Tuesday, March 24

Words as weapon

A well-placed falsehood can instigate murder.

In  Kabul, a woman named Farkhunda was kicked and beaten, run over by a car, and then burned to death by attackers who accused her of burning a Koran, reports Sarah Kaplan for the Washington Post. Witnesses agree that "she got into an argument with a man who sold amulets in front of the Shah-Do Shamshera shrine," Kaplan explains. Islamic scholars disagree about whether amulets, even those inscribed with quotes from the Koran, are permissible for adherents.

Before long, another man claimed she tossed copy of the Koran into a fire pit. Kaplan continues:"Farkhunda argued that she didn't burn anything - and authorities later said they were unable to find a 'single iota of evidence' that she had set fire to the Korean - but the mob ignored her."

Authorities were at the scene, and the public is divided about whether the members of the mob should be investigated and punished. But as Kaplan concludes, at the very least, Afghans are questioning and debating the morality of Farkhunda's death.

As explained in a previous blog post, an antagonist in Allure of Deceit plots to destroy a rival in his life:

All he "had to do was point out that Rose was an atheist who had once desecrated a copy of the Koran - and yet the Western woman continued to enjoy the rewards of travel and vast wealth. [He] casually passed along cash and copies of a newspaper photograph of Rose to three young men. The most desperate of the three, a young man by the name of Qasim, managed to travel to India.

"The bomb had been intended for Rose alone."

Mishandling of any object does not justify murder under any circumstances. Yet those intent on a criminal behavior and power can concoct a rationale and spread a false rumor to convince others to attack and destroy a fellow human being. As American shipping magnate Alvin Adams, 1804 to 1877, once said, "Appreciate the power of rumor, often malicious, no matter how preposterous, within the local populations you are seeking to help."

Image  of lithograph of Afghan  shows foot soldiers at the entrance to the Valley of Urgundeh in 1841, courtesy of the British Library and Wikimedia Commons: "Amulets, relics and little bags full of texts and prayers were tacked about their clothes.... The men depicted here belonged to a British regiment called the Rangers, which was raised in Kohistan under the command of Lieutenant Maule of the Artillery, who said that he had his hands full trying to impose discipline among these 'wild, unruly, merry fellows.'"


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