Anatomy of a stoning

World editor Marvin Olasky, in one of his more pointed criticisms of the notion of journalistic objectivity, once wrote that journalists feel no need to quote pro-cancer sources when writing about that dread disease. Well, there's no shortage of pro-sharia sources in The Washington Post's heartbreaking account of a married woman in Afghanistan who was killed -- whether by a stoning or a beating -- after she admitted to committing adultery with an unmarried man. Reporter N.C. Aizenman's story could benefit from more moderate Islamic voices expressing doubts about the wisdom of killing adulterers. Still, it's an exceptional narrative that brings home the horror of this swift and merciless sense of justice.

There are two especially compelling moments in this powerful story. One is when Maulvi Yousaf (a maulvi is a Muslim scholar) tries to help the accused woman, Amina Aslam, escape a guilty verdict:

Yousaf said his hope was to exonerate Amina, not to extract a confession from her.

"When I went into the room I was smiling," he said. "I told her, 'Look, I know nothing happened. This is just an allegation. People won't hurt you if nothing happened.'"

Yousaf also said he only questioned Amina about the previous night.

But instead of taking the hint, he said, she volunteered that she had been having an affair with Karim for two years. She said she wanted to divorce her husband and marry Karim.

"She seemed relaxed," Yousaf said. "Like she thought her plan would work."

The other moment, and this one is agonizing, is when an uncle begins to describe her death:

According to her great-uncle Assan, after the shura reached its verdict, a group of villagers came to the dark storage room and took her away to be stoned.

"She knew what was going to happen to her," Assan said softly. "She was screaming and sobbing."

Amina's paternal uncle, Mohammad Azim, said he watched as the villagers forced Amina down a muddy path toward a patch of soft earth along a riverbank surrounded by stones, a few yards from the edge of the village.

It was a beautiful spot, shaded by an enormous tree and offering a charming view of the village clinging to the mountainside.

It was also an ideal place for a stoning.

"They dug a hole in the ground right here," Azim said, pointing to a spot in the clearing six days later. "Then they buried Amina up to her waist, with her arms pinned by her side."

I'll leave it at that.

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