Posted in Afghanistan, C-Haze, Crime, Current Events, Farkhunda Malikzada, Islam, Justice, New York Times, Quran

New York Times, Quran and Justice

On December 26, 2015, the New York Times posted a lengthy story with disturbing video showing an Afghan woman being beaten to death for allegedly burning a Quran at a local shrine. The story should be required reading for everyone, and should be part of our collective awareness of the world around us.

Farkhunda Malikzada was 27 years old, a victim of mob justice in a country that is known for its deplorable treatment of women.

Following her death, it was determined that the woman did not burn a Quran at all. (Color me Western, but I fail to understand how her violent murder would have been justified even if she had burned a Quran, but I digress.)

Fortune tellers would visit the shrine on certain days. Wednesdays, for example, were only for women, and amulets could be purchased from the fortune tellers to help them get pregnant, conceive male children, get married, etc. The amulets consisted of little more than pieces of paper that had writing on them. The women would pin the paper to themselves.

These practices are not religious in nature, and some people – Farkhunda being one of them – took issue with the use of “superstition” under the veil of religion. She confronted the fortune teller.

Later, it was determined that in addition to amulets, the fortune teller was smuggling Viagra into the shrine, and condoms too. Some even suspected he was a pimp of sorts.

What Farkhunda actually did, was stand up for her religious faith by standing up to this fraudulent man at the shrine. She was protecting her religion. The terrible irony is that she was accused of disrespecting her faith in the most heinous of ways – by burning a Quran – when she was, in fact, doing the opposite. If anything, what Farkhunda actually burned were the amulets. Those useless pieces of paper her fellow sisters were hanging their entire existences on.

She was not given a criminal trial, nor due process. She was beaten to death in the street, her body burned, while police and others stood by.

Women, joined by a few men, marched in the streets, demanding justice for Farkhunda. Candlelight vigils were held, and high profile people took notice.

An investigation was conducted. Some people were charged with crimes relating to Farkhunda’s murder. The man who first accused her of burning the Quran, even received a death sentence.

For a minute, at least, it felt like a victory. Even as she wasn’t alive to see it, perhaps Farkhunda would get justice. Perhaps the women of Afghanistan – all of those who had been abused before Farkhunda – would receive justice.

Then, just as quickly, those wheels of “justice” shifted. While many people were tried and convicted in the case, quite a few had their sentences overturned or drastically reduced upon appeal. The man who accused Farkhunda of burning the Quran had his death sentence commuted to life in prison, a sentence in Afghanistan that equates to 20 years. Another man who was given a death sentence had it reduced on appeal to a mere 10 years imprisonment.

Many of the guilty had their sentences overturned, but it appears many of the innocent were convicted as well.

In short, chaos reigned, and it looks as if actual justice was the last thing on the minds of many. The court system in Afghanistan does not resemble that of its western contemporaries. In fact, the lawyers of one of the accused didn’t even know his client’s trial had begun until the man’s father called and told him so. Defendants are allowed only short statements at trial, to be recited at the very end of the proceedings. The judges rule almost immediately thereafter, rendering it inconceivable that they’re taking the statements of the accused into consideration.

Farkhunda’s family fled Afghanistan, but still seek justice for her, having appealed to the country’s supreme court for assistance. Still today, many think of Farkhunda as the “woman who burned the Quran”, and who was lynched for doing so.

Posted in Fort Hood, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, Politics, Terror, Terrorism

Fort Hood- A Terrible Tragedy

fthoodMany people have asked my thoughts on the tragedy that unfolded in recent days at Fort Hood, TX. I have received telephone calls, e-mails, and even a comment on another post on this particular blog, all wanting to know if I was going to post about the tragic events that cost 13 people their lives, wounding many others. At last count, 17 people remained hospitalized.

Some people were merely curious, legitimately wanting to know my thoughts on the subject. Others have asked their questions as if daring me to politicize this event, baiting me to write up a post that is sympathetic to the shooter.

For those who thought I’d have sympathy for Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a mass murderer and coward, you are wrong, and obviously do not know me nearly as well as you seem to think you do.

I have nothing to offer with regards to this subject other than that my thoughts and prayers are with each and every one of the families that have been impacted by this heinous act.

I pray that justice is served.

In the meantime, I will not attempt to comprehend what drove a man, a soldier, to take the lives of fellow Americans. Some of the victims had recently returned from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. That they survived in a war zone simply to be gunned down back at home by one of their own is outrageous and heartbreaking. Others were preparing to deploy overseas, and were ready to face the dangers the war offered, not realizing that the real danger, for them at least, existed here at home.

I have seen some news outlets referring to this as mass homicide, with others calling it a terrorist act.

I feel it is both of those, though I will never truly grasp it as anything that can possibly have a rational explanation.

For me to attempt to understand this type of needless bloodletting is futile. That’s why I didn’t write about it to begin with. I realize Hasan was a Muslim, but were he a true Muslim, he would not have behaved in this fashion. I realize he was a psychiatrist, someone who was continuously subjected to the horror stories of his fellow soldiers. Perhaps the nightmares became too real. If, however, this is the case, he wasn’t any more a real soldier than he was a true follower of Islam.

Did he snap due to the harrassment he received as a result of his religion?

Did his impending deployment to go fight a war he did not believe in cause him to lose his mind?

Most likely, we will never know the answer to those questions, and many more like them.

Personally, I don’t care about the why.

There is no answer, no conclusion I can come to about this incident that will make me understand what has just occured in Texas, nor can any excuse for this man’s behavior justify his actions.

What is important are the lives lost at Fort Hood. The soldiers- the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sons, daughters, husbands and wives- who were brutality murdered by a man who was supposed to be one of them.

It is sad that many of us will forever remember the name Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

How many of us will remember the names of the victims?

I will.

I won’t forget Francheska Velez, Capt. John Gaffaney, Pfc. Aaron Thomas Nemelka, Pfc. Michael Pearson, Spc. Jason Dean Hunt, Michael Grant Cahill, Spc. Frederick Greene, Staff Sgt. Justin M. DeCrow, Sgt. Amy Krueger, Pfc. Kham Xiong, Juanita Warman, Major L. Eduardo Caraveo, and Russell Seager.

May they rest in peace, and God bless them all.

Posted in C-Haze, Change, Conservative, Hope, News, Policy, Politics, Religion

Our Forefathers, Faith and State Troopers

I was talking to Pastor Jon the other day (he’s my daddy), and he told me he recently testified in front of a house sub-committee regarding whether State Trooper Chaplains have the right to pray publicly according to their faith.

My dad, in good liberal fashion (he makes me proud), was testifying against the bill… with members of the Jewish community and the ACLU on his side. The bill was up for vote as a result of the fact that recently, the superintendent of state troopers in Virginia stopped all chaplains who were employed by the state police from public prayer in Jesus’ name…  instead requesting that all prayers remain non-denominational.

This resulted in 6 of 17 chaplains resigning their positions in protest. 

The issue was therefore put to a vote, and the bill passed despite the efforts of my father and others like him.

I’ve always been fascinated with the notion of separation of church and state, and what, exactly, it means.

I am reminded of my junior year of high school, when some officials were desperately attempting to gain support for “bringing God back into our schools”. Naturally, with my father being a minister, people were counting on his support.

However my dad, I’m proud to say, disappointed each and every one of them.

Prayer has no place in public school districts or public government activities… especially when the prayer is exclusive to one single religion.

Period.

I, like all Americans, have the right to enjoy the freedom to practice my religion… and I have the right to do so without interference or discrimination from my government-  so says the First Amendment of my Constitution.

Anyone who honestly believes that mixing Christianity- or any faith, for that matter- with government functions equals freedom of religion is delusional- and likely a cocky evangelical Christian.

By my estimation, our forefathers knew exactly what they were doing.

Having narrowly escaped religious persecution themselves, they made it clear in our Constitution that absolute religious liberty was a fundamental right for all U.S. Citizens.

How is it that a Jew, a Hindu or a Muslim can enjoy that sort of freedom if Jesus Christ is constantly being shoved down their throats?

Ours is a nation that was supposed to have been built on tolerance and freedom.

The United States of America was created on the principle that no one- regardless of their religious beliefs- would ever be made to feel unwelcome.

It saddens me, this unrelenting push from the Evangelical right, to include their God in each and every function of our government.

Certain Christians will claim that they are the ones being persecuted… that the current drive to take religion out of our schools is an act of discrimination in and of itself.

To those people, I say spend a day as a Muslim, or a Jew.

Attend your child’s “Christmas Concert” as a non-Christian… where they sing nothing but “Here Comes Santa Claus”, “Silent Night”, and “O’ Holy Night”…

… Then tell me that you feel as if you and your faith have been respected and included.

Many people- friends of mine- who disagree with me, back their arguments up by saying if they were to attend a public function in a Middle-Eastern country, where religion is part of the every day government and public activities, they would not feel offended by prayers to Allah… they would expect such a thing to occur, and would understand that this is the way business is conducted there…

… Therefore, they claim, non-Christians shouldn’t feel offended to hear prayers to Jesus Christ in the U.S.

To those people, I remind them that we are a secular country. Our nation was founded on non-religious principles… our founding fathers fought and died so that people of all faiths could come together as one, being equal partners- citizens- enjoying equal rights- within the same great country.

As Americans, we are not given the task of merely tolerating those of different faiths…

… We are to embrace them.