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

March 23, 2015 • 10:00 am

Three days ago I reported that an Afghan woman had been stoned to death in Kabul for supposedly burning a Qur’an in a shrine. I saw the videos of her violent execution, and they were horrific: men throwing huge rocks on top of her and stomping on her head, while a huge crowd gathered to cheer them on. It was one of the most horrific displays of human brutality I’ve seen. That video, somewhat bowdlerized, is now on YouTube with a warning, so if you want to see it—and are aware that it’s pretty shocking—go here.

Yesterday the Guardian revealed that the 27-year-old woman, named Farakhunda, didn’t even do what she was killed for.  They also noted that the police stood by and did nothing during the horrible murder. Finally, Farakunda wasn’t, as previously reported, mentally ill, which was the only reason I could think of why someone would burn a Qur’an at a Muslim shrine (unless she was committing “suicide by book burning”). The Guardian‘s words:

A woman killed by an angry mob in front of police in the Afghan capital last week for allegedly burning a copy of Islam’s holy book was wrongly accused, Afghanistan’s top criminal investigator has said.

Mobile phone footage circulating on social media shows police at the scene did not save the 27-year-old woman, Farkhunda, who was beaten with sticks and set on fire by a crowd of men in central Kabul on Thursday.

“Last night I went through all documents and evidence once again, but I couldn’t find any evidence to say Farkhunda burnt the holy Qur’an,” Gen Mohammad Zahir told reporters at her funeral on Sunday. “Farkhunda was totally innocent.”

The top criminal investigator promised to punish all those involved and said 13 people, including eight police officers, had already been arrested.

A picture of Farkhunda held up during her funeral ceremony in Kabul on Sunday. Photograph: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

The killing was condemned by the Afghan president and other officials, but also drew praise from some quarters, including from a prominent cleric who asserted the men had a right to defend their Muslim beliefs at all costs.

Farkhunda was a teacher of Islamic studies, according to her brother, who denied media reports that she had been mentally ill. He said this was a made-up defence by their father, who wanted to protect the family after police told them to leave the city for their own safety.

So there we have it: another young life extinguished by religious lunatics driven mad by a work of fiction.

(Guardian caption): Women’s rights activists carry Farkhunda’s coffin. Photograph: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

The UK website The Freethinker reports that at least one heartening thing that came from this tragedy. Reza Mohebbii, an Afghan living in Sweden (who posted a video about how he despises how Islam is ruining his natal land), also posted a YouTube video of him burning a Qur’an (the sound is a bit wonky, but the inaudible parts have English subtitles):

This is a brave man.

But, as The Freethinker reports, we have the predictable reactions. One came from Habib Abdolhossein (Google shows someone with that name is a correspondent for Press TV), who said this in the comments:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 8.26.49 AM


I as a Muslim, am really shocked and ashamed of what an ignorant mob did in Kabul. But I think you could have expressed solidarity with Farkhondeh in a much better and decent way, without desecrating a book seen as sacred by over one billion people. She has fallen victim to the ignorance of a group of people who have no understanding of Islam. I’m sorry to say that there is no difference between what you did and the crime those uncivilized people committed. You can burn the ‘ordinary’ book but not the absolute truth of the Quran which has been speaking for more than 1400 years.

No, we should descrate the book by all means: to show that it’s just a book, to show that its words are hateful and inspire others to hatred, and to show that burning a book is an incredibly trivial “offense” compared to killing someone for supposedly doing the same thing.

Read some of the YouTube comments: it’s a mini-education in itself. I hope that YouTube doesn’t remove this video on the grounds that it hurts Muslim sentiments. If it does, I suggest we protest en masse.

h/t: Graham

115 thoughts on “Afghan woman beaten to death for burning Qur’an didn’t even do it

  1. I’m sorry to say that there is no difference between what you did and the crime those uncivilized people committed.

    If so, then the angry mob was simply seeking justice. This attitude is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    1. I’d even say it is a major part of the problem. It is either victim blaming, agreement or a combination of the two. There are far more people with this attitude than the people that actually carry out the violence. And how ever much they may deny it their attitude is helping to prevent this kind of behavior from becoming a thing of the past.

    2. That sentence makes me sick to my stomach. He condemns the killing, but then equates it with burning a book. Very depressing.

    3. This shows that even those who we call, or they call them selves, “Moderate Muslims” have sick ideas in mind. Thinking that burning a book is by any sense equivalent to killing an innocent, person shows how this “Moderate Islam” is nothing but a cover to underlying fundamentalism

  2. This compels me to repeat myself: When a scream of “Burn the witch!” is all it takes for an average group of Afghans to turn into barbaric murderers, I have to wonder just how big the difference between “extremists” and “non-extremists” really is…

    1. I guess there is not a big difference in kabul: “…drew praise from some quarters, including from a prominent cleric who asserted the men had a right to defend their Muslim beliefs at all costs.”

      This is just so disgusting and perverted there aren’t words.

      Waiting for Reza Aslan to explain how this is the fault of the colonisers, and not the ‘religion of peace’…

  3. I’m torn about this. Not torn about what happened to Farakhunda. That is disgusting and shameful and ignorant and, worse of all, extremely indicative of what is wrong with religion. The police should be held accountable along with those that kicked, dragged, and beat Farakhunda to death. This is what is what leaves us shaking out heads. That atrocities like this even occur in the 21st century. You need religion for this to happen.

    What has me torn is the book burning. Part of me agrees that the symbolic book burning is and should be done. A human life is much more valuable than the ink and paper and words printed and bound in a book (especially a fairy tale). I feel that this is a slippery slope.

    Slippery in that, regardless of what the book says, it is what those that read it and interpret that book DO. Is it the book? Is the person reading and interpreting? If we start burning the Qur’an what books are next? What other books would we be justified in destroying and erasing from the face of the earth and from our history as humans?

    I think of the heinous acts by ISIS/ISL in Mosul and in Tunisia. Attacks in museums. Attacks on human history. Attempts at destroying cultural gems and evidence for cultural growth. Precious, not because of what they depict, no. Precious because of what it represents. It represents our civilization’s infancy. It represents our history artistically, politically, religiously… I could go on.

    I would hate there to be a new Bonfire of the Vanities. I would hate there to be an en masse book burning. If you condone the burning of one book you are saying it is OK to burn any and all books. If that is the case… We are just as guilty of committing cultural genocide as ISIS and ISL are of committing the same acts with hammers and sawzalls in Mosul.

    Condemn those that attacked and killed Farakhunda. Yes. Attack the religion and the religions that poison everything? Most certainly. Attempt to say that it is okay to erase our collective past? Not 100% that is the best course of action.

    Thank you, as usual, for shedding light on these events and for broadcasting these stories.

    1. What other books would we be justified in destroying and erasing from the face of the earth and from our history as humans?

      Burning a copy of the Koran is not an attempt to erase it from history, it is merely a symbolic act showing disrespect for the Koran.

      If there were very few copies of the Koran in existence, or if it were a particularly historic copy, or if burning a copy prevented anyone reading the Koran, then I’d agree, it should not be burnt.

      But, since these things come off the presses by the thousand, I fully support the symbolic act of burning one.

      1. I see that point and concede it. If it stops at symbolism, great. When it goes beyond that and we have book burnings outside of libraries…where does it end. But, yes, there are digital copies and so on.

        1. I’m torn on this as well.

          Killing Farakhunda was an act of hate. But I feel burning or destroying anything would also be an act of hate. What is gained from destroying something? What good comes from it other than angering more people and inciting more acts of violence?

          I am not saying justice should be ignored. Farakhunda’s memory should be honored and her injustice should be righted, but vengeance is not justice. Lashing out against all for the actions of a few is not justice.

          1. Burning a “sacred text”, flag or depiction of some despot like Kim Jong-un in protest is not the same as an act of hate.
            What good can come from it? Burning flags of countries that supported apartheid was a great example and burning the qur’an in protest is as well.

          2. I don’t think anyone is suggesting “lashing out at all”. Whatever lashing is in the direction of Islam as practiced in certain parts of the world, and the protection such practice receives from certain sectors of those societies. Beyond that, the very concept of sacred text is anathema to anyone sensitive to the root causes of these ghastly behaviors.

          3. No, burning a Koran, or a Bible, or the Bhagavad Gita or whatever is not an “act of hate”. It’s purpose is to show that we will not be cowed. I will retain my freedom and independence. I will burn whatever flammable property of mine I wish.

    2. Given that the Quran is being burned in order to counter the dangerous belief that it is “sacred,” I don’t think this is analogous to book-burnings done by people who are trying to erase ideas. It resembles burning an American flag in order to protest a “Flag-burning Amendment.” The assumption in both is that there will still be plenty left.

    3. I agree with you. There is something about book BBQ’s that is very, very scary. Even when it’s about one the most vile and hateful books ever written.

      1. But if this holy book were a damaged copy of the Sikhs’ Guru Granth Sahib, then it would be mandatory to burn it.

        Even in book burning, religions differ between themselves. x

    4. I see your point, but is burning a copy of the Quran, one of the 5 most widely published volumes in the world, and destroying an irreplaceable original artifact really an accurate comparison? A burnt Quran is easily replaced.
      Copies of the Quran have been burned in protest in protest in the past and no “Bonfire of the Vanities” ensued.
      If you are of the opinion that the belief in the divine nature of the Quran is a destructive belief, then it makes little sense to mollycoddle that sentiment in its most fierce adherents.
      When intellectual honesty is subverted to appease those likely to have the most violent reaction, bullies win.

      1. I am not saying to “run for them thar hills.” I am saying that it doesn’t do a bit a good to prepare for a battle of wits with the unarmed. I don’t see being reasonable as a betrayal of honesty.

        I try not to get into debates about religion with fundies because… it never goes anywhere. Why?

        You know know exactly why. By not having the debate am I hiding? Of course not.

        Practice your religion behind the closed doors of your home and keep it there. When it leaves the house and enters the public sphere and politics… It deserves to be confronted. Again, I am torn on this topic. Part of me thinks that we need to remember Farakhunda died and that we need to find justice for her. The other side says that this isn’t the best way.

        I don’t have a solution that works.

        1. I understand that and I apologize if I suggested that you were hiding, that was not my intent.
          I am driven entirely by subjective experience on this issue. My father is the youngest of 9 kids. So, in my generation I am the youngest of 34 cousins. With the exception of my sister, the other 32 are all fire-breathing Evangelicals. This combined with my withering and outspoken criticism of religion has, admittedly, lead to fewer and fewer invites to family functions, which is a small price to pay for being the guy their kids turn to when they begin to question the faith. I’ve helped four of my younger family members deal with losing/questioning their faith when they felt as though they had nowhere else to turn. I’ll take that hit every time.
          I understand your point about the futility of changing a fundamentalist’s mind in a debate. I’ve engaged in many many debates in my life, some of them formal, most of them not, and never once has my goal been to change the mind of the person I’m debating. Debate is about crafting a sound argument for the marketplace of ideas. If I gave in to the frustration and said, “what’s the use?” the greater Orlando Florida area and my family would be short four young free-thinkers. Both of those things need all the free-thought they can get their hands on right now.

          1. I get ya. My own story of leaving the church was a process and one that left me the lone survivor. It begins with feeling that you can have free thought. I’ll vote for that. Thanks.

        2. One cannot practice a religion behind closed doors and keep it there, not one like Islam.
          Unless they don’t influence any children in there and, more importantly, don’t come out.
          People wandering around loose, with retrograde ignorance, will affect the world around them, however slightly.

    5. If the Catholics had a fatwa, there are some who would have issued one against PZ Myers for desecrating a communion wafer.

      Burning any book is generally an obnoxious protest, certainly, but in this particular case it’s most propriety.

      1. I think the confusion is that the idea of “book burning” has connotations running in the direction of censorship. That is clearly not always the case. It can also be legitimate protest.

        1. I agree with this completely. Burning books to suppress ideas is bad. Burning books for the purpose of promoting the free spread of ideas… which is what is happening here, burning a book in defiance of religious suppression of ideas, is apropos.

          It might be slightly better to piss on the book than burn it because burning has such strong connotations of violence. Burning a book, like an effigy, can too easily be interpreted as a threat to violence towards someone. Pissing on it would more unambiguously an expression of total lack of respect without the overtone of actual violence. But this is a quibble.

          1. Good luck with that. Maybe we could turn it into an ‘icebucket challenge’ type thing? With fewer celebrity volunteers I’d imagine.

      2. The concept of book burning as protest, I am fine with. When it spreads to other books…where do you do draw the line? If we were all “educated” enough to see this for what it is then it wouldn’t be a topic of interest for any of us. As protests go, burn the books. But, where does it stop?

        Look, Farakhunda died. A life was taken because she was accused of having burnt a book. I am not sure we will ever know why Farakhunda died. To fight the good fight by burning the books leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth. When that line is crossed (which ever and what ever line that is) what is solved?

        Nothing. Religion enslaves. It enslaves the mind and prevents it from reasoning. None of this makes sense. Burn a bible or burn the quran, it is a mere book to you and to me. But to a fundamentalist? Is it just a book? Fanning the flames is all (pardon the pun).

        1. “I am not sure we will ever know why Farakhunda died”

          According to latest reports she was a religious teacher (!) who accused the local mullah of distributing false ‘tawiz’ – verses of the Koran used as good-luck charms. So he started shouting that she had burned a Koran.

          If anyone should hang it should be him.

          1. A good illustration of how a large part of religion is about power – a priestly faction gaining and maintaining power over the populace by inculcating them with superstitious beliefs and using violence wherever necessary to discourage any challenge. Sadly, the murder of Farakhunda was only a negligible fraction of the violence that has propped up religious hierarchies throughout human history.

            1. I was just getting ready to comment that there had to have been some reason for these claims to have been made against her: it is HIGHLY unlikely that a, “teacher of Islamic studies” would have suddenly “snapped” and burnt some pages of the Koran. Until I read your reply, I was going to wager that someone had a grudge against her for some reason and saw the “apostates should be killed” meme as a good way to get rid of her.

    6. Burn it and burn it a lot.
      First, burn it in protest. People don’t like opposition but they need to see it.

      Second, desensitization, if they see thousands of the unholy thing burning and can’t smash and stomp everybody concerned sooner or later it should become apparent, at least a little, that it is futile and the anger and rage will dissipate.

      1. I wish that were true. The desensitization and the reality that the anger and rage will dissipate is a tad, I dunno, hopeful? I wish that were the case. I wish these fundamentalists that insist that a cartoon is offensive and that burning paper (even without proof) is offensive would be rational enough to say to themselves, “Hey, this isn’t smart.” If they did that, we wouldn’t have these atrocities against humanity going on or bloggers in prison or worse…

        Is there a solution?

        1. If there is I don’t think it resides in antagonism as good as that might feel, which is what I think you’ve been getting at. If there are sane moderate people left in places like Afghanistan, westerners burning korans does not help them. Whatever we can do to help moderates and non-muslims (if they still exist) is the way to go. We can worry about magical thinking later. Sad to say but I think it’s that bad…

          1. In my humble opinion, things are that bad because we have tried relentlessly to accommodate religious sensibilities and appeal to potential moderates.
            This has failed.
            Pussy footing around has allowed the offense sensibilities to climb to a permanent knife edge state.

            Helping moderates is only helping the base of a pyramid with same relentless ignorant insanity at the pointy end.
            The base of the pyramid needs to be undermined.

            As far as desensitization, no one needs to become smart, I doubt these people will ever have the opportunity, but they can have some psychological readjustment. It may be a tad hopeful but still.

          2. “If there are sane moderate people left in places like Afghanistan, westerners burning korans does not help them.”

            How can you know that? I don’t think that is the given you think it is. Do you mean it won’t help today? How about next year? Ten years? Which context is the most important?

            Also, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the person who burned the Koran in protest, or defiance rather, is a member of the same culture this ghastly event took place in. He is one of those people you are talking about when you wrote “sane moderate people left in places like . . .”

        2. “The desensitization and the reality that the anger and rage will dissipate is a tad, I dunno, hopeful?”

          If people can be desensitized to stomping, stoning and burning women, surely they can also be desensitized to burning celulose.

            1. If sensitivity to the burning of celulose causes anger and rage, its desensitizing will minimize such reactions – as seen in modern civilization.

              If sensitivity to the stomping, stoning and burning of women causes disgust and outrage, its desensitizing will minimize these reactions – and you get Islam and the Holy Inquisition. Switch women for Jews and Gypsies and you get the Holocaust. Switch them for africans and their descendants, and you get continental America’s slavery trade and racial segregation.

              In the case of the burning of paper, it’s the sensitivization that requires indoctrination, while in the case of the stonings and burnings of women, it’s the desensitivization that requires indoctrination.

              Conclusion: You need psycopathy – clinical or functional – in order to get people to stomp, stone and burn people in the name of paper.

    7. If you were hiking and got stuck on a mountain overnight and it became freezing.
      Would you burn any books you happened to have to stay warm, to stay alive?
      Or would you die for your principles.

      What if you had two books. A guide book and the Koran, which goes first, or at all?

      1. I will take your question at face value. I would not hesitate to burn paper (regardless of the words written on them) if it meant it kept me alive. That’s the beauty of books. They can warm your soul and they can, literally, keep you warm. I just hope that when I am on that hike I didn’t bring a Nook instead.

    8. If someone buys a copy of a book and burns it, the publisher can print another copy and pocket the profit. He is almost doing you a favor by upping the demand and shrinking the supply, making room to sell another copy.

  4. I have pretty much concluded that religious people fall into only two categories.

    There are the ones who are violent, and then there are the ones who make excuses for the ones who are violent. L

    1. “the ones who make excuses for the ones who are violent”

      There’s a subcategory in there: the ones who make excuses for ancient fictional violence – and make a living of it – such as Mr. Craig with his Divine Command Funnybusiness.

  5. As usual, you could hear cries of, “Allahu Akbar” during the brutal murder of this poor woman. And I even saw a couple of children cheering on the attackers.

    I cringe at the idea of burning any book, but the mentality that a book is equal to or more important than a human life is just warped. If your god would condone such an action, he does not deserve to be worshipped.

    1. Exactly my thoughts. This system of beliefs is not merely fuelling brutal violence, but it’s just plain stupid.

      It’d be nigh impossible to justify such a viciously brutal vigilante killing even if, in the extremely unlikely case, they had to do so to somehow defend all of humanity from suffering and death. Almost everything, from the lack of a genuine trial to the punitiveness of the sentence, is hard to justify even then. To commit brutal murder for the sake of ideas and beliefs – which require intellectual defences, not physical ones – much less for a copy of a copy of a book containing such ideas, is reasoning that would make a hallucinating drug junkie look firmly grounded in reality.

    2. There’s a story on the Guardian website about women coming out in protest against this – some of them are really reacting bravely and calling for change. It seems to be mainly women protesting(from a women’s rights perspective rather than secular rights) but it’s still encouraging.

      And I do wonder if these women would’ve dared show their faces, never mind openly protest, before the changes of the last twelve years. I don’t like this specious idea that the west has done nothing to improve Afghanistan at all since the fight against the Taliban began.

  6. I wonder. Could it be that the government wants to crack down on mob rule, but fears to do so over the issue of Koran burning, so announces she didn’t burn one after all?

  7. On one hand, its a book of absolute truth for 1400 years. On the other hand its followers are uncivilized and ignorant, but their beliefs are sacred. But those beleivers are not true, so why should we respect their sacred text? Of course, Abdolhossein is true, despite his uncivilized notion that there is no difference between burning bound paper and ink, versus mob murder of an innocent woman in the name of that book he holds as sacred and true.

    If my comment seems unordered and disjointed, it’s only because there are a dizzying array of contradictory statements in that Abdolhossain’s post.

    1. If my comment seems unordered and disjointed, it’s only because there are a dizzying array of contradictory statements in that Abdolhossain’s post.

      Well said, but then he has given himself the unenviable task of keenly waving his tribal flag while avoiding being seen to be doing so.

  8. Find it a little comical to express wonder at something happening in Afghanistan as surprising in this 21st century. Whatever makes you think it is the 21st century anywhere that they practice life in the 7th.

  9. This sounds little different from the witch trials in Europe, New England and even today in Saudi Arabia. It seems that an accusation of witchcraft was tantamount to proof, followed by torture, being found guilty and sentence to death and execution. An extremely convenient way to achieve riddance of anyone who might be deemed inconvenient.

    1. Believe there is a big difference between this and the witch trials in Christianity. The trials were conceived out of religious superstition and was totally of the imagination and nothing else. Fortunately it past. What you are looking at in Saudi or the killings in Afghanistan is pure religious law, belief and practice. It does not go away.

    2. I won’t check the details but I think that the accused had a chance to get off, if they could endure the ordeal.

      1. Technically, there may have been the possibility of acquittal but, once accused, I think the chances of survival were slender indeed. Also during the religious turmoils of the inquisition, the reformation and the counter-reformation in Europe, I have little doubt that there would have been plenty of examples of mob “justice” such as that inflicted on Farakhunda.
        Fortunately, in Europe and North America, the Enlightenment has taken a firm grip and, if we are not exactly free of superstition and religion, we at least do not have people being beaten, tortured and killed for heresy and apostasy as we once did.
        It is very depressing to witness what is happening in the Muslim world but western history does give grounds for cautious optimism in the long term.

        1. Yes, I was actually basing my comment on a story I remember of situation where the inquisitor took ‘extra’ steps to ensure the woman didn’t make it. I think it was for political or ideological gain, the woman being relatively high profile.
          She expected to see it out till midnight or morning but he choked her, shocking others present for going too far.
          I wish I could remember properly.

          1. In some areas, there were appointed “witch-hunters”, who did a really good job at finding witches because they got half of the witch’s property.

          2. The whole business was as corrupt as hell. See the Wikipedia page for examples. It seems there was a direct correlation between weak or fragmented legal systems and the prevalence of witch trials.

  10. So my question is, who wound up these little tin soldiers and pointed them at Farkhunda?
    What did she do or not do so in this person’s mind she deserved being murdered?

    The last time I heard of this an entire family was burned alive when a man accused the family of burning a Koran. The crowd did the expected thing, like good little mindless robots they murdered the family, burning them alive in a brick kiln. In the end the accuser was arrested and just like this case, they had been accused falsely, the real reason was the family owed the man money. Instead he used that bad loan as an example to his other indentured slaves. The loan shark and slaver gloated over his victory, leading to his arrest. Perhaps some of the mob even felt poorly after realizing they were nothing more than tools, useful idiots in the truest sense of the term.

    Someone started the rumor against Farkhunda too. I hope they find that person and give them a suitable punishment.

    Some of the useful idiots of the Muslim world are easily turned to violence. Not all joined the mob, which is somewhat gratifying, but this seems to be a rather common occurrence in Islamic areas. The mob attacks while many onlookers cheer them on. Or they celebrate when 3000 people die as buildings collapse.

    I don’t think it’s off topic to remind people that GW Bush admitted he invaded Iraq because God told him to. He had surrounded himself with like minded people throughout his administration. Indeed, it was one of the few requisites for becoming part of the GW Bush white house team. GW Bush is a prime example of how badly things can go when you let God be your co-pilot.

    I’m not a fan of burning books, but these days book burning is pretty much symbolic. No matter how many Korans or Bibles are burnt no one would ever be able to burn them all. I don’t see people ceasing the surrender of their will to imaginary gods just because a book is burnt. It’s not as if most Christians actually read the Bible, and many Muslims have the Koran at least partially memorized. It’s the only ‘education’ many get.

    And that might be the problem right there.

    1. I don’t think they’re mindless little robots. I think they’re ignorant and badly informed people with their hearts in the right place. And that’s a big problem.

      The problem too many people don’t recognize with morality is that brains are hugely, almost essentially, important when it comes to moral reasoning. A culture as a whole can have brains, and so in general be ignorant and badly misinformed. Our ancestors, while not being hugely different from us, happily did things and believed things that we today would rightly call stupid.

      Moral emotions ignite actions, and since they are a huge source of passion and motivation, they ignite strong action, which is why they so often lend themselves to committing atrocities. That is why, contrary to popular cultural opinion, being dim but passionate isn’t a harmless quirk.

      To put it another way, would these murderers have turned out differently if they’d grown up in Sweden, or Germany, for instance? And wouldn’t we, if brought up in their environment, have our moral emotions hijacked by the prevailing cultural climate, stupid though that climate is? I think the answer must be yes.

      I don’t think it’s mindless roboticism. I think it more revealing to say that they have the misfortune to be born into a culture – more broadly, a social system – that is, in a real sense, stupid to the point of brainlessness.

      1. I largely agree with this, except for “hearts in the right place.” There hearts are not in the right place at all. But that too is a result of the religious/cultural environment they were born, raised and live in.

        1. Sorry, that was bad choice of words on my part. What I meant was that, generally (even blandly) speaking, they wanted to do the right thing (so their hearts are in the right place because of a desire to act morally, even if it’s twisted to sickening ends), not that their hearts are in the right place because they wanted to uphold Islam’s… excuse me… “good” name, much less kill people over it. I really did not and do not want to sound like I’m saying THAT.

      2. The point of the “mindless robots” phrase is that someone wound them up, pointed them at some people, and they did exactly what that evil person wanted.

        The mindless robots never stopped to consider if they were being used like a tool, and they were being used as tools. In effect, they WERE robots.
        They never stopped to consider that perhaps they had been misled, or to get the other sides story.

        The phrase is perfect for the case of the family burned alive. As for the woman, if it was done deliberately, then again it would be a perfect phrase if they were used as a tool to kill her.

        The fact that they might think they are doing the right thing doesn’t matter.
        Yes, it happens all over. Often because of superstition, anger or fear.

        It happens because people stop thinking. It happens more if your mental model doesn’t match reality, say with superstition and religion or poor reasoning.

        Such as the satanic daycare scare in the USA.

        Not everyone joins the mob. I think I pointed that out. Not everyone joins in during soccer or hockey riots. Not everyone robs the tech store during a earthquake or riot.

        I don’t think I said that only Muslims do this, or it only happens in Arab countries. Did I? I mentioned GW Bush who admitted God told him to invade Iraq. The Republican party went all out to wind up Americans and point them at Iraq. Many dutifully went along without asking questions or considering the issue fully.

        Lots of people allow themselves to be used as mindless robots. They allow their buttons to be pushed, and the button pushers are getting very good at discovering those buttons and pushing them. It takes knowledge that people are doing it, and knowledge of your buttons and a skeptical mindset to prevent having our buttons pushed.

        I use the term “mindless robot” for the specific case of people who are unwittingly used as tools. Yes, it happens all over.
        Mores the pity.

  11. Reza has another video up which received this comment.

    “brave heart 2 days ago

    What a wonderful human being brave heart is and so brave!

  12. This is exactly why I despise every form of organized religion. It makes people turn off their brains and do incomprehensible stuff like this. Utterly disgusting…. There are lots of youngsters in this video, and you know that means another generation with twisted ideas.

  13. “The killing … drew praise from some quarters, including from a prominent cleric who asserted the men had a right to defend their Muslim beliefs at all costs”

    This is where the blame lies for the next act of religious savagery, which will take place next week or next month. I think Afghanistan needs an “incitement to violence” law to eliminate the negative impact of the clergy.

    1. It’s not some disconnected third world problem either – the interaction between the Islamic theocracies and the west’s Muslims is, I think, underestimated. The immediate reaction of a prominent moderate UK Muslim spokesperson to Maajid Nawaz’s Jesus & Mo tweet was to send the message ‘defamer of the prophet’, along with details about what Nawaz had done, to various Muslim organisations in Pakistan. This was nothing less than a call for his execution, as Pakistan punishes blasphemy against the prophet with the death penalty.

      The flow of ideas between these theocracies and my home country is constant. Usama Hasan of Quilliam was famously condemned to death by some fatuous, mouthbreathing Saudi cleric after he had the audscity to claim Islam was compatible with evolution. He made a single, infinitesimally small step towards reforming Islamic doctrine and immediately a flurry of quivering, furious e-mails were dispatched to the middle east, imploring the religious authorities to issue a fatwah.

      This is Usama Hasan, a British citizen, who made his utterly benign attempt at theological compromise in the English capital – yet obviously a certain, statistically significant number of Muslims consider borders irrelevant when it comes to ‘standing up for’ their incomparably awful religion. These ideas are exchanged far more easily than they ever have before – many Muslims don’t even think of countries at all, rather they consider themselves part of the ‘Muslim world’, and Pakistan is simply a distant part of the country they live in.

      This is increasingly the case, and horror stories like Farakhunda’s are a lot more relevant to day-to-day life in the pluralistic west than some have yet realised. I can see the ideological distance between these countries and my own diminishing all the time.

      1. The idea that nations are unimportant and the Islam is a world movement is what Osama bin Ladin and his companions were saying. They ended up hiding in Pakistan but they believed there should be a world revolution and the caliphate would then encompass the world. Not too modest at all are they?
        I don’t know what the answer is. Probably we will see a low intensity war of little consequence lasting another decade or so until they tire of it. Unless they get hold of a nuke.

    1. This isn’t even on their fizzing, malfunctioning moral radars.

      It’s of course unfair to assume that all celebrities who suddenly develop an interest in politics will inevitably turn into idiots – for example, these two were already prize fuckwits before they even opened their mouths on the subject.

      1. Have you ever spotted Ben Affleck’s response on the Bill Maher Show to Sam Harris’s, “Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas”? He exclaimed, “Jesus!” “Mohammed!” wasn’t an option.

        In Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, the U.K. chargé d’affaires in Teheran refuses to help the American diplomats in fear of their life: that is the opposite of what happened. Some American diplomats were saved by the British.

        For Ben, artistic truth is imagined: like his idea of Islam. x

        1. That’s a problem with a lot of the people like him. They think the humanities approach to truth can be applied in the real world. Everything is just a subjective chaos of ‘narratives’, and the most emotive and politically attractive ideas are the ones that are true. I remember how uninterested he was in the Pew polls that Harris cited. It’s that difference in epistemic approach that separates Harris and Affleck more than anything.

          Mind you, I’d take him over Russell Brand.

  14. What Mr. Abdolhossein says about absolute truth and the Quran strikes me as idolatry, which I think is supposed be a sin among most believers.

    Even if one is devoted to an idea to the point of taking offence when someone merely challenges it, a book remains a book… an object. Were a religious person to burn On The Origin Of Species or The Chemical Handbook to make a point, I certainly wouldn’t be upset. The truth these books reflect is not affected by what anyone does to them.

    To equate burning an object with murdering a person is a very evil thing.

    1. “The truth these books reflect is not affected by what anyone does to them.”

      Ah, but there is the difference. Holy books have no truth behind them. An imaginary god is only as strong as your fanaticism can prop up, no more.

      “the sound of men defending a temple the gods would not save” – Borges

      As soon as people don’t take the book seriously their god, unlike the chemistry of buffer solutions, will go “poof”. Deep inside, I think many believers are kind of aware of this and part of their hysterical reactions are a result of their own insecurities.

      1. I think they’re all aware of it, and I think it also powers a lot of the ‘aw leave them alone’ attitudes amongst many atheists towards gnus who criticise the religious. Everybody in the secular west has an implicit understanding of how incredibly precarious these metaphysical frameworks are, and how desperate the faithful are to believe in their reality, so in the end lots of non-believers see criticism of religion as comparable to booting a duckling up the arse.

      2. Deep inside, I think many believers are kind of aware of this and part of their hysterical reactions are a result of their own insecurities.

        I don’t think it’s an unconsciously self-aware insecurity. I think they genuinely believe, and the hysteria is motivated by moral scruples against a strong taboo being challenged. To them, the “hysteria” is no different from what anyone would feel if some unspeakable evil was done on a loved one.

        Throw in an all-pervasive culture which brings them up and teaches them to apply this mode of thinking to holy texts and invisible gods, and you’ve got the gamut of angry religious zealots.

      1. I second this…I have often thought that if I could wave a magic wand and do one thing, the best thing I could do for humanity would be to wave it and put women in totally charge, with certain midwestern north american female politicians excluded of course.

  15. According to a BBC report today, Farkhunda had gone to the mosque to protest to the mullah about his practice of selling charms to women at a shrine.

    It seems to me that if the mullah then accused her in front of the crowd of burning the Koran, he should be charged with murder.

  16. Monstrous. That’s the only word that I can think of that covers acts like this crowd committed. Cruelty so devoid of empathy as to beyond my comprehension.

  17. Organized religion makes people shut down their ability to critically think. I asked a very religious Hindu why bad stuff like this happens. His reply was “well she must have done something bad in her prior life to bring this on to herself”. So you see, it is all her fault. Prior life and all. What a bunch of b.s.

  18. Something to notice in the above story that most readers here might miss: the women are carrying the coffin, and showing their faces.

    This is a noticeable break from Afghan funeral custom.

  19. Did the condemnations come after it was disclosed that she did not do it?

    If she had done it, I doubt whether we would hear the same condemnations.

  20. If I go out and buy a copy of the Qur’an or if someone who owns a copy freely decides to give it to me, the book is mine. It isn’t censorship or an attempt to stifle expression to burn that book. While I may have thought Bush supporters were idiots for trashing their Dixie Chicks CDs, it never would have occurred to me that they didn’t have a perfect right to do so.

  21. A few years ago, I burned a Catholic book I had lying around from my parents about Theology of the Body and NFP. I figured since it already wasted Ceiling Cat knows how many trees, it could make for some good kindling for the outdoor pit. It did, as do Holy Books of Genocide.

  22. I am an afghan and the people that did this should be punished with no remorse and should be put to death for such a horrific crime. They should feel ashamed and there families should be also ashamed. Shame on the afghan police for watching and the poor and filthy afghan government.

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