Mentally ill woman stoned to death in Kabul for burning Qur’an

March 20, 2015 • 1:30 pm

Where were the moderate Muslims trying to stop this senseless murder, which just happened in Kabul? As NBC News reports:

An angry mob stoned and beat a woman before hurling her onto a riverbed and setting her body alight in the Afghan capital after she allegedly burned copies of the Quran, officials and eyewitnesses told NBC News.

The woman was set upon by a crowd near the popular Shah-Do Shamshira holy shrine in Kabul on Thursday, according to two nearby shopkeepers and police officials.

Mohammad Haroon, a 23-year-old bread seller near the shrine, and Abdullah, a nearby shopkeeper who like many Afghans goes by only one name, told NBC News that police attempted to hold back the crowd by locking the doors of the shrine and firing shots into the air. But the mob climbed the walls of the compound and chanted that the woman should be killed, they said.

The crowd then attacked the woman with sticks and stones, with some men stomping on her body, and she was dragged down the street, according to eyewitnesses and horrific images shared widely on social media. Haroon added that several cars drove over the woman’s body while she was in the street before she was thrown in onto the riverbed and set on fire.

The victim’s family told Kabul police their daughter had been suffering from mental illness for many years, according to Afghanistan’s TOLO news channel.

Four people were reported to have been arrested, but I’ve seen a video that purports to be of this killing, and there were dozens of people cheering on the horrible stoning and stomping.  Her head was crushed with huge blocks of cement. This is the religion of peace?

Was the woman really mentally ill? I believe it, for you’d have to be to burn a Qur’an in a Kabul shrine.

CBS News adds this (the woman supposedly burned the book inside the shrine):

According to an eyewitness, protesters were chanting anti-American and anti-democracy slogans while beating the woman.

Abdul Wahid, 30, a shopkeeper close to the shrine, said the protesters were in such a huge number that they broke a railing at the shrine.

Can anything other than religious or political ideology produce such madness? A woman’s life extinguished, all over a worthless book of fiction—pieces of paper.

77 thoughts on “Mentally ill woman stoned to death in Kabul for burning Qur’an

      1. I think fundamentalist religion supports authoritarian government and also supports the dominance of males.

        Threatening either one with modernism is much scarier than the threat of bombs.

  1. Where were the moderate Muslims trying to stop this senseless murder…?

    Well, looks like at least the police were trying, which under the circumstances is impressive. As for the ordinary civilians who looked on and did nothing, we are talking about an unruly mob gripped by religious fanaticism and forward panic. Seems to me the wisest strategy is to not give them any reason to start going after horrified bystanders, too.

    But yes, the idea of the sacred is a huge motivating factor here.

    1. Pity it is pieces of paper and not human life that is ‘sacred’.

      Sweden is getting a beating from the entire arab world because our foreign minister criticized Saudi Arabia’s problems to hark to human rights and freedoms. (In huge part, the subject was the beating of Raif Badawi.) Because S.A. are using religious based law, critics came away with that this was criticizing their ‘sacred’ religion.*

      *Which may have been an attempt to preempt the awaited stop of swedish weapon trade with S.A. from last week, to boot.

    2. I think any moderate voices would have been attacked too in this situation – they were probably just scared, and who can blame them? People simply don’t behave normally in a mob situation, although I also think religion encourages mob mentality.

      This is unbelievably horrific. How can anyone think this is an appropriate response in any situation?

      Anyone who took part should be prosecuted to some extent if the police want to be seen as genuinely discouraging such behaviour.

      1. Islam has always been maintained as a belief system by terror, either explicit, or implicit.
        William James has it down perfectly in his “Varieties of Religious Experience”, written over one hundred years ago:

        “First of all let us take Devoutness. When unbalanced, one of its vices is called Fanaticism. Fanaticism (when not a mere expression of ecclesiastical ambition) is only loyalty carried to a convulsive extreme. When an intensely loyal and narrow mind is once grasped by the feeling that a certain superhuman person is worthy of its exclusive devotion, one of the first things that happens is that it idealizes the devotion itself. To adequately realize the merits of the idol gets to be considered the one great merit of the worshiper; and the sacrifices and servilities by which savage tribesman have from time immemorial exhibited their faithfulness to chieftains are now outbid in favor of the deity. Vocabularies are exhausted and languages altered in the attempt to praise him enough; death is looked on as gain if it attract his grateful notice; and the personal attitude of being his devotee becomes what one might almost call a new and exalted kind of professional specialty within the tribe. The Buddha and Mohammed and their companions and many Christian saints are incrusted with a heavy jewelry of anecdotes which are meant to be honorific, but are simply abgeschmackt ( German: “outrageous, tasteless”) and silly, and form a touching expression of man’s misguided propensity to praise.
        An immediate consequence of this condition of mind is jealousy for the deity’s honor. How can the devotee show his loyalty better than by sensitiveness in this regard? The slightest affront or neglect must be resented, the deity’s enemies must be put to shame. In exceedingly narrow minds and active wills, such a care may become an engrossing preoccupation; and crusades have been preached and massacres instigated for no other reason than to remove a fancied slight upon the God.”

        1. I like his style, though he seems to have been quite unsound on theism and (possibly) free will. Next book to download on my phone…

    3. Well, looks like at least the police were trying, which under the circumstances is impressive.

      I’ll be more impressed if they arrest someone for murder.

  2. “Where were the moderate Muslims trying to stop this senseless murder, which just happened in Kabul? ”

    They have a tendency to speak out only after being called out on their reticence, if they do speak out at all.

    1. It really doesn’t matter how often moderate Muslims condemn Islamic extremism, still folk will deny they ever do.

      1. That may be slightly true, now. It has taken quite a while and a load of prompting before we heard much at all.
        I understand though. It is hard to criticize without criticizing the faith.
        That is the problem.

      2. Actually, I’m sure it takes a lot of courage for many Muslims to condemn this kind of violence. It must be a bit like “Sammy the Bull” ratting on the Mafia.

  3. “Where were the moderate Muslims?”

    I actually have no idea, but I will hazard a series of guesses.

    1) They are fewer in number than many would like to believe.

    2) In places like Kabul, they feel helpless and intimidated and incapable of saying anything that would help, there being no legal protection for full freedom of speech.

    3) They lack a clearly thought out (Islamic-ish) rationale for objecting to acts like this one other than gut instinct.

    This doesn’t explain moderate Muslims in America not protesting, except for possibly #3, though even in America they may fear reprisals from other Muslims.

    Broadly, I am not aware of entire organized communities of moderate Muslims. There are entire communities of moderate/liberal Christians and Jews that overtly identify as non-fundamentalist. I am not aware of any such communities of Muslims. Moderate Muslims seem to be at best a scattered lot without a well-formed ideology/theology as far as I can tell.

  4. Same old, same old. (<–Black not-quite humor.)

    Why doesn't the whole rest of the world get together and come down on these abominations of countries?

    Well, minus the countries that share the Islamist Saudi "culture."

    Where would they be if no one would buy their oil?

    1. Damn, why was I thinking Saudi Arabia when “Kabul’s” right therein the headline…

      Well, I feel the same way about Afghanistan…except for being awfully ashamed of the “collateral damage” our illegal war has and is still causing.

      1. Not this “illegal war” rubbish again….

        The NATO military operation in Afghanistan was carried out initially under a United Nations mandate and latterly with the express permission and cooperation of the democratically-elected Afghan government.

        How much more “legal” do you want?

        1. You win. Pretend I wrote immoral, instead.

          So now what I want is a universal fatwa on “preemptive wars.”

          1. I am an ex left lefty and son’t like preemptive wars either.
            The Vietnam war caused great mental anguish for me, and many others, still, to his day.
            However, I believe that going into Afghanistan was warranted and had as part of its motivation, a desire to help those oppressed by the worst of Islam, the Taliban and the like.
            As you said, come down on these countries.
            Denunciations and sanctions and embargo’s would have little effect on a place like Afghanistan.
            The Taliban needed to be overcome.

          2. Thing is, we don’t have much of a recent history in overcoming via military action.

          3. The Grenada and Panama invasions seem to have achieved their military objectives, but I can’t think of any other decisive examples. The actual objective of the messy long wars is of course to enrich corporations, not to win.

    2. We did come down on Afghanistan pretty hard; replacing the Taliban with a parliamentary democracy including forcing the entire country to allow women to vote. But unless we want to run a police state, there is a limit to how well you can make cultural changes stick. Moreover, from the chants of the crowd it appears that “coming down hard” on them is one of the motivations for the behavior. I’m not denying the religious motivation, but I am pointing out that western military forces ‘coming down hard’ on people who are chanting anti-American and anti-Democratic slogans has a ‘the beatings will continue until morale improves’ air to it.

      As to your last question: they’d be just as intolerant and backwards, and the murders of innocents over religious disputes would still occur, but fewer governments would care. Don’t kid yourself; conditions for women, religious minorities, etc. in the mideast would not be any better if the region had no oil.

      1. Urk. Write in haste, repent in leisure…

        I forget that few here have any reason to know just how pacifistic I am, I so should never have used an idiom like “come down hard.” I was thinking purely of things like sanctions and embargos and simple denunciations; if enough nations would join the shunning, it might force some concessions on the part of the oppressors.

        But the thing is, the first world plays cute with the various oil regimes, countries or alliances angling for the most lucrative relationships no matter how much they have to look away from what they’re actually subsidizing or how severely it’s crippling diplomacy.

        I suppose your last comment is true. Although the rulers and “leaders” at the top of the hierarchies seem to be just as demanding of opulent lifestyles as their western counterparts. And as they lost their wealth-based power they’d have a much harder time enforcing the oppression they’re now responsible for. Which might open some windows for the democratic-minded factions of the “Arab Spring” movement and whatever other social-media fomented rebels already exist in other countries.

  5. I would hope there would be protests from Washington and elsewhere condemning this despicable behavior and the lax attitude of the Afghan government. I just read where Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom protested against Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. The Saudis extreme reaction included withdrawing their ambassador and cancelling trade activities, complaining that she was interfering with Saudi internal affairs. Looks like the Swedes are buckling to pressure and withdrawing their objections. There is a lesson there somewhere.

      1. Wonderful article, too. Even garnering some appreciative comments at the WSJ.

        I suppose Hirsi Ali publishes in the WSJ because the Nation side of the magazine spectrum finds her way too non-PC. Despite the fact that the reforms she urges would improve the lives of millions of people.

  6. “According to an eyewitness, protesters were chanting anti-American and anti-democracy slogans while beating the woman.”

    Reza Aslan will point to this as justification they were motivated by politics and not religion no doubt, ignoring any evidence to the contrary.

    1. Once again – can’t it be both? Or rather, the reason they turn to the Islamists is because “enemy of my enemy”? These movements are *attractive* to some people – and one has to ask why. Preexisting Islam is only *part* of the picture.

  7. We have a history of doing the same thing in the United States— to our own designated underclass, African-Americans.

    It’s just that women are the ni**ers of Islam. And no, I’m not kidding one bit. Nor am I overstating or comparing unlike things. The situation of women under Sharia is precisely that of African-Americans under Jim Crow or in the pre-Civil War era– right down to their legalistic status as being only a fraction of a human.

    And of course every now and then the crowd needs a sacrifice to its bloodlust and hatred. In misogynistic societies this means outbursts of weirdly intense femicidal violence such as that seen in the Yezidi community of Iraq a few years ago, when a young woman was dragged out of her home and literally pulverized by a similar mob (this was also filmed). When your ni**ers are your own women, your sisters and mothers and daughters, the problem in your society is basically unresolvable. Good luck planet Earth.

    1. You’re right as far as women being an underclass, but I suspect the same thing would happen to a man accused of burning a koran.

      But you are correct that we have as horrible a history in the way blacks were tortured to death with impunity by mobs of white people, no more civilized than the afghans.

      1. I was wondering if a man too, would suffer the same fate. I am thinking a man would be punished but not with such viscous hatred.

        1. I’d think there’s a good chance you’d be right. After all, they are stoned differently (from Wikipedia):

          Article 102 – An adulterous man shall be buried in a ditch up to near his waist and an adulterous woman up to near her chest and then stoned to death.

          Article 103 – In case the person sentenced to stoning escapes the ditch in which they are buried, then if the adultery is proven by testimony then they will be returned for the punishment but if it is proven by their own confession then they will not be returned.[4]

          “In case the person…escapes…” Hmmm, probably a lot easier to do when you’re only buried up to your waist. Especially if you have a lot more upper-body strength.

          And note, some months ago, a couple of clauses in the first article above read “up to his waist” and “up to her neck.” Do you suppose some wiki-editor came along and tried to make it look like a kinder, gentler stoning?

          1. That difference seems a bit unfair. If you are buried up to your chest your breathing can be impaired. As well, a woman’s wider hips would make it that much harder again.

          2. I could never understand the viciousness of racism.
            I can see how people could think they are better. That some people are second class. That god made it that way, or whatever.
            I have to stretch my imagination to accommodate that, but I can just see it.
            But why the hatred? The nastiness? The viciousness? The absolute inhuman treatment so often meted out by many many people.
            It may be that women, being regarded as less there, get a double (or more) dose of nasty when they do something wrong.
            I mention above being traumatized by our involvement in Vietnam. It must really be hell for someone living there who is a reasonable intelligent sensitive person. To have to endure evil like that going on around one and being powerless to stop it.

          3. There could be evolutionary reasons–tribalism, for instance. Or ridding the herd of the weak animals…

            Thing about the Iraq war is, despite the much better news coverage these days, I don’t think anyone not-involved is being traumatized. After 13 years, I think some people have actually forgotten that we’re still engaged in it.

            The left has been very disappointing regarding this war.

        2. Well, it’s not this just case. It’s the comparison generally. You can add to the pile of evidence that Islamic countries practice gender segregation and apartheid that in practice is not different from the way we practiced racial segregation.

          It’s even more interesting that many of these practices in their more extreme form are recent innovations in Muslim countries.

  8. Should we hope that civilized modern society can change the primitive repulsive behavior of religious culture? Might take a long time but at least you have to condemn it. We had to remove over 600,000 from the living in 4 years just to remove legal slavery and it still took another 100 years to remove Jim Crow.

      1. Yeah, I shouldn’t say remove, just illegal. And the republicans are trying to reverse that as well.

  9. This women was probably the most sane person at her own killing, the horror of it all. These simpletons are inflicted with a killing meme with it’s history of persistance over rationality and reason.
    Afghanistan is a brutal, unforgiving with war part of the landscape and like the young Afghan immigrant I occasionally work with I’m glad I don’t live there.

  10. It’s understandable that the bystanders did or said nothing. Even if the crowd didn’t kill them on the spot, they would be marked for killing later.

    The difficulty in changing muslim culture in places where it is oppressive is that it’s too dangerous to protest or speak up. Even judges don’t dare rule against cases of accused apostasy; they know that it would be their own death sentence.

    There may be more silent atheists in those places than one would think, but they have no voice and no power. Look what happened to that blogger in Saudi Arabia.

    1. That was my answer to Jerry’s question, too. But perhaps Jerry meant, where are the peaceful US Muslims (or European, etc.) holding their protest rallies?

      Actually I suspect there are some; our media often don’t tend to cover them it seems.

      1. Yes, I do think there are U.S. and European muslims who condemn such atrocities, but haven’t heard of any rallies. Of course, muslims only make up about two percent of the population here in the U.S.; might be hard to get a crowd together.

    2. I would think the difficulty in changing the culture is that the moral tone is set by the clerical class which appear to be feeding their people the lessons of the Koran much to accurately. Getting them to soften will take, what, a reformation?

  11. This crime is utterly gut-wrenching and horrific. I can’t help notice the irony in it too, as she might have been way less ‘mentally ill’ than all of those rabid monsters.

  12. I have seen that canal.

    I think only religious ideology can provoke such frenzies.
    I have been trying to think of a political example, without a religious component, that leads to such behavior, other than war but I can’t.

    1. Pffft, people do mob killings all the time for a variety of reasons. You only need a rumor and a victim. The reason people do it is because they enjoy it; it excites them.

      1. Right, and all you need is a Holy Book(TM) to stop them from fulfilling their murderous urges. No, wait.

      2. Are there really that many mob killings of relatively innocent persons in such a public mob fury.
        I am not so sure.

  13. “After such a horrifying murder, how can you say that Islam is a religion of peace?”

    “Well, the crowd didn’t rape her first….”

  14. Before they set her body on fire, they made sure she wasn’t carrying a copy of the Quran in her pocket, because allowing such a book to come to harm would be terribly wrong!

  15. Horrible. Just plain horrible.

    (BTW, burning the Quran is the recommended way to dispose of the book. I don’t remember if it’s a sourath or a hadith, but it’s in there somewhere)

  16. The irony is that this mob is not at all what the apologists would label as extremists, yet somehow this barbarities seem to escape their discourse, never mind how frequently (and I would wager that only a fraction of these occurrences find their way to the international media) they are perpetrated by “average” middle-eastern muslims…

    When a scream of “Burn the witch!” is all it takes for an average group of people to turn into barbaric murderers, I have to wonder just how big the difference between extremists and non-extremists really is…

    1. Oops. Well, we all make mistakes…

      At least the outcry and vows of justice in that article are encouraging.

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