LETTER : Crime and punishment: Islamic law versus Western values

From Mr Nicolas Walter

Sir: The Saudi ambassador's defence is wrong to claim that sharia "represents the sacred word of the Koran". This is only one element in sharia, alongside the later traditions, the consensus of even later scholars, and the continuing process of reasoning by analogy.

For another thing, it is wrong to omit the possibility of progress. Jewish and Christian laws, which were once as drastic as Muslim laws, were reformed by a growing sense of humanity in the area of crime and punishment. This is expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other such texts, which aren't sacred but surely offer a better basis for justice than the scriptures of ancient religions or the traditions of savage tribes.

Yours sincerely,

Nicolas Walter

Rationalist Press Association

London, N1

10 October