When Katya Koren, a 19-year-old Muslim girl growing up in the Crimea region of Ukraine, entered a beauty contest, she couldn’t possibly have known what would result.
According to her friends, she just liked to wear fashionable clothes. The judges awarded her seventh place — but three young Muslims allegedly thought she deserved a different finish. Koren was brutally stoned to death.
Her battered body was buried in a forest and was found a week after she disappeared.
Police have opened a murder investigation and are looking into claims that three Muslim youths killed her, claiming her death was justified under Islam.
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.
In an area governed by Shari’a law, Koren’s decision to compete in a beauty competition might actually be against the law. It seems relatively safe to say Shari’a includes no specific edict against pageants, but the Quran enjoins modesty without actually defining it. That means, in some places, some could construe Shari’a to prohibit such competitions.
Appallingly, in those places where Katya’s status as a beauty contest competitor might be considered against the law, the youths’ stoning of her might even be considered acceptable, said Andy Cochran, who runs the site 7thAmendmentAdvocate.org.
“In areas governed by strict Shari’a, it could, especially if the youths sought a ruling from a local imam first,” he explained.
Certainly, adultery is an offense considered in some places to be punishable by stoning — but a beauty competition seems a very, very far cry from adultery.
At any rate, talking about Shari’a is “like talking about state law, without ever asking what state,” according to American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Michael Rubin, who writes regularly about issues related to the Middle East. “There is no universally accepted standardized Shari’a.”
In the end, it was sheer radicalism — not some subtle or advanced understanding of Shari’a — that led Gaziev to say what he said and to do what he presumably did.
“You’re talking about ignoramuses who are spood-fed Saudi-inspired radicalism and accept it blindly,” Rubin said in an e-mail.
And because Katya’s murder occurred in Ukraine, what matters more than what Shari’a has to say about modesty is what the Ukrainian authorities have to say about the case.
“Murder is murder,” Rubin wrote. “I would hope the Ukrainians would send them to the gallows.”
Still, Koren’s heart-breaking death is a reminder to cherish the culture of freedom we enjoy in the U.S., where just last year Rima Fakih became the first Muslim to be crowned Miss USA — to no real controversy. (Later, when Fakih spoke out against the proposed Ground Zero mosque, she found herself on the receiving end of criticism, but her participation in the pageant itself was rewarded by nothing except an enviable prize package and a Mikimoto crown.)
As Cochran puts it, “The Bill of Rights, which was first based on the Magna Carta signed in 1215, has led to a system of procedures fair to all parties, such as the use of juries in criminal and civil cases and standard procedures for each type of case. That system has been a beacon to societies around the world, for which men and women of all races, creeds and colors have fought and died.”