Some of you may not have yet heard about Abdul Rahman. He is Afghani convert to Christianity who has been sentenced to death for the offense of converting from Islam to Christianity.
The US and a number of our allies have been pressing Karzai and company to free him and rightly so, not because we overturned the Taliban but because there are some core values in life that are worth trying to impose on others.
Yes, I said impose and I said it deliberately. Freedom of worship is a core value and of exceptional importance. At a later date I might expand upon this concept of “imposition of values” but for now let’s keep it simple. There are times in which war is the moral act. There are times in which it would be immoral not to use force to help others.
It is a troubling situation. If you read the rhetoric and comments about this case there are a number of things that merit attention.
First, there was news that the Afghan government was going to try and have Rahman released by having him declared mentally incompetent as this gave them a way to spare him from execution. But it is not a smart precedent to establish and not something that alleviates the problem as seen in this AP quote.
“Diplomats have said the Afghan government is searching for a way to drop the case. On Wednesday, authorities said Rahman is suspected of being mentally ill and would undergo psychological examinations to see whether he is fit to stand trial.
But three Sunni preachers and a Shiite one interviewed by The Associated Press in four of Kabul’s most popular mosques said they do not believe Rahman is insane.
“He is not crazy. He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian,” said Hamidullah, chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque.
“The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed.”
Raoulf, who is a member of the country’s main Islamic organization, the Afghan Ulama Council, agreed. “The government is playing games. The people will not be fooled.”
“Cut off his head!” he exclaimed, sitting in a courtyard outside Herati Mosque. “We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there’s nothing left.”
He said the only way for Rahman to survive would be for him to go into exile.
But Said Mirhossain Nasri, the top cleric at Hossainia Mosque, one of the largest Shiite places of worship in Kabul, said Rahman must not be allowed to leave the country.
“If he is allowed to live in the West, then others will claim to be Christian so they can too,” he said. “We must set an example. … He must be hanged.”
That last sentence is particularly chilling and an example of the ideology that we are fighting. Look at this next quote:
“The clerics said they were angry with the United States and other countries for pushing for Rahman’s freedom.
“We are a small country and we welcome the help the outside world is giving us. But please don’t interfere in this issue,” Nasri said. “We are Muslims and these are our beliefs. This is much more important to us than all the aid the world has given us.”
Afghanistan’s constitution is based on Shariah law, which is interpreted by many Muslims to require that any Muslim who rejects Islam be sentenced to death.”
If we lived in a world in which we had no concern about the impact of other thoughts and beliefs that might give us an opportunity to ignore something like this ideological disconnect. But the reality is that we live in a global community and that prevents us from ignoring ideologies that are so dramatically opposed to our own.
I am not sure that we can afford to raise the flag of tolerance and multicultural acceptance on this one.