14 year-old girl put to death for the crime of being raped.

**hella trigger warnings**

Something terrible has happened happened in 2011 in Bangladesh (how did I not hear about this?).  A fourteen year-old girl was beaten and raped.

…as Hena’s sister Alya told it, Hena was walking from her room to an outdoor toilet when Mahbub Khan gagged her with cloth, forced her behind nearby shrubbery and beat and raped her.

It’s an unfortunate truth that there are some very bad people in the world.  However, one person committing horrors doesn’t speak to the culpability of a culture.

Hena struggled to escape, Alya told CNN. Mahbub Khan’s wife heard Hena’s muffled screams and when she found Hena with her husband, she dragged the teenage girl back to her hut, beat her and trampled her on the floor.

Neither does two people acting as monsters allow us to cast the blame on their religion or culture or what have you.  Some people are just sick.

But what about when a community’s laws result in something like this:

Hena Akhter’s last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl.

Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh’s Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public.

Hena dropped after 70.

Bloodied and bruised, she was taken to hospital, where she died a week later.

Or this:

Amazingly, an initial autopsy report cited no injuries and deemed her death a suicide.

Human beings are generally pretty similar.  We tend to have many of the same desires and interests, which is the basis for comparison by which we can tell which human beings are dangerously lacking in empathy.  Most people, it turns out, care about right and wrong, and are not without compassion.  So when a whole community engages in inhuman behavior, it’s likely their perceptions of right and wrong are being twisted by something.

In this case, can there be any doubt that the influence is religion?  Those familiar with Islam will immediately realize Sharia law at work in this case.

Bangladesh is considered a democratic and moderate Muslim country, and national law forbids the practice of sharia. But activist and journalist Shoaib Choudhury, who documents such cases, said sharia is still very much in use in villages and towns aided by the lack of education and strong judicial systems.

Lack of education, the perfect environment for religion to thrive.

And just like faith can fill people with hope, like loving parents who truly believe god will heal their sick child even as they kill their offspring through neglect (only they call it “prayer”), it can also get loving parents to watch as their child is beaten to death for the crime of being raped.

Darbesh Khan and Aklima Begum had no choice but to mind the imam’s order. They watched as the whip broke the skin of their youngest child and she fell unconscious to the ground.

I am often asked by religious people what my moral standard is. Simple: compassion. Compassion is my moral standard. And if it’s not yours, if you believe that acting without empathy can be moral, you, and the religion that has made you this way, are the problem.  And if you are living in a way that tells other people that faith is noble, even if your faith tells you to behave differently, you are being an enabler.  You are greasing the machine that allows you to credit god for your own good will, as well as allowing others to suppress theirs in order to obey the god who conceived of cancer and hell.

This story is sheer madness, and Christians from this country will read this story and rejoice that their faith is different.  Christians don’t realize that they, in large part, have failed in very much the same way as those practicing Sharia.  The evidence that a god exists who wishes people to be charitable or to oppose the rights of gay people is no better than the evidence for a god who wishes young girls lashed to death after being accosted. In terms of credibility, all faiths are very much the same, and that similarity is of great consequence.  The religions that insist we must be kind for a reason other than inborn compassion and the religions that say we must harm others both grow from the seed of faith.

Which is why I must oppose all religion.  It’s not just that some people cherish the wrong brand of irrationality, it’s that irrationality is a corrupting force.  At best, it can get us to be good for bad reasons.  At worse, it can steal our humanity without us ever being the wiser.

This girl didn’t have to die.  Take faith out of the picture and she wouldn’t have.  Period.


UPDATE!

I should check the date on stories I’m sent. This took place in 2011. I’m going to leave the post up because the arguments stand, and the story is one of many still taking place in the world today.

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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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