Monday, May 09, 2005

On Stoning

Docferg in my comments linked to a story about in Afghanistan. It is a familiar one, in many ways, though that doesn't mean it isn't a horrible one. The story is about a married woman being caught in a sexual relationship with an unmarried man and what happened next: she was killed, possibly by stoning, and he was whipped. These punishments are based on the shariah law.

What seemed different about this story to me was its point of view: it is written from the angle of those who did the killing. The reader is invited to identify with the murdered woman's father and mother and the other villagers, and it is indeed possible to see why they would have chosen to murder the adulteress in a rather amateurish, hesitant way, while all the time grieving over the necessity of doing so.

I may be unfair to the writer of the article who is also trying to show how mores are changing in Afghanistan, how some doubts about the process have entered, how officials were contacted before the village decided to mete justice in the traditional manner. But what struck me most was how the story made me not identify with the stoning victim. These stories usually have that effect.

What is the point of this post? Perhaps the importance of questioning the point of view of any piece of news, especially those articles which appear unusually balanced and neutral.