• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Daily Mail and Police on “Bizarre Religious Ritual” and Girl’s Murder

From the Daily Mail:

Religious ritual believed to be behind death of girl who was found with her heart cut out and other organs strewn round home

Neighbours of a mother arrested after her four-year-old daughter was killed as an apparent religious offering told how they heard screams from the family’s flat.

Nusayba Bharuchi’s corpse was found stabbed to death in the kitchen with her heart and other organs cut out and strewn around her flat and lying next to her mother, Shayna.

The 35-year-old woman was allegedly chanting verses of the Koran as her daughter’s disembowelled corpse lay next to her in the home in Clapton, East London.

The woman, believed to be from Somalia, had her MP3 on full blast as she listened to the Muslim holy book…

The headline has been changed from:

‘Mother cuts out heart of daughter, 4, as she listens to recording of Koran in ritual killing’

A Mirror report has a direct quote from the police:

A police source said: “It appears to be some sort of bizarre ritual killing.

“She was chanting passages of the Koran while listening to a recording of the text on her MP3 player.”

Naturally, the story has been picked by anti-Islam activists;  in the USA, Robert Spencer has a blog entry using the same original headline, minus the quotation marks that show that it’s an allegation rather than a proven fact. Says Spencer, sarcastically:

There is nothing in the Qur’an about cutting your daughter’s heart out. However, one wonders why the peaceful verses of the Book of Peace didn’t pacify this mother and deter her from this horrific murder.

Pamela Geller, meanwhile, hints that Muslims are to blame for the murder for having the Koran:

That is one hell of a book they got there.

However, the Mail‘s sensationalised report – as ever – requires some caution. Even Spencer concedes that ritual human sacrifice does not form any part of Islam, and I haven’t been able find any comparable reports from Somalia suggestive that a heterodox form of the religion might have played a role. Secondly, the woman’s partner and the police arrived after the killing. Although the police are not looking for anyone else, we don’t yet know for sure whether the mother was the killer, or, even if she was, whether she was listening to or reciting the Koran during the act itself. In any case, intelligent observers would more likely to see “mental illness” as “behind death of girl” rather than “religious ritual”.

The Mail’s headline recalls the notorious 2005 Evening Standard headline “Children Sacrificed in London Churches, Say Police“; I blogged on this here. The Daily Mail also stoked fears of an Islamic ritual killing last year, as I blogged here.

(Incidentally, Spencer never contradicted Rifqa Bary’s belief – fed to her by evangelical pastors – that her parents wished to kill her because it be would be an especially “great honour” for them to do so, since she was the the first Christian in her family for “150 generations”.)