ISLAM: Crime or Punishment?

As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is mighty, wise.

—The Koran

This stern injunction was enunciated by the Prophet Muhammad some 1,300 years ago to his followers in a primitive desert society. Now, after centuries of being superseded by Western law, the exacting code of the Koran is once more gaining strength and support in a number of countries.

Five Arab states in the Middle East—Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Libya, North Yemen—base their laws on the Koran. In Egypt, which prides itself...

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