Following are excerpts from an address delivered by Egyptian cleric Sheik Wagdi Ghoneim, which aired on Al-Nas TV on August 11, 2011.
Wagdi Ghoneim: Imagine that I go to the market, walk around there, and eventually, I find the watch I was looking for. So I pay for it, put it on, and I'm pleased with it – and then along comes someone and steals it from me, just like that?! After I went looking for it, wasted time, and paid good money, someone can simply come and take it from me?
No, this man should have his hand chopped off. That's right, we should chop off his hand!
Muslims these days are embarrassed to say: "As for the thief, cut off his hand as punishment for their crime..." But people say: "Don't say that. It's cruel." What, God is cruel to us?! God forbid.
So what exactly do they want to do? Put the thief in a correctional facility. What exactly is that? It's prison.
If he stole a bicycle – when he gets out, he'll steal a car. The "heavyweights" inside will say to him: "You stole a bicycle, you dumb idiot?! A bike?! Come here, and we'll teach you to steal cars." When he gets out, he'll be more of a criminal.
I saw things like that when I was in prison. By Allah, there were convicted criminals who swore by Allah that they would have preferred an Islamic punishment. I knew this guy who got two life terms. He said: "I don't know if I'm alive or dead. I don't know how my wife earns a living. She comes to visit me once a month. I don't know how she makes money. I don't know how my children will finish school."
20 years! And away from his wife. What exactly are you confining – his freedom or his urges? Don't you install a toilet in his cell so he can relieve himself? That's an urge. What about his sexual urges? Where is he supposed to relieve them? To keep a man away from his wife for 20 years? That's wrong. Chop off his hand, and let him go.
I swear that he told me he would have preferred to have his hand chopped off. There was this one thief in prison with me. They would send them to clean our cells, as we were political prisoners. I was imprisoned eight times in Egypt and four times abroad, may it all have been for the sake of Allah.
He was a thief if ever I saw one. I asked him: "When you have served your five years, will you go straight?" He said: "I don't want to lie to you, Sheik Wagdi. How can I possibly stop? My hand has a mind of its own. I'm on the bus, and I see wallets popping out before my eyes, and I must steal them. How much would you pay me if I stopped stealing and started working for you? In a single hit, I can make..."
I said to him: "What is the bottom line? What is the solution for you?" He said: "Frankly, this hand must be chopped off. I can't control it. My hand has a mind of its own."