Throwing burning acid over someone’s face and body, for whatever reason, should always be seen as unjustifiable, inexcusable and downright evil. That the Zanzibar perpetrators carried acid with them on bikes shows that last week’s evil act was also planned.
Trying to explain or understand it by citing cultural differences is like trying to rationalise anti-Semitism: fruitless at best, dangerous at worst.
Nothing could or would ever justify it, regardless of what the victim had done, who the victim was, what the victim was supposed to represent or what the victim was wearing.
But that’s exactly what the moderates in Tanzania have been doing this week.
Gabby Mgaya, assistant editor at Tanzania’s Daily News, wrote this week: “The young women are foreigners and uninitiated. They belong to a psyche- delic society in which authorities keep a closed eye on personal wear. They must have dressed or acted in a manner that perhaps negated Islamic conduct or norms like, for example, being dressed improperly or eating during Ramadan.”
Mgaya continues: “They acted the way they did in total ignorance of the prevailing circumstances, the holy month, and the ongoing need to preserve the culture and traditions of the people of Zanzibar.”
Mgaya is a typical example of the critical voices denouncing this most horrific act (he even suggests that the wicked perpetrators should have “had a frank talk with the girls” instead).
But like others, he seems to assume that Kirstie and Katie were in the wrong somehow, despite there being no indication that they were.
It is difficult not to jump to conclusions. The girls may have simply rebuffed the advances of a particularly vengeful local. There may have been no culture element to the attack at all.
But it is hard not to pick up on ill-will anyway. Another prominent Tanzanian article on the acid attacks included a detailed account of an English businessman arrested for carrying ivory.
Why include this wholly unrelated story? You can only assume that the author is implying that the girls were somehow culpable.
There are times when the phrase “worlds away” seems literally and figuratively true. The horrific acid attack on two British Jewish teenage volunteers in Zanzibar is one such time.