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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2552

Indian born flight attendant demands castration of Saudia officials for sexual harassment

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury - Reporting from Dhaka

Dhaka, 10 May, ( the last nearly two decades, Shehnaz Sani (53) has been fighting a running battle against Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA) for justice and her rights. Shehnaz, who was earlier an air-hostess with the Indian Airlines, joined SAA on November 16, 1978. She was awarded merit certificates for her job performance. Shehnaz is married and has two daughters.

According to Shehnaz, Abdul Ellah Bahrani, Saudi national, took charge as Station Manager, SAA, Bombay (India), in January 1983. Although, he was a family man, he sexually harassed her and made lewd remarks and other such totally disgusting and provocative gestures and advances, “which are frowned upon by the strict Islamic code of conduct and, for which, the Shariah has provided for stern action by way of hudood and also Ta’azir’. Shehnaz was 29 years old, and Bahrani around 35, at that time.

Bahrani, according to her, made a habit of making indecent, vulgar, and personal remarks against her and her sex i.e. female. In one instance, for example, according to Shehnaz, around the end of 1983, Bahrani asked her point-blank as to what was the method used by her husband and her, for family planning! Bahrani “began harassing and traumatizing her in her day-to-day working by assigning difficult tasks and issuing unjust memos so that she would submit to his dictates and immoral desires and requests. Although, Shehnaz had made it very clear to Bahrani that his indecent proposals, that she have a sexual relationship with him, even though she was a married woman with two daughters and he too was a married man with children and a family, thoroughly disgusted her and “was sinfully immoral”, he had the audacity to telephone Sani at her residence at around midnight and asked her to come to his residence right away ‘to discuss her promotion issue.

More poignantly, he said he was alone!” When Shehnaz complained to her superiors about Bahrani’s sexual overtures, her services were promptly terminated! Shehnaz lodged a petition in the Labor Courts at Mumbai (India) against SAA, who, after a lengthy Trial, directed SAA to reinstate her and pay her, her back-wages. Instead of doing so, SAA petitioned the Bombay High Court - which passed strictures by its order of February 1999 against them and even saddled them with INR 10,000 (US$ 250) as costs to be paid to Shehnaz! That Shehnaz has been sexually harassed by Bahrani and traumatized by Executives of SAA stood proved in the Courts beyond a shadow of doubt.

The Bombay High Court was of the firm view that “the employers cannot be asked to go in for a golden hand-shake and deny her the relief of reinstatement”. But instead of honoring the Court’s Orders, Mr. Saud J. Al-Jalak, the then Manager of SAA, Bombay, (India) by his Memo dated March 3, 1999 immediately transferred Shehnaz to Chennai (Madras) with immediate effect though there was no “transfer policy” for local appointments - knowing fully well that it would not be possible for her to adhere to such an unjust direction which reeked of vendetta, vengeance and was absolutely unwholesome in whichever way one could look at, in terms of equity.”

Shehnaz has scored many times against the powerful SAA, in a truly David versus Goliath manner, in battles fought out in the Bombay High Court, which has, time and again, given directions to them not to continue with their pogrom against her. These orders have been flaunted with disdain and contempt by the SAA and its executives concerned, “who have no respect whatsoever for the judiciary of their host country (India)”.

Shehnaz has made history taking on the might of the SAA – by and securing a reinstatement order. But hers is a Pyrrhic victory! According to Shehnaz, the SAA and its executives have traumatized and harassed her and since her reinstatement they have not even paid her dues or wages for most periods “which amounts to snatching the bread from her mouth and committing larceny.”

“But my beliefs in the hadiths of Prophet Mohammed (PUBH), and the Holy Quran, not only brought me some solace but also strengthened my voice against such tyranny, which is the focal point of the Muslim religion and beliefs”, emoted Shehnaz.

At her tether’s end, Shehnaz has lodged a complaint recently on April 21, with Dr. Saleh Bin-Humaid, President & Chief Judge of the Shariah Council at Jeddah (KSA), against Abdul Ellah Bahrani, Saud H. Al-Jalak, Moshin M Algarni, Saad A. Moogaddam, Maher A Shukri, Fahaad A. Baghdadi and others, of the Saudi Arabian Airlines, which has its Head Quarters at Jeddah (KSA).

In her detailed Petition, with documents annexed to it as evidence supporting her contentions, she has extensively quoted from the Holy Quran as well as Sunnah andhadith (traditions) of Prophet Mohammed. She has also reflected at considerable length on the Shariah, hudud and ta’azi crimes, as well as Major Sins which are taboo in Islam, committed with impunity, by her oppressors. Shehnaz has charged Bahrani and others named in her complaint, with having committed hudud and ‘ta’azir’ crimes against her, including theft, slander, oppression and betrayal of trust.

She has sought for Bahrani to be castrated for sexually harassing her. Bahrani’s shameful acts have stood proved in the Trial Courts and have been confirmed by the Bombay High Court.

Shehnaz has also demanded that the right hands be cut off at the wrists and the left feet at the ankles, as well as 80 lashes be given to the six persons named in her complaint, who are all Muslims, citizens of KSA and executives of the Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Since, Bahrani admitted to being intoxicated when he made sexual overtures to Shehnaz, which four of his own persons produced in the Court as witnesses also confirmed, Shehnaz has sought 40 additional stripes to be given to him for having committed this hudud offence as well. “The evidence is irrefutable and largely documentary. The charges leveled have stood proved. Although, the Courts which have passed their orders against the Saudi Arabian Airlines, Bahrani and others, are not from Dar-al-Islam (abode of Islam i.e. an Islamic Country) the evidence, cannot be one in one Court and another in some other Court”, said Shehnaz, who has sent a copy of her complaint to His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud. Instead of chastising the main offender, Mr. Abdul Ellah Bahrani, the SAA Executives have protected him and they must all be severally held guilty of that same offence as having colluded with him.

Advocate Amit Kumar Bhowmik, has also forwarded copy of her complaint to H.E. Dr. Khaled A. Ben Bakr, Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines under Shehnaz’ instructions. Bhowmik has made a deep study (of translation to English) of the Shariah, which he contends “is the only truly justice-oriented legal system, which practices what it preaches, without fear or favour”.

In his covering letter to Dr. Khaled Ben Bakr, Bhowmik said “I am inspired by the Holy Quran and the Sunnah, which have been a guide to me all through my life. Taking a cue from Prophet Mohammed’s hadith: ‘Acquire knowledge. It enables its possessor to distinguish right from wrong; it lights the way to Heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our Society in solitude, our companion when friendless; it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an ornament among friends and an armor against enemies’, as well as the directive : ‘The best ‘jihad’ is to say a just word in the face of injustice and before a tyrannical authority’. I have taken up the cause of Ms. Shehnaz Sani, as her champion in her quest for justice”.

Muslims the world over largely prefer settling their disputes through their personal law, which is the civil jurisdiction of the Shariah. The Shariah (or Shoura) is an Arabic word meaning “the Path to be followed”. Literally, it means, the way to a watering place. It is the Path not only leading to Allah, the Most High, but the Path believed by all Muslims to be the Path shown by Allah, the Creator Himself through his Messenger, Prophet Mohammed. Allah alone is the Sovereign and it is He who has the right to ordain a Path for the guidance of mankind, all Muslims believe. Its sources are the Holy Quran and the Sunnah which are the hadiths (traditions) of Prophet Mohammed. The Chapters dealing with the Criminal Laws in the Shariah are invoked by only some Islamic countries like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Afghanistan and Iran. The penalties often are very severe. This is because Islam is fully focused on maintaining the fabric of Society and individual rights. Whoredom, larceny (theft), slander of chaste women and such acts invite deterrent, retributive and exemplary punishments. Unless effectively checked, such offences committed will, like a cancer, eat into the very core of Society and destroy it completely. Morality, brotherhood, charity and faith are the four corner stones of Islam.

Hudud and ta’azi’ crimes are concerns of the Shariah. Hudud punishments are ordained by Allah (God) and must mandatorily be carried out against those committing the seven listed crimes i.e. The crimes affecting social existence comprise offences liable to Hudud (punishment ordained by Allah). They are :

Adultery or Fornication, imputation of adultery, larceny, drinking of alcohol, shading of blood, apostasy and rebellion.

Hadd punishments are awarded in the following seven cases:

Penalties exacted for committing murder, manslaughter or bodily harm,

Punishment for theft by amputation of a hand; a foot also for a second offence,

Punishment for fornication or adulterer; stoning to death for a married person, one Hundred lashes for an unmarried person,

Punishment for slander and defamation, by 80 lashes,

Punishment for Apostasy, by death,

Punishment for inebriation by 80 lashes,

Punishment for highway robbery, by death; is cutting off of a leg and an arm from opposite direction or an exile according to the seriousness of the crime.

Ta’azir literally means disgracing the criminal for his shameful act. In ta’azir punishment has not been fixed by law and the Qadi (Judge) is allowed discretion both as to the form in which such punishment is to be inflicted and its measure. This kind of punishment by discretion has been provided in special consideration of the various factors afflicting social change in human civilization and which vary on the places of variation in the methods of commission or the kind of criminal conduct indictable under the law.

Offences punishable under this method are those against human live, property, public peace and tranquility. The general structure of the Al-Siyasat al-Shara’i i.e. the Criminal Law of the Muslims today is based on the principles of ta’azir. In other word ta’azir form discretional penalties inflicted by the Judge himself, either for an offence whose punishment is not determined or for prejudice done to one’s neighbour. The punishment can take the form of lashes, imprisonment, fine, warning etc.

Seventy ‘major sins’ (Al-Kaba’r) including, deceiving and plotting evil, showing-off, carrying tales, lying about Allah, slandering chaste women, stealing, treating others unjustly, drinking wine, oppression and taking false oath, has been listed by Prophet Mohammed which his followers have been directed not to indulge in. Punishments range from reprimands, lashings, imprisonment to imposition of fines, at the discretion of the Qadi.

Islamic thought - and militancy – has gained momentum in recent years. There are many professing Islam, which means “Peace”, who have criminally abused the hospitality of their host countries by committing serious offences like theft, murder, rape and acts of brutal terror, with aplomb and utter disdain for the local laws, which would never have been tolerated in their mother-land. They would be flogged publicly or even beheaded !

The criminal justice system in non-Islamic countries is so insipid, temperate, colorless and lax that such natives of Islamic States, take them casually – with a pinch of salt – and a fistful of petro-dollars! Besides, they can always rely upon watch-dogs from the Human Rights brigades to escape with a light sentence served in a comfortable prison with free accommodation, good food and even entertainment thrown in, for committing the most heinous crimes.

In this scenario, Shehnaz Sani, an Indian woman’s complaint against her oppressors, who are all Muslims, from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and executives of its National carrier, the Saudi Arabian Airlines (“Saudia”- SAA) to the Shariah Council at Jeddah, seeking invoking of its criminal edicts against them is certain to have an international impact, since the culprits are subjected to double jeopardy, as others will surely follow suit!

- Asian Tribune -

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