Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Who will save Abdul Rahman?

For he faces the possibility of the death penalty for converting to Christianity:
"A man could be sentenced to death after being charged with converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under Afghanistan's shariah laws, a judge said yesterday. The trial is thought to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam will take four years after the fall of the Taliban.

Abdul Rahman, 41, was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada told Associated Press. The accused was charged with rejecting Islam."
And yet in the pages of the liberal press and the blogosphere where matters pertaining to religion and state power, liberty and responsibility, democracy and theocracy have been discussed endlessly - it's strangely quiet. Why is that, do you think? Not an entirely rhetorical question - I've a few ideas but I'm not entirely sure at this stage. Suggestions on a postcard - or failing that, in the comments boxes.

But I do know what we are seeing here. Whatever the outcome of the trial, which is being conducted under sharia law, Abdul Rahman could have avoided his fate had he renounced Christianity and re-converted to Islam. He refused. Therefore he faces the death penalty and if carried out, this would make him a martyr.

Will people understand then and desist from the profanity of giving this label to murderers? For this is what makes you a martyr - to be killed solely for your confession of faith, not because you imagine it is your celestial duty to kill yourself and take as many civilians with you as possible.

The issue of religious liberty and tolerance doesn't get anymore fundamental than this. Surely no reasonable person would argue that the issues of headscarves and schooling compare? Therefore people claiming to believe in the principle of religious freedom should speak for Abdul Rahman, should they not?

Update: See also fellow Glaswegian blogger Indefatigathingummy on this.

Update #2: Liberal US blog A Newer World has picked up the story; conservative blogger Michelle Malkin has more and is none too impressed with the Administration's response thus far.

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