One of the clerics at the Wazir Akbar Khan mosque in Afghanistan warned police not to punish anyone for the brutal murder of a woman by a mob after she was accused of burning a Koran (Quran). Despite the fact that the rumor that the woman burned the Koran appears false, even the local police chief appeared to defend the mob as just being good Muslims irate at an act of blasphemy. Police are accused of doing nothing during the attack.
More facts are coming in on the story that we discussed yesterday. It appears that the woman (above) named Farkhunda, 27, was actually a religious, veiled woman who had just finished a degree in religious studies and was preparing to take a teaching post. Moreover, she was set upon men who she accused of degrading Islam by selling amulets at Shah-Do Shamshera shrine. She reportedly told other women not to waste their money on such items and the sellers then started to shout that she was a non-Muslim and had burned a Koran.
She was beaten with a brick as a mob formed demanding her immediate death. Her body was set on fire and thrown on the bank of the Kabul river. Notably, two of the men arrested sold amulets.
Even before the claims were refuted, this should have been a murder that united all clerics, police, and citizens in disgust. If she had burned a Koran, it was no excuse for a murder by a mob. However, the local cleric used Friday’s prayers in an affluent area of Kabul to tell his congregation that the mob was right to do what they did. He added “I am warning the government not to arrest those who did this, because it will mean an uprising.”
His views were echoed by other Afghans, including one man who proudly discussed how he joined in on the murder. He went on Facebook to say that “pious people of Kabul, including myself, killed her and then burnt her. Her place is in hell.”
Even the spokesman for the Chief of Police of Kabul, Hashmat Stanekzai, explained why the mob acted in this way: “This (person) thought, like several other unbelievers, that this kind of action and insult will get them U.S. or European citizenship. But before reaching their target, lost their life.” This is one of the U.S. trained Afghan forces that is the result of our spending hundreds of billions of dollars in the country and losing thousands of American lives.
It is also notable that, while the mob action has been denounced by President Ashraf Ghani’s office, the death penalty for insulting Islam is still part of the country’s laws and traditions. Notably, after saying that the mob should not take such action, Ghani added that the government “also condemns in strong terms any action that causes disrespect to the Holy Koran and Islamic values”.
The problem, which is common to many Islamic nations, is that such mob action is fueled when the government itself executes people for insulting Islam or rejecting Islam. While Saudi Arabia denounced ISIS for cutting the heads off non-believers, it has routinely cut the heads off people who are exercising free speech as guilty of blasphemy or apostasy. As Associate Justice Louis Brandeis said in 1928:
“Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.”