Why else would you amputate your brother’s hand?

The New York Times gives us a snapshot into the Bamako region in Mali.

Moctar Touré was strapped to a chair, blindfolded, his right hand bound tight to the armrest with a rubber tube. A doctor came and administered a shot. Then Mr. Touré’s own brother wielded a knife, the kind used to slaughter sheep, and methodically carried out the sentence.

“I myself cut off my brother’s hand,” said Aliou Touré, a police chief in the Islamist-held north of this divided nation. “We had no choice but to practice the justice of God.”

Such amputations are designed to shock – residents are often summoned to watch – and even as the world makes plans to recapture northern Mali by force, the Islamists who control it show no qualms about carrying them out.

After the United Nations Security Council authorized a military campaign to retake the region last week, Islamists in Gao, Mr. Touré’s town, cut the hands off two more people accused of being thieves the very next day, a leading local official said, describing it as a brazen response to the United Nations resolution. Then the Islamists, undeterred by the international threats against them, warned reporters that eight others “will soon share the same fate.”

This harsh application of Shariah law, with people accused of being thieves sometimes having their feet amputated as well, has occurred at least 14 times since the Islamist takeover last spring, not including the recent vow of more to come, according to Human Rights Watch and independent observers.

But those are just the known cases, and dozens of other residents have been publicly flogged with camel-hair whips or tree branches for offenses like smoking, or even for playing music on the radio. Several were whipped in Gao on Monday for smoking in public, an official said, while others said that anything other than Koranic verses were proscribed as cellphone ringtones. A jaunty tune is punishable by flogging.

At least one case of the most severe punishment – stoning to death – was carried out in the town of Aguelhok in July against a couple accused of having children out of wedlock.

Take a moment and really ask yourself what are the odds that so many people would be amputating each others’ limbs or stoning them to death for having children without first engaging in the proper ceremony.  If the answer is close to zero, how do you not find faith culpable?  If there were a poison that made some people generous and turned others into murderers, who would argue that it was good for society, especially in the face of people pointing out the obvious fact that there are good reasons to be generous?

The people who say that Islam isn’t beautiful, rather than barbaric, because it doesn’t transform every believer into a monster like this, may as well say that drinking poison isn’t worrisome because it doesn’t kill everybody.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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