I’ve put off this blog for many weeks. The Blasphemy issue throughout the Muslim world is tiring, open to be manipulated and utilised in order to settle personal scores time and time again. The tune of ‘blasphemy’ ricochets repeatedly with the same end result: imprisonment and/or death. Asia Bibi – my symbol of Christian persecution on this very blog – is a prime example. But however exhausting, however weary-worn it makes one feel, since there are tireless attempts and efforts to persecute, intimidate and subjugate innocent people through this blasphemy farce; then the effort to expose it should be matched and then some. At least that’s what I believe.
I specifically refer to Afghanistan’s latest prolific victim of blasphemy accusations. A 27 year old Islamic scholar’s life was not even given the dignity of being cut short, instead dragged out so agonisingly that it anguished those who watched brief snippets of her ordeal. A life that should never have been stripped away, had the mob of 150 predominantly seething men possessed a mentality of rationality; a need, wanton desire to demand at the very least evidence of the burnt Quran supposedly set alight by the hands of Farkhunda Malikzada.
I initially heard of the fate of Farkhunda when finalising my year of studying abroad and didn’t have the time to follow up on the headlines that exploded concerning her murder. I did assume her to be an Afghan Christian or a member of a religious minority accused of setting fire to Quranic passages, in order to avenge a personal vendetta. The usual. However, I was startled to learn of her deeply devout Islamic beliefs and baffled as to how a caretaker at Shah -e Du Shamshira shrine in Kabul had managed to convince hoards of local men and women, that an Islamic teacher had torched the Quran; some of which would’ve known this young woman, her beliefs, her character.
Those who haven’t watched the BBC documentary of Farkhunda’s ordeal can do so through the link enclosed below. In the BBC’s ‘Killing of Farkhunda’ documentary, 9 minutes are dedicated to her slow murder but is more than enough of an insight into the sheer animalistic nature of her killers and the brutal mercilessness one innocent and helpless Afghan was surrounded by in the face of the murderous mob. They didn’t only disbelieve her pleas that she never burned the Quran but descended upon her, beating, kicking and hurling rocks and stones at her to the point where her niqab had torn away to reveal her bloodied face.
I remember looking at that iconic image that has become ingrained in my mind since and seeing a grief-stricken woman who I feel accepted her fate at that moment. I just feel she knew at that point she was going to die, The frenzy of pain in her eyes is unmistakable and I felt deep love and compassion for a woman I have never known.
Not content with the beating she had already endured, Farkhunda was accused of being ‘an American’ and dragged up to the roof of the Shamshira shrine, thrown off it, ran over by a vehicle and then finally set ablaze and for what? As penance for burning Quranic passages she never did? Blasphemy needs to be addressed. Or rather ‘blasphemy’ does. The world does right to produce the international outcry that it always does when the plight of Farkhundas come to light but the fiery fiasco is quick to simmer down, permitting those imprisoned through accusations of blasphemy to languish, allowing many to be be consumed by mob rule and to be murdered.
There is a deeper implication behind every blasphemy case. Whether we admit it or not there is an intolerant attitude and conduct towards those that are accused of defaming Muhammad, Allah or the Quran. It is approached and handled with absolutism, inevitably leading to extreme results. I always find hypocrisy in the usual claim that ‘Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance‘. Even though I will dissent any person who lauds all Muslims as being of a volatile and violent nature, we have witnessed repeatedly mass crowds worldwide of venemous people, chanting for the death of those accused of blasphemy. Farkhunda is just one recipient of such treatment and is not alive to defend Islam’s ‘peaceful and tolerant’ attitude towards her, when a man she debated with on Islamic grounds took offence at her viewpoint and used
‘blasphemy’ to lure hundreds of local people to reduce her to ashes. Such all too frequent treatment of all those who fall prey to blasphemy is no coincidence.
Nor can the argument that her fate was determined by ‘uneducated people, unaware of the teachings of Islam‘ be utilised here as many Afghanistani leading officials condoned Farkhunda’s killing. The official spokesperson for the Kabul police Hashmat Stanekzai said of the situation: ‘Farkhunda thought, like several unbelievers that this kind of action and
insult would get them US/European citizenship. But before reaching their target, lost their life‘. The Deputy Minister for Culture and Information Simiri Ghazal Hasanzada also approved the murder of a woman ‘working for the infidels’. The Chief of the Complaints Commision of the Upper Parliament Zalmai Zabuli posted a picture of Farkhunda’s face with the caption: ‘This is the horrible and hated person who was punished by our Muslim compatriots for her action. Thus, they proved to her masters that Afghanistanis only want Islam and cannot tolerate imperialism, apostasy and spies’. Of course there will be those in the public eye who denounced Farkhunda’s killing, I found Imams who both supported and opposed the crime. However, take note of the few examples mentioned, pay heed to their position in society and their stance on the murder.
There is a climate of intolerance towards those considered ‘Infidels’ or who have committed ‘Infidelic acts’ and the system under which Afghanistani leaders tackles issues such as blasphemy clearly isn’t challenged. Despite police presence during Farkhunda’s ordeal, where was the genuine effort to protect this innocent woman? Why weren’t provisions put in place to safeguard her while her ‘Quranic burning’ was investigated? Why was she allowed to be devoured by wild dogs? And if she had burned the Quran why is death – the symbol of lack of forgiveness -always the favoured option? All this is very telling and none of this is Islamic peace and tolerance. All those complicit in the killing of Farkhunda can never stand on moral ground in crying victim when people doubt and critisise the very principles they adhere to.
Justice hasn’t been served in Farkhunda’s case as it never is. Afghanistan struggles with determining right from wrong in a nation riddled with social, economic and religious corruption and this brutal theft of an otherwise youthful life is a prime example. Instead many women took to the streets of Kabul parading the coffin of Farkhunda and refusing any man to touch the case that contained the remains of her body, chanting ‘where were you the day Farkhunda was attacked and killed by hundreds of men?’