These are the facts: 19-year-old Katya Koren was found dead in a forest on the Crimean peninsula. She had participated in several regional beauty pageants with the goal of becoming Miss Ukraine. It’s been widely reported that she was stoned to death by Muslim teens for participating in pageants, but her murder may actually have nothing to do with Islam, writes Margaret Hartmann in Jezebel.
The Daily Mail reported that police are investigating claims that Koren was killed by three local teens who say her murder is justified by the religion.
The paper also says: “One of the three — named as 16-year-old Bihal Gaziev — is under arrest and told police that Katya had ‘violated the laws of Sharia’. Gaziev has said he has no regrets about her death.”
There isn’t much to the Daily Mail piece, but it’s been picked up by dozens of other news outlets, which feature headlines like this one from Fox News: “Muslims Stone Teen To Death For Entering Beauty Pageant.” Don’t read the comments, or you’ll be tempted to put your fist through your screen.
There’s just one problem: Authorities say Koren’s death wasn’t motivated by religion. According to The Telegraph, police say she was killed by a psychologically disturbed classmate. He allegedly offered her a ride on his moped, then robbed and possibly raped her before beating her to death with a rock. “A student did it, killing his classmate. There is no other underlying reason, neither religious nor linked with inter-ethnic conflicts,” says police officer Sergei Reznikov.
The Telegraph reports that the area has no history of crimes being committed in the name of Sharia law. Gaziev is in police custody, and has reportedly confessed to the killing. Locals say he was obsessed with Koren, and he’s being evaluated to see if he’s mentally able to stand trial. According to a translated report from a Crimean government website, when asked why he committed the crime, Gaziev said, “I just wanted to kill her.”
There certainly have been crimes committed around the world by people who distort the teachings of Islam to justify extreme misogyny. People have also twisted the words of just about every other religion in a similar way. It seems very possible that Koren’s horrific death had nothing to do with the fact that she was Muslim. Her faith being used to fuel more misconceptions about Islam adds another disturbing layer to what’s already a deeply chilling crime.