in northern Afghanistan for trying to elope, in a sign of the Taliban's resurgence, says the New York Times. Last month, an international campaign rose up in defense of an Iranian woman who had been sentenced to death by stoning on adultery charges. The stoning of adulterers was once aimed at preventing illegitimate births that might muddy the male tribal bloodlines of medieval Arabia. Now it is happening in a world where more women demand reproductive freedoms, equal pay, and equal status with men – in parts of the Islamic world as well as throughout the West.
Some Muslims complain that stoning – along with other traditional penalties like whipping and the amputation of hands – is sensationalized in the West to smear the reputation of Islam. Most of these severe punishments are carried out by the Taliban and other radicals who, many Islamic scholars say, have little real knowledge of Islamic law. In Afghanistan, stoning seems to be on the rise, despite its unpopularity. “You do see an increase in these so-called applications of justice by the Taliban in morality cases,” said Nader Nadery of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. “Over the last seven months, 200 people have been killed for showing disapproval or criticizing actions by the Taliban.”