On March 19th, 2015 the streets of Kabul ran red with Farkhunda’s blood.
She lived a pious life. They called her a heretic.
She loved the Quran. They claimed she burned it.
She tried to speak in her own defense. They silenced her.
She wanted to dress modestly. They tore off her hijab.
She wanted to live. They took her life.
Farkhunda was a daughter, a sister, a friend. She was a teacher, a Muslim, a citizen of Afghanistan. She was a twenty-seven year old woman with a full life ahead. We should rage in her name, not because she was Afghanistan’s daughter but because she was a human being and deserved to live out her life.
The videos of the gruesome lynching chronicle the obliteration of this woman. To watch it causes such a visceral, gut-wrenching reaction. To watch it makes one mourn not only Farkhunda, but also the humanity that was utterly lost on that street.
But let’s not allow our grief distract us from our rage. And there are so many reasons to rage.
Armed with a rumor that Farkhunda had burned a page of the venerated Quran, a frenzied mob attacked her. This was mob violence in broad daylight on a busy Kabul street. Armed police officers watched. What does this mean? If Kabul’s police officers do not rise to the defense of their city’s citizens, what hope is there for a civil society? How are any of Kabul’s citizens to feel safe?
The mob passed judgment on this woman without bothering to question whether or not she had committed the crime. Why? Because they felt righteous in their cause. They were defending the honor of their beloved Quran. Herein lies the faulty thinking of the mob: Why should the Quran or the Almighty need their defense? How arrogant each assailant is to think that Allah should require the help of a mortal? Why do these people not believe in protecting God’s creations (Farkhunda) as equally as they would protect His words? Religious teaching has failed somewhere along the way. The people have overstepped their authority in a deadly way and fail to see the hypocrisy of their actions.
A woman attending Farkhunda’s funeral cried out that when she looked out at the sea of men’s faces, they all looked to her like Farkhunda’s killers. That’s because Farkhunda’s killers were not hooded militants. They were young and old. They wore pants, tunics and sweatshirts as any everyday person wears. They were ordinary citizens. The women of Kabul took to the streets chanting: “Today it is her, tomorrow it is us.” Couple this with what they must surely be thinking when they look at the men around them: Yesterday it was them, today it could be him.
The Afghan government has taken important first steps. Arrests have been made. Some of the attackers and some of the police officers who failed to intervene are in custody. They have the privilege of due process, a privilege Farkhunda did not have. The respected mullah who condoned and even justified her murder has since fumbled his way through a back-peddle but he is alive and well and walking about freely. This is a reason to rage.
Niazi, the Kabul mullah, is just one example of the self-proclaimed religious authorities that poison Afghanistan’s minds. In a country that is physically, psychologically and economically devastated by thirty plus years of war, there is little education. Violence and despair are commonplace. Enter the hardline mullahs, the parasites who feast on such opportunity to inflate themselves. We know who they are. They are on television, on the radio and haughtily presiding over their mosques. We all know what they talk about. They find justifications for the sexual abuse of children (aka child marriage). They encourage the subjugation of women. They suppress the intellectual development of the nation by pushing religion over everything else. They tell people to focus on the next life while this one is spent in a state of misery and abuse.
Where was Niazi when a five year old girl was raped in a masjid? Where was he when army commanders boasted about sexually abusing hundreds of children? Conveniently and blasphemously silent. Shame on these men who have brought such disgrace to a religion that begins and ends with “peace be upon you.” They are Afghanistan’s boogie men. Against them, we should rage.
I see hints of Kabul’s shifting attitudes. For the first time, women hoisted a coffin on their shoulders and carried Farkhunda’s to her final resting place. Men formed a circle of support and protection around the female pallbearers. The mullah Niazi was turned away from Farkhunda’s funeral because he had, just days ago, applauded those who would so valiantly defend the Quran.
Farkhunda has inspired Afghan women to speak out. She has inspired calls for justice. She has inspired men to champion their sisters, their wives, their mothers. She has, at least for this moment in history, galvanized those in Afghanistan who refuse to let their streets be ruled by mobs and those who are thirsty for humanity and civil society after decades of war and destruction.
People of Afghanistan – it is time to reclaim your country. You have given the bullish mullahs authority by listening to them. You can just as easily take their authority away. They are not appointed by the government. Many do not have a basic education, let alone credible religious accreditation. They hold no divine authority. They do not speak for God. They do not walk on water. They do not glow with ethereal light.
Lest some misinterpret my words – there are certainly some religious figureheads who are enlightened and righteous and guide their disciples to a life of grace. But others are corrupt and psychopathic. Some fall somewhere in between, just like all people. It is the responsibility of the community and the believers to think about what kind of mullah they are choosing to nod their heads to.
The masjid is the house of God and should be reclaimed in the name of Islam.
Let us on the outside looking in share our rage and hope that our anger will keep the world’s attention on Afghanistan. Let us keep the pressure on for this tragedy to be a catalyst for change. The people of Afghanistan continue to take to the streets in rage and for good reason. Let the streets run red with anger before they run red again with the blood of another innocent and a society lost.