What does is say about a religion when, if two innocent teenage girls walking down the street are doused with acid by men on motorbikes, everyone assumes the attackers must be Muslims? We let a great many outrages go unremarked, but this one really should be noted.
The victims are two British girls, Kirstie Trup and Katie Gee, both 18, who were spending their “gap year” between high school and university volunteering at an orphanage in Zanzibar. Zanzibar is a mostly Muslim place, so they had been warned about the need to fit in:
Kirstie’s father Marc Trup said they were both well aware of the need to dress modestly and had been told not to wear any symbols of their Jewish faith, such as the Star of David.
Nevertheless, they experienced a couple of altercations:
The teenagers, both from north London, had been attacked twice before – once when a Muslim woman hit Katie Gee in the face for singing during the holy month of Ramadan, and once when they got into an argument with a shopkeeper days before the acid attack.
The assault happened as they were walking down the street:
The teenagers, who were on a month-long break volunteering for a charity when two men on a moped threw the acid over them, suffered injuries to their faces, hands, legs, backs, necks and chests.
Moments after they were attacked in Stone Town, Zanzibar, they ran into the Babu Cafe on the waterfront, screaming and tearing off items of their clothing, said Noonan Babu, the restaurant owner.
“[Katie] came in crying and shouting, ‘my face, my face, my face’, and she ran straight to the toilet to splash herself with water,” Mr Noonan said.
“My staff and other people helped her by giving her big bottles of water from the fridge to cover herself with and wash off the liquid. It was all over her. [Kirstie] ran straight to the sea to try to wash it off.
“They were so shocked, really they were frantic.”
The girls suffered severe acid burns. Miss Gee’s family released these pictures of her before and after the attack:
It is generally believed that the attack was the work of a Muslim organization called Uamsho:
The group, which wants Zanzibar to become fully independent from Tanzania and impose strict Muslim rules, is thought to be behind anti-Christian leaflets distributed in recent weeks telling Muslims to prepare for “a call” to action.
Uamsho is suspected of being behind an acid attack in November on a moderate imam and the shooting dead of a Catholic priest in February.
The good news is that doctors say the girls’ burns are relatively superficial, and they may recover. We certainly hope so. But what are we to make of the fact that the acid attack has become a staple of Islamic political action? Maybe it will turn out that someone else committed this outrageous attack, for some other reason. But I doubt it. Who else would do such a thing?
Hasn’t the time come to ask whether any person of good will can continue to be a Muslim? We keep hearing that the terrorists and their supporters are a minority, although polls are disquieting at best. But if there is a Muslim majority that does something beneficial to counterbalance the evil of terrorism, where is it? The cardinal rule of epistemology is, by the fruit we know the tree. What is the fruit of Islam? The world’s patience, one hopes, has limits.
UPDATE: Islamic cleric Sheikh Issa Ponda Issa has been arrested in connection with the case. He was shot with a tear gas canister while fleeing police officers and is now hospitalized.