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Thoughts on the Murder of Farkhunda Malikzada

Norman Mailer — the great twentieth century American novelist — once remarked: “I used to hate America for what it was doing to all of us. Now I hate all of us for what we’re doing to America.” Mailer’s words are fantastically applicable to the situation in Afghanistan today. I hated what Afghanistan had become during the Taliban regime. The Taliban regime was too oppressive and relied on many tactics of control and oppression. Their, the Taliban’s, draconian laws and drastic demands had driven every citizen of Afghanistan insane. However, now that Afghanistan is free from the rule of the Taliban and its citizens are endowed with a great many opportunities to build free, prosperous, and democratic lives, they have chosen to blindly, ignorantly, and sadly walk on the same dark path set ablaze by the Taliban.

On March 19, 2015, a group of Afghan men murdered a young, innocent, and beautiful Afghan girl named Farkhunda because they thought she had burned a copy of the Koran. This heinous action of the crowd shocked, disturbed, and terrorized civilized peoples of the world. No one must ever die for his or her beliefs. No one must ever die for burning any book — religious or secular.

What is amazing about this whole tragic episode is the fact that Farkhunda had not burned a copy of the Koran; she was wrongly accused of burning a copy of the Koran.

In fact, in a video, before the beating starts, she clearly says that she hasn’t done such a thing but her words mean nothing to these barbaric cowards. And even if she had done such a thing, she should not have been questioned let alone murdered. Albert Camus says that truth needs witnesses. How could this crowd justify murdering her without a shred of evidence is beyond my comprehension.

For the time first in my life I’m ashamed of associating myself with Afghanistan, the country of my birth, because I can never understand how a group of people could beat and murder a girl who’s entirely innocent, helpless. I hate violence — especially, the kind of violence that is directed toward the weak and the poor.

As I thought about this event, I couldn’t help but ask myself: where were these cowards when the Taliban burned hundreds of copies of the Koran when in 2000 they set a Shia mosque on fire in the city of Herat? That the Taliban did this was okay to this dastardly gang but that an innocent girl is thought to have done the same is a grave offense to their moral sensibilities. When an individual commits such a crime their act can sometimes be explained but when many people commits a crime like this, it can never be explained for to explain such a barbaric action is to give excuses and to justify it. In a similar vein, I can understand one person devoid of conscience but never a people devoid of conscience. The people involved in this event — directly and indirectly — had no conscience. Poor bastards!

In the aftermath of this horrendous event, many Afghans have courageously come out and condemned the actions of the perpetrators. And there’s a vigorous movement underway demanding that those behind this action be executed. All this is admirable. However, many cowardly senior Afghan officials have remained silent on the issue. The spokesman for the ministry of religion even went as far as saying that if Farkhunda did burn a copy of the Koran, she deserved what came her way. This is very disturbing and President Ashraf Ghani must fire this official right away.

Such people should never occupy seats of decision making, especially when they are this ignorant and dark. Aristotle wrote: “At his best man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.” Lawlessness continues to reign in Afghanistan and this recent event is a palpable manifestation of it. President Ghani promised to effect many reforms — especially ones that will improve the situation of Afghan women. Bringing those who murdered Farkhunda to justice and enacting laws that would ban the terrorization, denigration, and segregation of any citizen of Afghanistan for exercising their inherent rights of freedom of religion and of expression is a great place to start.