It is hard for anyone in the West, not of Muslim faith, to comprehend the consequences of one woman's protest in Tunisia. The Age reports in this piece "Is this photo grounds for death?"
"Two weeks ago, a young Tunisian woman known only by the name “Amina” posted political self portraits to Facebook to protest the continued oppression of women in the Arab world’s first democracy.
Posing topless, one photo featured Amina smoking with the Arabic declaration “my body belongs to me, and is not the source of the honor of anyone” scrawled across her chest; the other showed Amina standing defiantly, her middle fingers raised to camera, and the English words “F--- your morals” blaring out from her body.
Today, Amina is in a psychiatric hospital, admitted there against her will by family members who’ve expressed shame over her actions. Her aunt appeared in a YouTube video to declare, “Amina does not exist anymore for me. She is responsible for her acts, and we are devastated by what she did. Our family is educated and open-minded and we did everything we could for her. Her father has been crying and has been in a miserable state.” She later added, “I hope she pays for her actions. She does not represent her country or Tunisian women.”
While Amina’s aunt may deny her niece’s actions speak for or even to Tunisian women, not everyone agrees. The Wahabi Salafi preacher Almi Adel, head of the almost comically titled Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, warned Tunisian newspaper Kapitalis, "Her act could bring about an epidemic. It could be contagious and give ideas to other women. It is therefore necessary to isolate [the incident]. I wish her to be healed."
It’s tempting to mock the preacher’s words for the crude expression of fear that they are. If women begin to think for themselves and question their environments, they might then demand their own liberation from the kinds of patriarchal societies that empower men like Adel to wield control over them. Perhaps even more terrifying is the possibility that they might succeed.
Unfortunately, the consequence of men like Adel having power is that they do wield it. And his proposed solution to ‘isolating the incident’ is to execute Amina in accordance with his misreading of sharia law. “The young lady should be punished according to sharia, with 80 to 100 lashes, but [because of] the severity of the act she has committed, she deserves be stoned to death.”
It doesn’t stop there. Even if Amina escapes such barbaric treatment (and the arrogance in determining that a woman who rejects the cultural mores of her society and demands her rights ‘deserves’ to be stoned to death is nothing short of barbaric), Tunisian secular law could still punish her with up to two years in prison and a fine between 100 - 1000 dinars (around $80 to $800).
And all of this because she defied Tunisia’s moral codes to express herself politically alongside a group all too familiar with inciting the wrath of conservative governance."