Imagine yourself in this situation. A young girl is accused of a heinous crime — use your imagination here, too, and think of the most horrible thing a person can do — and she is trapped in front of you, helpless. You have a rock in your hands. People around you are urging you to kill her; they say that you are justified in taking her life. What would you do?
Let’s say you don’t have a rock, but are just part of the large crowd of spectators, witnessing a small group of men killing this girl. What would you do then?
Be honest now.
I wouldn’t be able to do kill anyone, and I would try to stop the killers. She could be an unrepentant mass murderer, and I couldn’t be an executioner — I wouldn’t want to sink to her level, and I think killing is an easy ‘solution’ that solves nothing. At the same time, it reduces the humanity of the killers, and diminishes the quality of our culture. I may not be the target myself, but such acts harm me.
That makes this story of a 13 year old girl stoned to death for adultery in Somalia incomprehensible to me. I know that people do evil all the time, but this was a mob of a thousand people watching 50 thugs murder someone in a particularly brutal fashion. Couldn’t just a few have raised a voice in protest, couldn’t some small fraction of that thousand intervened? Are the killers so divorced from empathy and morality that they would gladly snuff out the life of someone who can do them no harm?
What’s especially appalling is that the murderers weren’t driven by a fundamental human need — they didn’t kill her because they were defending themselves, or because they were starving, or because she had some real power that could harm them. She was killed because she offended their sense of sexual propriety. Because they perceived her as sexually potent, she challenged their own insecure, mouselike manhood. This is outrageously vile.
And even at that, she was an innocent. She was a 13 year old girl who had been raped by three men, and for this she was dragged out, begging for her life, buried up to her neck, and then stoned to death by weak, blustering men who let their machismo overwhelm their humanity.
And of course, this was driven by Islamist delusions. Religion is excellent at elevating intangible, untestable lies to a higher plane of moral significance than something as real and as simple as the life of a child.
I should also add, before everyone condemns this as simply the act of a primitive society, that the same impulse is at work right here in America. Those people who voted yes on Proposition 8 in California were simply performing a slightly more civilized version of casting a stone at those who offend their moral and religious sense of propriety.