Australia: Despite shariah lashings, Muslim convert insists Islam is peaceful

crime | Jul 20, 2011 | By Martin Barillas

An Australian who had recently converted to Islam was allegedly punished with lashings by four fellow Muslim believers who broke into his home during pre-dawn hours because he had been drinking alcohol.  Chris Martinez of Sydney said, nonetheless, that the Australian Muslim community has been supportive since the July 17 assault.  Martinez confessed to a drinking problem and that he had been imbibing before the lashing.  Two men have been charged in the incident as non-Muslims raise concern about the application of Islamic religious law known as Shariah.

Martinez was held down on his bed and whipped up to 40 times by the four bearded men who awakened him at approximately 1 am at his apartment on Sydney’s west side.  Three of the men restrained him as the fourth applied the canonical 40 lashes with a cable.  The assault lasted approximately 30 minutes and left Martinez (31) covered with welts.  Martinez said, nonetheless, that Islam is a “beautiful religion.”

 Martinez claimed that it was members of the Wahabi sect of Islam, endemic in Saudi Arabia, who beat him for indulging in drink.  Some other members of Sydney's Muslim community condemned the attack. "This criminal act has no place in Islam. As Australian Muslims we are required to follow Australian law, not take the law into our own individual hands," Ahmed Kilami of MuslimVillage.com "I hope these guys are caught and face the full force of the law."  Martinez has moved out of his home but hopes that his experience will not distort the public’s perspective on his adopted religion.  

In an interview with MuslimVillage.com, Martinez said that at least one of his attackers was known to him and had also led him to Islam.

"Islam is a beautiful religion, it's a great guideline to life, it's a real way to live your life," he said."I mean, I'm not perfect.” Martinez continued, "But in saying that, Islam helped me get through all of that, helped me get through my past, and now I believe I'm a better person because of Islam.”  Martinez converted to Islam about three years ago.  "This was about some individuals, not religion."

Martinez said that his wife is also upset over the affray, which is now being investigated by New South Wales Police.  However, neither she nor their children were present during the lashings.  Neighbors who heard his screams of pain and cries for help called for the police. 

Martinez  said that he had rejected offers of money from "mainstream media" to tell his story. "I feel like a victim twice over from their hounding and threats of blackmail," he said.

Two of Martinez’s torturers, Wassim Fayad (43) and Tolga Cifci (20) were granted bail on charges of aggravated breaking and entering with intent to commit an indictable offenceFayad was charged with  detaining a person in company with intent to obtain advantage and two counts of theft. Cifci is also charged with inflicting actual bodily harm.  They will return to court on September 14. 



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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