Justice is blind
Gulf Daily News – Bahrain –
Wednesday 17 October 2007
FOR anyone, a trip to the local court building for legal matters is an emotionally charged one. Most cases in courts are almost always caused by breakdowns of previously friendly relationships... a lot of emotion is there... Nobody goes to court expecting hugs and kisses. Neither do we expect the judge presiding over our case to be overly familiar or too friendly... to either side. A judge is supposed to be unbiased and judge the case based strictly on facts placed in front of him (or her).
We expect our judge to look at the facts and not necessarily at the defendant or plaintiff standing in front of him (or her)... unless something visual regarding the case needs to be focused on. So there I was, in the Sharia court waiting room awaiting my turn in front of the judge due to a personal legal matter. I had taken time off from work, which is never a good thing at the best of times, and arrived on time for my pre-scheduled hearing. Imagine my growing concern, when I realised that people were going before me. Of course in Bahrain one gets used to those that jump the queue, impatient and not willing to wait their turn... but this is a court for heaven's sake... Things are run along more clear-cut lines than a local bank, I would assume.
There's a guard at the door consulting his schedule of names and times and calling out those names when their turn comes up. My hearing was at 9.30am. I was still waiting at 11am. I am a pretty patient person at the worst of times. I can let a lot of time pass before I start to really get agitated about something. But when I realised that the guard was giving me furtive looks each time he called a new name I then assumed something was up...obviously he was well aware that
I was waiting and wondering why my name wasn't being called. I decided enough was enough and had my son go and ask him why all the delay. It turns out that the judge in question, one Mr Hamad Al Dossary, heard that I was not wearing hijab and was forbidding me to enter his courtroom.
I was astounded at this bit of news as I did not know there was a law in Bahrain barring woman from courtrooms that did not observe hijab. If there is no law, which many people have assured me there isn't... then this judge had already started deciding my case before I even got into his courtroom.
I was an "uncovered woman" and no doubt this coloured his judgement from the start as we can all attest to the very real bias this society has against woman that don't wear hijab. I asked the guard if this judge made it a habit to judge people based on their clothing or did he judge based on facts etc.
The guard informed me that this judge "was worse then Al Qaeda when it came to women"... whatever that means. At this point, I was quite furious as this judge had no right to make such demands in his courtroom. Yes, he deserves respect for the post he has attained. I'm sure he studied quite a lot to achieve it. But that doesn't mean I do not deserve his respect as well. I wonder if this judge, who the guard also informed me "was so religious", ever read about the Prophet's life in which he did not discriminate against anyone, man or woman.
He listened to everyone's complaint that came before him and did not base his opinion on his personal feelings. There is, in fact, one episode in the Prophet's life in which he turned away a blind man as he was engaged in serious talks with a prominent member of society and did not wish to lose what he had gained regarding treaties, etc. God rebukes the Prophet for making this personal decision and tells him that he had no right to assume the blind man was less deserving of his time than the prominent member of society. By this point, the guard could see that I was spoiling to cause some trouble... so he not so quietly started asking other women if I could borrow their hijab in order to get into the courtroom. This was extremely embarrassing to me as now my personal humiliation had become public fodder for gossip. Pretty soon, everyone was staring at me and whispering awayÉ although a few women did let the guard have an earful as to why all the fussÉ
let me go in and let the judge look at the floor if he was so offended by my hair. I sent them smiles of gratitude. In the end, my 17-year-old son was forced to take my place in a legal matter, which he had no right to speak for me and had no proper knowledge about. So this judge would be offended to see me in his court without hijab, but I was not supposed to be offended by this illegal tactic?
So I would like to offer Mr Hamad Al Dossary a word of advice... whether anyone chooses to pass it along remains to be seenÉ justice is supposed to be blind and just because you spent x-amount of years reading some religious text and attending to your prayers, etc does not make you what you see yourself to be... a God-fearing Muslim man because nobody that fears
God would feel they have the right to treat people as you treated me. You humiliated me and made me feel cheap and not worth the court's time simply because you feared my blazing red hair might actually strike you blind? Justice is blind as I said beforeÉ but injustice has 20/20 vision.
I hope your late night prayers were filled with pleas to God to open your heart as well as your mind to what has been practised by our Prophet.
Lee Ann Fleetwood