Pakistanis Decry Taliban Sharia Law

By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2009 6:30 PM CDT
A child sits with his mother in a car at a refugee camp near Mardan, in northwest Pakistan, Saturday, May 9, 2009. Hundreds of thousands of residents have fled fighting in Swat Valley.   (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
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(Newser) – Public opinion is swinging against Sharia law in Pakistan's Swat Valley as tens of thousands flee fighting between Pakistani forces and the Taliban, the Washington Post reports. A public fed up with inefficient and corrupt secular courts once welcomed the Taliban's version of religious law, but lawmakers and pundits now say the Taliban's harsh punishments are part of a power grab that disrespects the Koran.

Two months ago, a videotape of Taliban hoods whipping a teenage girl accused of an affair shocked many in Pakistan. Now scholars are reminding Swat Valley residents that religious courts are designed to be cautious, and exact high standards of proof. "That's why nobody's hand is ever cut off here," one scholar said. Despite the outcry, observers say most people are afraid to speak up. "With each passing month a deeper silence prevails," one columnist wrote.