Sudan, Africa, is under Sharia (Islamic) law. This is the same regime that imprisoned British school teacher Gillian Gibbons in 2007 for calling the classroom teddy bear "Mohammed."
Until last week, Lubna Hussein, a widow in her late 30s, had been employed by the United Nations on a mission in Sudan as a public information officer.
On a Friday evening in July of 2009, Ms. Hussein arrived at a restaurant in Khartoum to book a wedding for her cousin. While she waited at a table, she sipped on a coke and watched the singer.
Less than an hour later, Ms. Hussein was escorted out of the building, in front of hundreds of people, by the Public Order Police (morality police) and placed under arrest for being a "trouser girl." Even though she was wearing a headscarf and loose Sudanese clothes, she had comitted the gross offense of a female wearing pants in public.
The restaurant is a popular meeting place for the capital's journalists and intellectuals. Ms. Hussein was one of 14 women arrested that evening.
With no legal stipulation as to what indecency means, it's left to the discretion of the individual morality police officers to make an on-the-scene judgment. In spite of their claims of moral superiority, the morality police have a reputation for dishonesty and for demanding sexual favors from the women they arrest.
On the way to the police station, the 14 females were forced to sit on the bed of a pickup truck with policemen sitting on their sides. Most of the other women were in tears.
"So I began to try to calm the girls, telling them this wasn't very serious." Ms. Hussein explained. "The response of the policeman was to snatch my mobile phone, and hit me on the head with his open hand... On the way, I felt so humiliated and downtrodden."
Among the 14 women, 10 were Christian women visiting from the south of Sudan who readily admitted their error and were summarily flogged with 10 lashes each.
Ms. Hussein, who apparently has a large set of brass balls, refused to admit her guilt and demanded her right to go on trial before a judge. Her offense carries a maximum sentence of 40 lashes.
Under international protocol, United Nations employees are immune from prosecution. But Ms. Hussein abruptly quit her job to stand trial and raise awareness of the plight of all women under this regime. She then sent out 500 invitations to her trial, which soon garnered global media coverage.
Shortly before appearing in court for her trial last week, Ms. Hussein declared, " Flogging is not pain, flogging is an insult to humans, women and religions. If the court's decision is that I be flogged, I want this flogging in public."
The judge adjourned the trial until September 7, 2009.He claimed he needed more time to determine if the defendant was immune from prosecution.
Ms. Hussein emerged from court in front of a large throng of supporters backing her cause. Riot police fired teargas into the crowds and beat many of the supporters with batons, including one of Ms. Hussein's lawyers.
Intolerance in the name of religion is intolerable.
Lubna Hussein is my hero of the week.
Keep the flame burning.
Quote for the Day -- "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." Denis Diderot (1713-1784, philosopher)
Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where women wear whatever they please. His blogs appear on several websites, including www.myspace.com/bret1111