Seventeen beheaded by Taliban for mixed-sex dancing

August 27, 2012 • 8:49 am

The horrors of extreme Islam cannot be exaggerated. Reuters reports today a horrible mass murder in Afghanistan, occasioned by—dancing!

Fifteen men and two women were found beheaded in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Monday, punishment meted out by Taliban insurgents for a mixed-sex party with music and dancing, officials said.

The bodies were found in a house near the Musa Qala district, about 75 km (46 miles) north of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, said district governor Nimatullah, who only goes by one name.

“The victims threw a late-night dance and music party when the Taliban attacked” on Sunday night, Nimatullah told Reuters.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

In ultra-conservative Afghanistan, men and women do not usually mingle unless they are related, and parties involving both genders together are rare and highly secretive affairs.

I hope that, out of mercy, the murdering thugs shot the victims before beheading them, for having one’s head severed with a knife is a slow and horrible way to die. I’ve watched one video of such a murder, and it still haunts me.

Seventeen deaths—seventeen families and groups of friends in mourning, all because one religion mandates murder for dancing with someone of the opposite sex.

I would like to see Muslims to condemn this brutality, but judging from the past, and by one response to a twitter post by Richard Dawkins on this, I don’t have much hope (Dawkins’s quote is from a longer Reuters piece):

103 thoughts on “Seventeen beheaded by Taliban for mixed-sex dancing

  1. My comment to a paper where I read it:
    This is what religion does to people.
    Any theocracy is very bad, whether it is official or de facto. Not least for those not sharing the belief.
    It is why separation of state and church (of any kind) is crucial.
    This goes for any religion. Although christianity and islam are topping the list of “religion gone bad”.
    Worship anything of your choice. But keep it to yourself and don’t push it on other people.

    I am so very very sorry for the victims and their communities.

    1. Hah, for some reason (with the International Herald Tribune) edited/deleted the following before they posted my comment:
      “Although christianity and islam are topping the list of “religion gone bad”.”


  2. On one page we read the obituaries of Neil Armstrong and on the other, these deaths. What more can be said?

  3. Is it too much to ask that the Islamic world grow up at least as much as Europe did in the Renaissance? We can leave the Enlightenment until later…but this, this barbarity is straight out of the Iron Age of the founding of their lunacy.

    And even then, the Greeks and Romans were [i]still[/i] more enlightened — though, granted, only towards each other.


    1. Renaissance? It was a time particularly ripe for wars of religion and widespread intolerance. We had inquisition until 1821, and it started well into renaissance. And it’s all documented (the Acts of the Portuguese inquisition in Goa are particularly gruesome). The modern European slave trade was also born during renaissance.

      1. My point exactly…I’d love for them to advance out of the Dark Ages…even the Renaissance, as bad as it was, was an improvement…think of it more as dark satire on my part than a sincere wish.


      2. Good point, although it’s arguable that the Inquisition was a backlash against the Renaissance, and since the Renaissance was largely a recovery of the humanism of ancient Greece, yet even that humanist hero Aristotle defended slavery, the opposition to it would be slow in coming.

        1. Pericles is my new hero to add to Noether and Curie, as I hear he rebuild Athens in much the same way with humanism and all.

          Moral changes.

          But we shouldn’t forget that slave traffic (human trafficking) is still a major social moral factor in many places. Wikipedia notes at least 12 Mpersons as slaves, which would have peaked under the Gulags I would guess (10-20 Mpersons in addition).

        2. Not really, there was the feeling throughout medieval European that slavery wasn’t compatible with Christian values. Renaissance popes were bought to topple those feelings.

          If you read the description of the auction which marks the birth of the modern slave era, written by the official chronicler for the Portuguese king, it presents strong arguments against slavery.

        3. Islam is a dumb religion, and a dangerous one in the hands of idiots. But before we get too smug …

          George W Bush is still a recent memory, and his presidency has lead to many unnecessary deaths. And our religious British Prime Minister backed him all the way, because it was ‘the right thing to do’.

          Letting citizens carry guns has resulted in two recent incidents of multiple deaths by gunshot. The commitment to the right to bear arms is near religious.

          I know where I’d rather live – right where I am. I’m not claiming the democratic West is worse than Afghanistan by any means. But the jury’s still out on the success of Western civilization.

          1. And soon after ensuring that an illegal war was launched, leading to many unnecessary deaths on both sides, Tony B Liar became a Roman Catholic. This was presumably because his Catholic wife told him that membership of that particular cult allowed him to visit the confessional and be absolved of his sins.

  4. I am almost more sickened by that savage’s reponse to Dawkins than by the act itself. How can these people exist? How can people actually think these things? Even some western muslims are so brainwashed that they will defend or, at least, play down such hideous acts. Let’s leave such acts for our primate ancestors (though even they would not have such cold calculation) and act in keeping with the intelligence that evoltion has allowed our species.

  5. I hope that, out of mercy, the murdering thugs shot the victims before beheading them, for having one’s head severed with a knife is a slow and horrible way to die.

    I do not think that Taliban murderers are burdened by the concept of mercy.

  6. Any reader/viewer of “The Kite Runner” (I saw both the film and the stage adaptation) knows that the Taliban are religiously motivated psychotics. The rest of the Muslim world is notoriously shy (and/or inarticulate) about speaking out about this kind of thing.

      1. I don’t buy it. The religion feeds the psychosis, gives a ready-made excuse for ignoring any moral compunctions you might have, and provides a tradition-rich justification for not questioning orders or disobeying rules laid down by others.

        1. It’s not a matter of individual beliefs but evidence. The most recent evidence is that conscious explanations for any behavior are worthless, for mentally ill-criminal behavior it’s worser.

          The criminal brain always adopts current pop culture explanations for something. They are deranged, not stupid. Religion is just pop culture.

          1. “Religion is just pop culture.”

            I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. But I’ll give you a hint. Minority religions by definition cannot be “pop culture” — and yet religions they remain. Another hint: minority religions are observable by virtue of behavioral differences between followers of that religion and other people.

            Your comment sort of reminds me of a friend of mine who insisted to me that no one really believes in God, it’s just that some people really like to say they do.

            1. Sure it is. Always has been. It’s the most popular and widely accepted set of beliefs, images and other stuff that get and keep people’s attention.

              It’s all story telling for the widest audience possible. Look at the early magical, mythical, Old Testament stuff — all designed to capture power in specific social settings.

              Pop culture is just the collection of the most popular images, stories, etc of the day.

              By definition, if religions weren’t pop(ular) myths and stories they would work or exist. duh

              It’s just another kind of advertising/marketing/sales.

  7. Do you mean mixed gender dancing? There was apparently no sex involved, which actually makes the psychotic religious reaction even more inexcusable if that’s possible.

    1. No, he means just what he wrote: mixed-sex dancing. “Sex” is the term used (in this context) to refer to the biological attribute of male vs female. “Gender” is a grammatical term that has been pressed into use to mean more general distinctions than just biological sex, e.g, “gender role” etc.

  8. Great, I didn’t expect such a graphical description. Luckily for my already queasy stomach (food poisoning) I can block mere emphatic description when I must. (So instead I never stomached to watch that beheading. :-/)

    But speaking of when you must, kudos to you and Dawkins to raise and describe the gruesome details of that mass murder of innocents! And seeing the immediate reaction of a bigoted misogynist, it made an effect.

    1. “And seeing the immediate reaction of a bigoted misogynist, it made an effect.”

      What a ridiculous and absurd comment.

      BTW, what does the title “OM” following your name stand for?

      1. Please do tell why that comment is ridiculous and absurd. Notice that I am asking for you to explain yourself further so that I can be sure that you do in fact deserve a good dose of ridicule before I actually throw it at you.

          1. “OM stands for Order of the Molly”

            Why would anyone use that silly title here at a completely different and unrelated site, or anywhere else for that matter?

            My sympathies to his friends and family.

            1. Is your understanding of the internet really that poor, or are you pretending ignorance of the likely explanation so that you could deliver the insult you so desperately wanted to?

  9. It’s unfair to take one apparently Turkic Londoner’s boneheaded reply to a tweet by Richard Dawkins as representative of all Muslims (is that guy even a practicing Muslim? How do you know?).

    Also, the refrain that these acts are never condemned by other Muslims is getting old. Maybe they’re not condemned enough to your liking, maybe they’re not condemned by all the Muslims you think should be condemning them, but these acts are condemned by other Muslims.

    It seems you don’t know many Muslims, and are basing your who’s-condemning-what on what the media reports. There are now even some Taliban splinter groups who have condemned some of the extremism of the foreign Taliban.

    I think Islam, like most religions, is ridiculous, and, like most religious, it can make its adherents susceptible to extreme anti-rationalism. But let’s not go too far in blaming the entire Muslim world for the actions of a subset of it, lest we succumb to anti-rationalism ourselves.

    1. When the muslims start to remove such things from their laws as blasphemy (full stop) and the death penalty (any penalty) for apostasy, I’ll start to take notice of their dissent in the face of Islamic brutality.

      These are official policies of much of SW Asia. I’m not seeing too much contrast or protest there …

    2. Did any Muslims condemn this heinous act publicly or are they frightened into silence for fear they’ll get a dose of the same? I don’t condemn them for that, but I don’t see why Muslim bullies cannot occasionally be rounded up & lock up.

        1. Hmm? We have many on board already. Veronica. Marta, Grania, Diane, docatheist (iirc), Amelie, and so on.


          PS. Apologies to those I could just remember! 😉

        2. Oh for crying out loud. Do you know the age and gender of every poster? And it’s not a club, it’s a website.

      1. I could not find any Muslim-run site that does not originate from the USA that condemns beheading. There are umpteen sites that proudly host videos of beheadings, the most recent, it seems, of a Tunisian who was beheaded last June for apostasy, after converting to Christianity.

        Like the Bible, the Qur’an is littered with contradictions, but some extremists justify beheadings according to interpretations of various verses in the Qur’an. I found this article on the matter provided some insight:

  10. “And seeing the immediate reaction of a bigoted misogynist, it made an effect.”

    But we must not forget that Dr Dawkins is also a misogynist whose life, works, and invitations to speak at symposia should be repudiated because he feels there is a significant difference between what just happened in Afghanistan and a seemingly polite invitation for coffee in an elevator.

    Oh dear – I can’t tell if I just sacrificed or confirmed my qualifications for entry into Atheism+. sigh.

    1. It might help if you clarified your remarks.

      Is your sarcasm meant to convey that you agree Dawkins is a misogynist because of his comments on l’affaire Elevator Guy?

      Or are you mocking the A+ crowd for making that judgment?

      And then are you mocking the PC-ness of the A+istas? Or are you sympathetic to A+ and …

      It’s a bit of a muddle. I’d love to respond indignantly but I’m not sure hitch side to take!

    2. “Oh dear – I can’t tell if I just sacrificed or confirmed my qualifications for entry into Atheism+. sigh.”

      That “can of worms” is probably best left unopened.

      1. Thanks, please do leave the “can of worms” closed. If I want an open can of worms, I know where to get them. 😉 Meanwhile I’m quite happy to leave the worms in the can at WEIT.

        1. I’m not clear on this.

          Is it worms in the can, or out of the can for this can of worms, or we don’t care what’s in the can, but if it’s worms, don’t bring the can inside?

    3. So, a human being isn’t flawless. Big deal.

      I’ll take an effective science communicator and spokesperson for atheism over an Internet troll any time.


  11. In spite of the gruesomeness of this tragedy, Jaffar Lafta’s tweet did cause an involuntary laugh. I can’t imagine a more concise way of illustrating the concept of “missing the point.” And of course it’s beyond irony to call Dawkins a coward. As opposed to the brave Taliban boys with their machetes and guns murdering defenseless innocents, I guess he means.

    1. Yes, it immediately brought to mind the picture of a muslim protester carrying a sign that said ““Behead those who say Islam is not a religion of peace.”

  12. Several warnings on BBC news tonight; while the deaths are verified, this is not the only only story relating to events. It’s the one released by the government news agencies in Kabul who may wish to spin their own version.
    The other story suggests it may be the result of warlord rivalry, but no less brutal for that.
    To be slightly provocative: do we have a slightly different initial reaction to this tale of Taliban (and, therefore, muslim) violence compared to last week’s story that begins with a man walking into the screening of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in Aurora, Colorado?

    1. Re. your first part, that would seem to dovetail with 15males and two females. What happened to the rest of the (presumed) women?

      Re. the second part, I don’t see a parallel. As much as I’ve heard, the Aurora Redhead’s extreme imbalance didn’t have much in the way of a religious foundation.

      1. I was careful to say ‘initial reaction’.
        Yes, the situation is different, but both are mass murder of similar-sized groups and similar age and gender mix.
        I was wondering if our reactions to the latest news were coloured by knowing that the event took place in Afghanistan. We only discovered more about James Holmes some time later.
        When I first posted, all the comments were about evil muslims – and by extension ALL muslims – and accepted the story at face value. The victims were Afghans and muslims too, and the victims in Aurora share the fate of being killed by one of their own.

        1. OK, but, taking the headline as presented, the difference is mass murder by a group of religiously-fueled zealots vs. mass murder by an individual nutjob. The reaction, I think, will be different based on the different motives, just as court sentences (in the West, anyway) are meted out differently based on motive.

        2. “When I first posted, all the comments were about evil muslims – and by extension ALL muslims – and accepted the story at face value.”

          By who’s extension? Certainly yours or you wouldn’t have made the claim. But none of these comments claim that all muslims are evil. Don’t you think you should attempt to verify your suspicions before making such strong accusations?

          I think the more likely explanation is that you really wanted to say your piece, and people saying “ALL muslims are evil” would be the perfect opening.

  13. We propose these are brain disorder/psychiatric, and not religious driven, behaviors. It’s mass murder and serial killing.

    A recent study of a Russian serial killer showed a brain so broken it could only soothe itself by killing – repeatedly. Saw a study where the most violent, young men gang members had severe untreated depression. Sounds similar here. It is probably young men doing the killing, of other young men and their potential mates.

    These kinds of murders generally occur during prime mating years for young men.

    The religious talk is just a scam and selling an ideological excuse — but an effective one. It’s clever, but everyone runs around crying religion which gives these psychiatric cases free reign. Lots of venting but no problem-identification or problem-solving. Of course.

      1. You’re saying “do” to score a point in the argument – it’s dishonest.

        Behavior is all that matters, word don’t. To understand and, perhaps, manage behavior focus on the facts of actions and the science of the brain. Forget the rhetoric – it’s a scam.

    1. Which “we” is doing the proposing, exactly?

      To your point, why should the two interpretations (brain damage vs. religious indoctrination) be mutually exclusive? I’d say the truth is that the religious extremists are exploiting the young murderers’ mental issues for their own ends. (Does the phrase “religion poisons everything” ring a bell here?)

      Not that I’d necessarily assume that the perpetrators are mentally ill. More like just young enough to have their brain plasticity molded in terrible ways by their exploiters.

      Another problem with your arguments is the recurring instances of mass demonstrations of Muslims calling for the killing of their enemy-du jour, like, you know, middle-aged female English teachers who make the mistake of naming a classroom mascot “Mohammed”. Are you saying all those people are mentally ill? I don’t think religion-induced mass hysteria has made it into the DSM yet.

      1. No, but serial killing is a symptom of brain disease.

        The question is what facts are useful in explaining and problem-solving? The facts about individual brains, of course.

        Ideological and rhetorical explanations means little and explain less. Murders always lie and are so deranged they have no idea why they do anything.

        Since when is using a homicidal manic’s explanations of anything valuable? They said they did it for religion — they’re lying to get away with it. Of course.

        1. I can’t decide whether you’re horribly conflating several different modes of behavior and their underlying psychology, or just being parodic. Either way, this doesn’t seem like a very fruitful line of discussion.

          1. Yes, ideological venting and simplistic ideas are a lot less brain work. Fact based discussions are work, Best to leave.

            So the headline is “Killed for Dancing.” — probably not that simple. But, by tomorrow, another celebrity headline will replace it.

            Whatever sells the most eyeballs.

        2. They said they did it for religion — they’re lying to get away with it. Of course.

          Why “of course”?

    2. Please, at least briefly, describe the evidence that indicates that your claims are any more likely to be true than, and to the exclusion of, the claims you are arguing against.

      1. It’s basic psychiatry 101. We also know the evidence is growing that:
        – There is little conscious control of behavior
        – Verbal explanations of behavior are post hoc, of little information value and largely driven by local social norms.

        1. I really shouldn’t bother with trying to pin this fellow down. He’s not worth it. His name was ‘Rich & Co’ the other day. Some time ago it was ‘sleeprunning’. He trots out his little mantras and thinks he’s shocking.

  14. I’d careful of the early reports. I remember a prior beheading case attributed to the taliban, that was in fact related to two groups of men fighting for a boy they wanted to have sex with.

    It might have to do with sex (the act), not dancing, and it might not have to do with religion.

    1. So worst case we have one fewer example of the Taliban’s religiously motivated muderous brutality than we may have thought. I don’t think that would negate much of what people have been writing here.

  15. Wes Craven couldn’t come up with a more horrendous scenario than this. There you are doing nothing worse than having a good time socializing with friends when a group of remorseless judgmental lunatics crash the party and start cutting peoples heads off while you watch. And you know your turn is coming.

    I understand that it is the case, but I don’t understand why these ancient desert dogmas are so terrified of woman. That may be the aspect of religion that I find the most pathetic. Shifting all the blame to woman so that you don’t have to accept any responsibility for your own thoughts or actions. Truly pathetic. The antithesis of machismo.

    1. I think the male-dominated religions (& this includes all three of the abrahamic ones) like to trample on women because the guys are afraid of our wombs. All I can say is good riddance to them when we learn to self-fertilize.

      1. There is a long tradition of patriarchal religions not liking women. Here is a modern folk singer on her take on the current republicans. Worth sharing.

    2. I hardly think this issue has to do with women/misogyny at all.

      Remember that the taliban banned music AND dancing.

      The reasoning (if you could call it that) behind the logic (again) is that it may offend the sky-guy and he, in all his grand impotence, is not able to sort things out for himself so he needs his earthly thugs to help things along.

      1. I disagree. The fear and desire of, and need to control, woman is pervasive throughout all three of the desert dogma’s holy writings and traditions. By virtue of having been raised in the environment that they were, it is nearly certain that their attitudes regarding woman had something to do with this atrocity. Because these attitudes are so pervasive as to be a defining feature of their culture it would be more improbable that they were not a factor in this incident. Whether or not it was a primary driver in this case will have to await further information.

        If the story related here turns out to be reasonably accurate, I’d say it was indeed a primary driver.

    3. It’s probably all about the desire to control and insecurity about measuring up to the wife’s previous sexual partners, if she were allowed any. It’s not really about religious purity, it’s about making sure that women aren’t ‘spoiled’ before marriage.

  16. There is a series of vids on LiveLeak of Russian soldiers getting beheaded in the beautiful mountains of Dagestan…

    Seriously hard to watch (well, impossible for me and I assume most people) without turning round/turning off…

    Is there anyway whatsoever that people can do this to other people without being either Jeffrey Dahmer or muslim?

  17. How can there be any better evidence of the murderous insanity of this belief system? Unfortunately, all of them will have to die before this madness is stamped out.

  18. I would like to see Muslims to condemn this brutality, but judging from the past, and by one response to a twitter post by Richard Dawkins on this, I don’t have much hope

    I don’t have much hope that any number of condemnations by any number of Muslims will b enough to stop this sort of rhetoric. (My skim of the English-language Pakistani press turned up nothing but disapproval)

    I would like to see White Atheists condemn the rhetoric about “savages”, think about what happened to atheists and modernist Muslims of Aghanistan and be interested in the Muslim-majority countries for reasons other than gurgling over the scandal du jour, but I … have optimism of the will.

    1. “Nothing but disapproval”… is that, specifically, nothing but the mildest form of condemnation?

      Or, that in the English-language Pakistani press, approval was filtered out?

      It’s not clear what you mean to say there.

      “Savage” has various connotations in English, that may be applied to peaceful (more or less mythical) Noble Savages of remote Pacific islands, or rabid dogs to be shot on sight. Your wish to expunge it from the lexicon is noted.

  19. At some point, maybe a century or two in the future, it will make sense to use the best brain science to ask what causes “kill or be killed” behavior in young men.

    This seems to be the true driver of these mass murders, not religious ideology.

    There also seem to be parallels in Mexican gangs now and Syria. The mass murdering and beheading seems to follow a pattern as well.

    Be interesting to study.

  20. I’ve been so sickened by this murderous event that, for days, I had no words to add here. Clearly, the people who did are abjectly morally bereft and deluded beyond belief. For them to profess any kind of superior understanding of what is right and wrong, or good and bad, flies in the face of any sense of sanity and humanity.

  21. Here is the next frontier of understanding mass murder. Where else is there to go? History, poly sci, econ, etc have all been tried and found wanting in either describing or explaining let along remediating.

    It’ll probably take a hundred years or so to be accepted, however. Human knowledge proceeds one funeral at a time.”

    “Brain imaging has revealed a breakdown in normal patterns of emotional processing that impairs the ability of people with clinical depression to suppress negative emotional states.

    Efforts by depressed patients to suppress their feelings when viewing emotionally negative images enhanced activity in several brain areas, including the amygdala, known to play a role in generating emotion, according to a report in the August 15 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. “Identifying areas in the nervous system that correlate to pathological mood states is one of the pressing questions in mental illness today,”

    The data showed distinctive patterns of activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) and the right prefrontal cortex (PFC), areas that regulate the emotional output generated from the amygdala. The VMPFC is compromised in depression, likely because of the inappropriate engagement of right PFC circuitry in depressed individuals.

    “These findings underscore the importance of emotional regulation deficits in depression,” says Johnstone. “They also suggest targets for therapeutic intervention.” According to previous research, normal interaction between the amygdala and the VMPFC may underlie the proper adaptation of levels of the stress hormone cortisol on a daily basis. These levels do not vary as widely in people with major depressive disorder; future research may now be able to clarify the mechanism that underlies this aspect of depression. It could also examine the possibility of using measurements of activity in the amygdala to predict the effectiveness of treatments for depression such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

    Read more at:

    Have seen other studies where young male violence and depression are correlated.

  22. Here is a perspective from France:

    ….Just as political Islam is a masquerade in which various underlying motives such as nationalism, poverty, lust for power, criminality, sadism and delusions of grandeur parade in historical guise, beheading “infidels” is also a theatrical staging pairing Islamic tradition with mass electronic propaganda.

    The head and the sword have a specific place in the rhetoric, heraldry and history of Islam. There is no shortage of passages in the Koran that jihadists can interpret to support their propaganda. Chapter 47, Verse 4, is a favorite: “When you meet the unbelievers (in battle), smite their necks until you have crushed them…” Still, the way that sentence continues is: “then bind your captives firmly; thereafter (you are entitled to) set them free, either by an act of grace, or against ransom, until the war ends.”

    The Prophet Mohammed himself did nothing to support the view that passages like that in the Koran should be leavened by milder action. A favorite anecdote of fanatical Islamists is that of the Jewish Quraiza tribe that surrendered to Mohammed after a 25-day siege, after which 600 to 900 of the men were beheaded.

    And it went on like that in North Africa, Spain, Asia, everywhere where Islam spread. The religion’s history is poor in philosophically uplifting conversion tales and rich in stories of conquered peoples given the choice to convert… or pay with their heads. …

    So when participants at a village fete are beheaded, on the one hand it is sheer madness and on the other, there is method to it. The “infidels” – who in Afghanistan also include all those who live under the protection of Western troops – are served the very clear message that they too are enemies of Islam and will be slaughtered like animals.

    Koran interpreter Nasr Abu Zayd said a few years ago that these bloody messages from the bearded executioners in Arabic countries are viewed with mixed feelings: “People are afraid they’ll return to their own countries one day and do the same thing there.” His fear was justified, and the latest outrage is by far not the only example of it. In the Taliban’s Afghanistan, in Iraq, and everywhere else where Sharia law is a reference, far more Muslims have been killed than “infidels.”

    full article in Le Temps

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