Friday, 9 July 2010

For whom the bell tolls

Hemingway commented when he quoted from John Donne’s Meditation XVII, “No man is an Island, entire of itself." Ernest evokes the reality of the human condition. None of us, in spite of what we may believe, or have been told, is ever alone. In turn, Donne's opinion follows upon his better known assertion "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind."

This illustrates just how far I personally have withdrawn from what one may think of as the norm. We have just had one of those flashes of media outrage at what we were told was to be the fate of an Iranian woman. Stoned to death. The great and the good, along with I suspect, may plain old attention whores dropped their knitting and rushed to the barricades. It had an effect as Iran was forced into making a statement that stoning did not figure in the list of acceptable ways of killing recognised by Islam. That in itself is a chilling statement. How does a merciful God endorse killing in his name? I must restraining myself here - I cannot accept the doctrine that whatever happens is the will of some Deity and is intended as a cross to be borne.

The world spoke out against the barbaric sentence for an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, and it seems Iran has listened.
"She will not be executed by stoning punishment," the Iranian embassy said in a statement to London's Channel 4 news Thursday, commenting on reports that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani would be stoned to death for "illicit relationships" conducted after the death of her husband. The embassy claims that, despite international reports, the violent punishment was never actually on the table. "This mission denies the false news aired in this respect," the embassy said in the statement. The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran highly recommends that news and reports should not be taken for granted and considered a reliable source of information for official statements or misjudgements"
But it is not clear whether they have lifted the death sentence on a woman who has been in prison in Tabriz since 2006. The 43-year-old had already been punished with flogging for an "illicit relationship" outside marriage when another court tried her for adultery. There again, a strange concept as other reports claim that her husband was dead at the time she went over the side. I happily accepted 'till death us do part' but a prohibition such as Iran's would have troubled me.

My feeling of isolation arises from the fact that I cannot find anything incredibly wrong with the situation that the woman was to die in the barbaric way that had been rumoured. The death - Yes. The manner of her departure - No. We cannot know how many 43 year old women die every day in this world. There is famine, fatal illness, other forms of honour killing and just plain old vanilla deaths from violence or neglect. Every one of those deaths is as significant to the about-to-die and her friends and relatives but no one speaks for them. I cannot do anything for them other than give a passing few minutes of reflection as are taken by writing this blog. Just what would that do for her? What impact does it have on her and her executioners that I find myself unable to campaign on her behalf and in aid of the hundreds who depart in the same unjustified and cruel manner.

Maybe I am an island? But there is another possibility - "If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away" I have to console myself with the drum idea as I cannot face the possibility that my milk of human kindness has turned sour or that I have emptied the jug.

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