Hard to See--And We Need to See
Hard to See–And We Need to See

This NYT story is inspiring. . .in a very troubling, distressing way.

Inspiring can mean “taking a deep breath” to reflect and learn.

A mentally ill woman is accused of burning pages of the Qur’an. . .so, of course, she’s brutally killed by a mob.

Her name was Farkhunda.  It happened at a shrine.  She seemed to be very religious while making others feel uncomfortable in their devotion.

It was acceptable to pay their respects at a shrine like this, she instructed visitors, but it was not an appropriate place to worship.

“Don’t come here to pray,” she shouted, according to Mr. Mohammad. “God won’t accept your prayers here.”

In ancient times, she may have been called a Prophet (they were often thought of as “crazy people,” with their bizarre words and antics–just read Ezekiel. . .or any biblical babbler who pointed their dirty finger at the self-righteous).

One of the oddest and craziest things about Religion throughout its history is the defense and protection of holy books (and sanctuaries, and theologies) over human persons.  People will kill the innocent to protect a book that instructs not to kill the innocent.  People will be enraged to hate, over a book that teaches to love.  People will burn someone with even a suspicion they have burned a page of “holy words.”  

Madness.  Yet, SHE is the madwoman! 

When I was a Street Chaplain, in one of the wealthiest counties in America, I led something like 100 memorial services for people who died without housing. . .in a county full of “holy places”–churches, synagogues, mosques, temples.  Popular stores carry lots of bibles, torahs, qur’ans, sutras, and hundreds of other “spiritual books” by any guru and new age “teacher” you can name–and many you can’t.

Yet, people die on the streets.  Sometimes right outside the heavy, locked stained glass doors of the Houses of God–Mansions for the Masses.  Many of the ones who die were (and are) as mentally ill as Farkhunda.  Do we kill them?  Not directly.  Do we accuse them, make them criminals, make it very hard to find shelter and a place to call home, make them outcasts who are usually unwelcomed in the pure places for piety?  Yes.  Then, often, the weakest die.  Many are veterans, many are women, many are sick or mentally wounded.  Year after year we see them die.  Or, we don’t see them.

Does a brutal, inhumane mob of righteous defenders (or bored youth) stone and burn them?  Not here.  Not yet.  We may silence them in other, cleaner, more “acceptable” ways.  We still “shoot our wounded,” but our weapons are ignorance, prejudice, hypocrisy and, perhaps most brutal, choosing not to see, or care.

And, as I see it, often the most deadly weapons are our ancient holy books that stir emotions and distract attention up and away to imagined heavens in the sky, seeking personal acceptance of righteousness and salvation, while condemning the world and its walking wounded to hell.  I fault Liberals and Progressives as much as Conservatives for this.  Turning a blind eye is not only a Right Wing malady.

Is all the blame on believers?  Of course not.  Our politicians have little vision or creative thinking (sound familiar).  But who claim to be the “moral leaders,” the ones who “proclaim God’s Word,” who “follow His Way,” who lead the way to “Justice”?  Who indeed.

Are there some who speak out, who stand up, who stand beside those who are vulnerable.  Thankfully yes.  Like the worried hatmaker who watched what they did to Farkhunda.

But a hatmaker who had watched the mob from his shop condemned the attack as inhuman.

“What they did is brutal and completely against Islam,” said the hatmaker, Sayed Habib Saadat.

A hatmaker.

Kabul.  A world away.  Yet, perhaps, not really so far.


Remember her.


7 thoughts on “Farkhunda

  1. The “mentally ill” label has been retracted by her family…who said they used it to shield themselves from possible retribution. This woman was attacked for calling out some flakey Mullah for selling overpriced trinkets in front of the mosque, and his response was to accuse her of burning the Koran. The brainless mob did the rest. Nice place…can’t even fake human civilization.

  2. Thanks, yes, I read that various family characterized her in different ways, for differing reasons we might understand (or maybe we can’t). The stories also vary re the shrine staff and sellers. I doubt a “mullah” would do souvenir sales. Regardless, this fanatic frenzy and murder is seared into our human story now. I only hope the world learns, and stands with the most vulnerable. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Let’s call this what it is. The unrelenting barbarity of Islam. When will people in the civilised world acknowledge that muslims are centuries behind in their thinking and culture? We will never assimilate them, and they will never try. The goal of Islam is to assimilate us, or kill us trying.

  4. I understand your sentiment, but urge you to consider the hatmaker in Kabul, and Muslims like him. Great numbers of Muslims condemn this violence. That mobs do what mobs do must be stopped. Regardless of which religion, or no religion at all, irrational and murderous behavior must be countered with Reason and Justice.

    I have met many Muslims who are good, peaceful, reasonable human beings as good as any other religious or non-religious people. To polarize into Them and Us is unhelpful, dangerous and plays into the bloody hand of that mob mentality. I think we need to be very careful to avoid demonizing a whole group of humans.

    As for the “goal of Islam” I think that’s similar to a number of religions. Some are evangelical and want to convert the world (and a small subset turn to violence). Others are open and committed to co-existence and even cooperation. This happens all over the world. There is a radicalized fanaticism endangering democracy and sanity in many areas of our world. Muslims get the most press. But we need to balance the stereotypes through building relationships and understanding who is really threatening and murdering in the name of their god.

    Yes, it’s ironic I suppose that a non-theist secular like me is “defending” Islam. But I’m really not. I’m defending Humanity—messed up, troubled, warring. . .and compassionate, innocent, Humanity. As I often say, faith or no faith, we need to be reasonable and be Good-like in our actions.

    I wish you well.

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