A pretty story out of Pakistan

Compassion is at the heart of every great religion. (Karen Armstrong)

That’s good, because if it weren’t, religious zealots might do some really horrible things now and then.

A British aid worker kidnapped in Pakistan in January has been found dead, the Foreign Office has said.

Khalil Dale, 60, who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was kidnapped in Quetta, south-west Pakistan.

The body of the Muslim convert was found in an orchard in Quetta with a note saying he had been killed by the Taliban, local police said…It is understood the militants holding Mr Dale had asked for a very large ransom which could not be paid.

The BBC doesn’t say so, but other headlines I saw said he was beheaded.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said: “He had many friends around the world and regularly travelled back to Dumfries where he was well known and loved.”

He had worked for the ICRC and the British Red Cross for many years, carrying out assignments in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

British Red Cross chief executive Sir Nick Young said Khalil first worked overseas for the Red Cross in 1981 in Kenya, where he distributed food and helped improve the health of people affected by severe drought.

He also worked in Sudan before his posting to Pakistan.

Sir Nick added: “He was a gentle, kind person, who devoted his life to helping others, including some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

So, to be perfectly honest, really the last kind of person who should be kidnapped and then murdered when the money wasn’t forthcoming. Most of us aren’t like that; I’m certainly not; people who are like that shouldn’t be murdered.

Shiela Howatt, who worked with Mr Dale when he was a staff nurse at Dumfries Infirmary in the 1990s, said he was “no stranger to danger”, and had previously been captured in Mogadishu.

“He was an absolutely lovely person devoted to caring for others less fortunate than himself,” she told the BBC.

“He spent his time in war-torn countries where help was needed, where people were desperate and that was Ken’s role in life.”

Mrs Howat, who knew Mr Dale for 25 years, said his fiancee Anne, who is also a nurse, lives in Australia.

The MP for Dumfries and Galloway, Russell Brown, said he also counted Mr Dale as a friend.

“We were all hoping for a somewhat more satisfactory end, but dare I say my thoughts are also tinged with a degree of anger,” he said.

“He went out to do good work in a foreign land, helping people out there as he’s done for many years in different parts of the world, and he gets captured, kidnapped, and meets a horrific death.”

Bad. Very bad.






  1. Brian says

    But! No true muslim would kill a true Scotsman. And no true religion has a call to violence at its heart, because all true relgions are compassionate at heart.
    I guess we can safely assume the Taliban are not true muslims, even if they disagree.
    There’s a fallacy in there somewhere, and it might belong to Ms Armstrong and not me…

  2. Alex SL says

    Well, to be fairly honest, this does not make it sound as if he was killed for religious reasons but rather because a ransom was not paid. It is much more to the point to contrast the violent riots after a Qur’an “desecration” or a Mohammed caricature, the killing of apostates or the murder of an abortion doctor with the claim that religion is about compassion. This here seems more like plain and simple crime that just happened to be committed by Muslims.

  3. Francis Boyle says

    Alex: Except that the Taliban don’t just happen to be Muslims – it’s there raison d’etre. Sure, the murderers may be simple thugs who in other circumstances, would have become Nazis or Maoists or whatever, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is their religion that is the enabler of their thuggery.

  4. Alain says

    @Francis Boyle,

    …it is their religion that is the enabler of their thuggery.

    Precisely. And I would use an even stronger word: inciter. The ransom, had it been paid, would likely have financed the destruction of a school for girls (or pick any other Taliban atrocity).

  5. says

    Plus, what was my point: their religion didn’t stop them. They are hyper-religious, yet they kidnapped a man whose work was nursing people in dangerous areas, and then chopped his head off when they couldn’t collect a huge ransom for him.

    Religion is supposed to be about compassion, so it’s always well worth pointing out when it doesn’t stop people engaging in the most revolting kinds of cruelty, even when the cruelty is not specifically motivated by the religion.

    This of course applies to Anders Breivik too, along with the Sisters of “Mercy” and the Christian Brothers and the child-raping priests and all the other Christian sadists and bullies.

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