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.


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.

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.

  • Glodson

    Fuck religion. Fuck Islam. Fuck Mohammad. Fuck Sharia. Fuck faith.

    • Loudguitr

      That covers it for me.

  • Matt Kovach

    ^^^what he said^^^

  • Steve

    Bangladesh is extremely overpopulated, resulting in rampant poverty. The ideal breeding ground for superstition and religious fanaticism.

  • Loqi

    I can’t decide whether to attack the barbarism of lashing a 14-year old to death, the stupidity of calling rape “adultery”, or the mind boggling dishonesty of calling the execution a suicide. Do we have a word that encapsulates barbarism, stupidity, and dishonesty?
    Oh, right. “Religion.”
    (I should have suspected this happened a while ago. I was wondering how you beat Taslima to the story)

  • Art Vandelay

    Man, I can’t with these people. This is why we have a moral responsibility to blaspheme. Faith as a virtue is simply the most dangerous concept that man has ever come up with.

  • The Grand Inquisitor

    I agree with your conclusion on the repressive nature of all religion, but denying people rights isn’t the same as beating a girl to death. In the US, the religious nuts are trying just as hard to deny gay people the right to marry almost as aggressively as the gun grabbers are trying to take away rights.

    The bottomline is not to give any group, religion or government control of our lives. While the right is close-minded, the left is hypocritical.

  • mywall

    Why does the report name the victims but not the murderers? Knowing who these people are is critical in any attempt to bring them to justice or even, failing that, to be able to exercise the due caution needed when dealing with known criminals.

    Also, was there any follow up on this story? Charges brought etc?

    • Glodson

      The doctors who carried out the first post mortem have been charged. Source.

      This is the second reported case of a fatality linked to a Sharia law punishment since the practice was outlawed last year by the High Court.

      Activists say dozens of such fatwas or religious rulings are issued illegally in the rural areas of Bangladesh every year.

      Muslim scholars say these fatwas are illegal as village-level clerics or elders do not have the authority to issue such rulings.

      Khan was charged, and scheduled to be punished by a public lashing as well.

      But we should remember her name. We should remember the name of the girl murdered for the crime of being raped. We should never forget her. Hena Akhter had her life stolen from her. She is why we should all fight religion. We should never forget Lama Ghamdi. She was brutally raped and tortured by a cleric who paid blood money to avoid punishment. Because of his religion. We should never forget Savita Halappanavar who died in agony for the religion of others which placed her welfare below that of their need to not abort a pregnancy.

      This is why we need to fight religion. It isn’t that religion is false. It isn’t that it opposes science. It kills people. It causes real pain and suffering.

  • John Horstman

    Christians decrying this as barbarous probably also fail to recognize that their own Bible calls for the execution of rape victims if they’re ‘betrothed’. The only way their religion can be different is if they’re actually using their own moral reasoning to reject some of the more terrible parts of their holy texts, which is good, though I wish they’d realize that what they’re doing refutes the idea of the perfect word of a god determining their religion and ditch the entire thing.

    • Glodson

      The scary thought is that there’s a number of Theocrats here who would enforce this barbaric law unto people.

      Like murdering your own children.

      The maintenance of civil order in society rests on the foundation of family discipline. Therefore, a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty to rebellious children are given in Deut 21:18-21:


      Deuteronomy 21:18-21:

      If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

      Stone the child to death. A savage means of killing a person.