Afghan Cleric and Cop Defend Mob That Stomped Woman To Death… But She Turns Out To Be Innocent

Last week, a seething mob in Kabul, Afghanistan, beat and stomped a 27-year-old woman named Farkhunda to death. The attackers, whose extreme brutality was caught on camera, felt not just justified, but obligated, because they’d heard that Farkhunda had burned a Qur’an.

Now we learn that a local imam and a police spokesman both support the killing:

An Afghan cleric and a police official … defended the lynching of a woman in central Kabul after a mob was filmed stamping on the woman and smashing a brick on her head after she was accused of burning a Koran, Islam’s holy book. …

[A]t a mosque in … Kabul, a cleric’s sermon broadcast by loudspeaker told devotees that the crowd had a right to defend their Muslim beliefs at all costs. “I am warning the government not to arrest those who did this, because it will mean an uprising,” said the cleric at the Wazir Akbar Khan mosque.

At least one Kabul-based law-enforcement official is on the same page:

A spokesman in the Kabul police chief’s office also appeared to justify the killing, saying the woman had deliberately insulted Islam. “This (person) thought, like several other unbelievers, that this kind of action and insult will get them U.S. or European citizenship. But before reaching their target, lost their life,” Hashmat Stanekzai wrote on his Facebook page.

That was before investigators puzzled the facts together — and concluded that Farkhunda was innocent.

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. … “Last night I went through all documents and evidence once again, but I couldn’t find any evidence to say Farkhunda burned 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. …

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 defense by their father, who wanted to protect the family after police told them to leave the city for their own safety.

We’ve seen this kind of violence before. In places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, the merest whisper (malicious or not, truthful or not) about another person’s blasphemy can be a death sentence. Last November, in Pakistan,

An enraged Muslim mob beat a Christian couple to death and burnt their bodies in the brick kiln where they worked … for allegedly desecrating pages of the Holy Qur’an.

Sometimes, the people who set off such predictable chains of events may not even be actually offended. But pretending that they are can have certain benefits, according to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn:

The desire to grab land or settle personal scores often underlies blasphemy allegations. … The reality of Pakistan today is that [the] mere accusation of this crime, howsoever unsubstantiated, instantly imperils the life of the individual concerned, and that threat persists not only throughout his incarceration, but even after acquittal.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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