It looks like sanity may prevail, at least in a legal sense, in the case of Abdul Rahman, the Afghani apostate who has been facing a possible death sentence for having converted from Islam to Christianity. Lo and behold, the Afghan legal system, which had been displaying irrational exuberance at the prospect of snuffing out Rahman’s life, has, as of this writing, reportedly dropped the charges because of “lack of evidence.”
That’s funny. Rahman had freely admitted that he converted to Christianity and he refused to revert back to Islam when given the chance. So what’s with the “lack of evidence?”
What more likely happened was that Afghan president Hamid Karzai got religion, so to speak, and took seriously the message that was coming from leaders of outraged Western countries: If we’re going to send our soldiers to fight and die for your fledgling democracy, then you damn well better not be executing people for becoming Christians.
Rahman actually converted many years ago while he was working for a Christian aid agency in either Germany or Pakistan, depending on which account you believe. The only reason it lately became an issue was because his wife filed a complaint in a child custody dispute, accusing him of rejecting Islam.
To the Western mind such a religious conversion is anything but a colossal offense. But in Afghanistan, a backwater of Islamic fanaticism, ignorance and intolerance, even without the Taliban running things, minds perceive things differently. To the locals in this country that is 99.9% Muslim, Rahman is the heavy in “Apostasy Now.”
No one’s going to argue that Afghanistan isn’t currently better off than it was under the Taliban when women had fewer rights than dogs and the local soccer stadium was used mainly as a mass execution site. Most of that insanity, at least as it was practiced officially, appears to be history. But there are still issues.
Like the Afghan constitution, for instance, which is chock full of Sharia law and requires that all Muslims avoid rejecting Islam, or else. It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the living room of Afghan democracy and it raises a rather fundamental question: How can you have a democracy and at the same time have a justice system that demands a guy be whacked for choosing a different religion than the majority? The concept is even more oxymoronic than, say, “deafening silence,” which, by the way, was about all we heard on this issue from the usual apologists for the “religion of peace.”
Of course, even if Rahman gets off the legal hook, that doesn’t mean there won’t be fatwas galore coming down from righteously outraged clerics anxious to rid the country, not to mention this terrestrial sphere, of the offensive apostate. And so far, none of his fellow countrymen have been cutting Rahman a whole lot of slack.
For instance, Afghanistan’s attorney general had said Rahman should be hanged and jail employee Hosnia Wafayosofi told the Chicago Tribune that “we will cut him into little pieces.” Senior Muslim clerics also threw in their two cents worth and declared that Rahman should be killed regardless of whether a court decides to free him.
Wow! So much for hearts and minds. And there’s plenty more where that came from as indicated by this further sampling of remarks from various clerics:
“Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die.” (This was from Abdul Raoulf, by the way, who was jailed three times for opposing the Taliban before it was ousted and is considered a “moderate.”)
“Cut off his head! We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there’s nothing left.”
“The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed.”
“If he is allowed to live in the West, then others will claim to be Christian so they can too. We must set an example . . . He must be hanged.”
“We are a small country and we welcome the help the outside world is giving us. But please don’t interfere in this issue. We are Muslims and these are our beliefs. This is much more important to us than all the aid the world has given us.”
Talk about misplaced priorities. The list of unabashedly medieval quotes could go on all day, but take another look at that last quote. “We are Muslims and these are our beliefs.”
In other words, being Muslim is an excuse to believe any harebrained claptrap one likes. And this particular harebrained claptrap is the idea that anyone who converts from Islam to another religion deserves to be killed. But that’s what Muslims believe, so the West just has to deal with it, right?
Wrong. Not any more. In the new parlance, that would be referred to as pre-9/11 thinking. The old paradigm of tolerating Middle Eastern oppressiveness and backwardness for the sake of political stability got obliterated on Sept. 11 when we learned that Afghanistan had become world headquarters for Apocalyptic Terrorism, Inc., whose mission statement was to bring down the West.
The new paradigm is that the West is going to have a say in what goes on “over there,” even if it’s a far-flung Nowheresville like Afghanistan, because unfortunately, even primitive backward people now have the potential to wreck havoc upon civilization. Two things make that possible: access to Western technology and an utterly irrational disregard for innocent human life on a monumental scale.
Abdul Rahman is just one man and what happens to him may not make much difference in the grand scheme of things, but there is an uncompromisable principle about religious freedom that the West has to at least make some noise about. As for more practical reasons for raising a stink, as long as conditions exist such that there are whole countries full of people who think that killing religious converts is not only okay, but necessary, none of us are safe because those are the fever swamps that breed the terrorists that end up targeting us.
If Afghans are insulted by Western interference in their internal religious affairs, too bad. The West doesn’t much like the idea that for all its trouble, treasure and blood expended in Afghanistan, it could still end up with Taliban-lite.