Inhuman acts in the name of God
Not every woeful collection of humanity calling itself a republic can provide any dependable protection for its citizens.
And not all actions undertaken in the name of religion are acceptable by even the most minimal standards of human decency.
Both of those conclusions are forcefully underscored by the account of a recent execution in the West African country of Mali.
A colony of France from 1892 to 1960, Mali is among the world’s poorest nations, with a population of 14.5 million people, half of them living on $1.25 or less a day.
Much of its area is inhospitable desert. As many as 260,000 Malians are said to have fled across borders into neighboring countries, driven by worsening hunger, political turmoil and fear of repression by radical Islamists among the 90 percent Muslim majority.
Of those who remain, most are in desperate need.
Across much of West Africa a moderate brand of Islam prevails. That also was the case in Mali until, in recent years, jihadists – some affiliated with al-Qaida – gained control of many towns in the north, including the cultural and educational center, Timbuktu.
The Islamists set about destroying tombs, monuments, ancient shrines and other historical treasures believed incompatible with their fiercely conservative version of the faith.
Most terrifying of all is their imposition of a savage version of Shariah law, illustrated by the execution last month in a town in northern Mali.
The victims of that organized murder were a young couple accused by the Islamists of having children out of wedlock. No evidence was offered and no defense was allowed.
According to a reporter’s account in The New York Times, at 5 o’clock on a Sunday morning a crowd of several hundred assembled.
The two were placed in holes, with only their heads above ground, and the stoning began.
“It was inhuman,” a witness reportedly said. “They killed them like animals.”
Wrong. The animals were the stone throwers.
Throughout history, much unspeakable wrong has been committed by fanatical zealots – of all religions.
But Islam professes to be a faith of peace, a claim that is not easily reconciled with plane hijackings, subway bombings or the exploding of suicide vests in crowded civilian markets.
Not to mention the monstrous brutality of that recent event in a Malian town – a killing “to please God.”