A Book Is Not Equivalent to a Life Part 1

Afghan woman beaten to death for burning Qur’an didn’t even do it.

A few days ago I came across this post by Mr. Atheist, who was commenting on an original post blogged on Why Evolution is True .  The article troubled me deeply.  

A synopsis of the story (as I understand based on different reports I saw in The GuardianNBC News, and CBS News) is that a 27 year old Afghan woman named Farakhunda (one of several spellings I have seen) was stoned and beaten to death, amid the support of a large crowd/mob, for allegedly burning a copy of the Qur’an. While there were police officers present, the majority of them did nothing to stop her from being stoned, beaten, dragged by a car and eventually burned to death(Note: Alternate reports claim she was killed first and the her corpse was dragged through the street and then burned.  This doesn’t change anything, just trying to report as factually as possible).  Her father almost immediately released a statement that she was mentally ill, but it was very quickly discovered that there was no evidence of her burning a Qur’an, but she in fact was complaining about a mullah’s practice of selling charms to women.  Her brother contradicted her father’s claim that she was mentally unstable, saying he lied to try to protect the rest of the family on advice of police.  In protest, as reported by The Freethinker, an Afghan man living in Sweden posted a YouTube video in which he did, in fact, burn a copy of the Qur’an stating that her life was worth more than the book.

I encourage you to follow the links back and then follow the subsequent links and read the comments.  There is no way I can do it all justice here, but the discussion that followed this horrible tragedy has lead me to plenty of thought the last few days, hardly any of which were comforting and most of which were frustratingly inconclusive.  (Note: the only thing I have not looked at yet is the comments from the original YouTube video of the murder, because I have not been able to steel myself to actually watch the murder of this woman, and don’t know that I ever will.)

How horrific is it that there are still cultures in this world where if a woman attempts to remonstrate a man for criminal or unethical behavior, his easiest method of defense is to accuse her of violating a law punishable by death? Worse than that, his word is accepted by the masses with no demand for proof and no thought of allowing the woman to defend herself.  I am reminded of witch trials of centuries past where if aneighbor slights or wrongs you, easiest thing you can do is accuse her witchcraft and be rid of her.  Or, unfortunately a much more recent example, of Jews being carted away on trains to “work camps” while the majority of the German population turned a blind eye and denied knowledge of what was actually happening to their neighbors. 

What is the common denominator in these three scenarios that allow one person, or a few people, to execute such a terrible sentence on someone, with virtually no objections and often the active support of the community around them?  Dogma.  Whether is the form of religious superstition as the witch trials, Anti Semetism as in the Holocaust, or religious law, as in this murder over the burning of a book; these are all dogma’s established by cultural leaders that pervade the actions of the cultural masses and allow them to accept something that would otherwise be a horrific immorality as the only moral solution.  

These guys killed this woman in cold blood and several prominent clerics praised them for defending their faith. They said that they had every right to kill her for desecrating a book simply because Allah said so.  Do you know what it means when you state something is permissible simply because God says so? It means you have no reasonable argument for why your statement is true.  It means you are using people’s faith as a tool and a weapon for your own personal and/or political power.  It’s reprehensible.

I do see some hope in the situation.  At Farakhunda’s funeral, her coffin was carried by a group of women (traditionally only men may do this) while a line of men barricaded themselves around the women, protecting them from harm as they carried Farakhunda to her grave.   

Associate Press Photo

There are reports that up to 36 arrests have been made and several police officers have been fired.  Thousands of protesters in Afghanistan and globally are condemning the murder and calling for justice on not only for the murders, but against those saying the murders were correct.  Ten years ago, I don’t think anyone that would have been brave enough to protest would have heard about this.  

Of course that starts a new troubling train of thought.  How many women have had to die this way?  How much is it going to take before this becomes the exception rather than the rule?  Can this culture of street and vigilante violence, mob justice and abuse against women be changed?

I nowhere near done with my thoughts on this story, and have only scratched the surface, but this is a good resting point.

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