2006 March 22 Wednesday
Afghan Man Faces Possible Death For Christian Conversion

I hope all my regular readers are not naive enough to think the US changed Afghanistan into a proto Western liberal secular state. Abdul Rahman might be killed in Afghanistan as punishment for converting to Christianity.

The convert, Abdul Rahman, has been accused of apostasy and jailed, but not formally charged. In the United States this week, Christian talk shows and advocacy groups rallied their supporters, who flooded the White House and the Afghanistan Embassy with complaints.

The embassy released a statement yesterday saying that it was "too early" to draw conclusions, and that a judge was now "evaluating questions raised about the mental fitness of Mr. Rahman." The embassy said the results of that evaluation "may end the proceedings."

Rahman is ready to go meet Jesus.

"They want to sentence me to death, and I accept it," Rahman told reporters last week, "but I am not a deserter and not an infidel."

The Afghan constitution, which is based on Sharia, or Islamic law, says that apostates can receive the death penalty.

Was Rahman working with a Christian aid group in Pakistan?

Mr Rahman told a judge at a preliminary hearing last week that he became a Christian while working for an aid group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

"I'm not an apostate. I'm obedient to God but I'm a Christian, that's my choice," he told the hearing.

Rahman doesn't seem willing to act crazy as a way to save his life.

In Afghanistan whether you are a Christian is not recognized as a legitimate personal choice.

The Bush Administration does not want to clash with the Afghan government over this because the US government wants Afghanistan's government to stay stable and to support the hunt for Al Qaeda folks.

When a Christian believer in a nation wholly dependent on U.S. support faces trial and possibly execution simply for embracing the same faith as the President of the United States, you'd think that country would be read the riot act. Instead, Washington's response to the trial in Afghanistan of Abdul Rahman has been rather muted. President Bush said Wednesday he was deeply troubled by the case and said he expected Afghanistan to "honor the universal principle of freedom."

Bush is hoping Karzai will find some way to get the case droppped.

Rahman might get off on an insanity defense that won't even be of his devising.

The trial of a man facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity might be dropped on the grounds of his "mental instability", officials have said, as Afghanistan provoked international criticism over the case.


"He doesn't speak like normal people," Zalmai, the chief prosecutor in the case, who uses only one name, told The Independent. "We are delaying the next hearing for him to be examined by doctors to establish his sanity."

Well, normal people would hide their religious beliefs if they lived in a place that would kill them for what they believed. So I have to side with Zalmai.

My guess is that Hamid Karzai is using what leverage he has (cash, threats, etc) to make sure the Afghan courts declare this Afghan Christian as insane or otherwise mentally ill. Karzai doesn't want the Western criticism. Bush and Karzai will look for some way to make the case go away. Maybe Rahman will be sent abroad for mental treatment and given asylum once he gets to wherever he gets sent.

I would have thought that all the Taliban judges were fired when the regime fell. But judges in Afghanistan sound like they are mostly Taliban hold-overs.

His is thought to be Afghanistan's first such trial, reflecting tensions between conservative clerics and reformists.

Conservatives still dominate the Afghan judiciary, four years after the Taleban were overthrown, and Afghanistan's post-Taleban constitution is based on Sharia law.

What happens once Karzai is replaced? Surely he's the best sort of leader we can hope for in Afhganistan. More disappointments lie in store in Afghanistan for the US in the future.

Get this, his family denounced him as a Christian as part of a custody battle over his two kids. His own parents are battling him in the custody battle. This case has become a means of fighting a larger clash in Afghan politics.

The trial of an Afghan man who is facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity has drawn the battle lines between religious conservatives in the Supreme Court and western diplomats pushing a reformist agenda.

The case comes within days of President Hamid Karzai's unveiling of a new Supreme Court line-up that western donors hope will dilute the power of Islamic hardliners.

Maybe Karzai could approach some major league drug dealers to order their bought-and-paid-for judges to dismiss the case?

More than four years since the fall of the Taliban, the judicial sector remains corrupt, riddled with cronyism linked to the country's $2.8bn (€2.3bn, £1.6bn) drug industry and staffed by ill-educated mullahs tied to illegal militia forces.

Why weren't all the judges dismissed when the Taliban fell?

Update: Allan Wall, back from National Guard duty in Iraq, comments on the Rahmam case.

Italy has troops helping us in both Afghanistan and Iraq (I know, having served for four months as a liaison officer with the Italian Army in Iraq). Italian President Francesco Cossiga has called on his country to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan if Rahman is executed. In the words of the Italian president: "It is not acceptable that our soldiers should put themselves at risk or even sacrifice their lives for a fundamentalist, illiberal regime."

I've done my part in the Middle East. I recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with my National Guard unit. The troops are doing a great job. But it's disheartening to read of an Afghan Christian facing the death penalty, and persecution of Iraq's indigenous Christian minority.

As British Labour MP Alan Simpson asks of the Rahman case, "What sort of democracy are we defending?"

MP Simpson, do you really need to ask? The answer is obvious enough: An illiberal fundamentalist Islamic democracy.

Allan asks whether Bush, in his quest to remake the Middle East, has failed to consider what Islam is really like. Um, that would be a big Yes!

Our president, portrayed by some opponents as a Christian fanatic, will not speak out in behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

In Bush's eagerness to reform the Middle East, has he failed to take into account the realities of Islam?

Referring to the Rahman case, Bush said, "We expect them to honor the universal principle of freedom."

Well, the idea that freedom is a universal principle is a Western liberal conceit. No, it is not a universal principle. No, there is no universal ideology or universal moral code. As we learned with the Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoons the Muslims have a very different moral code. Wall reports that someone converting to Christianity is seen as an intolerable insult.

In Afghanistan, Rahman's own father defends the government's right to execute his son, with the statement that "This is an Islamic country." A neighbor of the family said, "There is no way we are going to allow an Afghan to insult us by becoming Christian ..." The state prosecutor calls Rahman a "microbe" that must be eliminated.

Eliminate a microbe? Stop an intolerable insult? One can not reason with such people using commonly shared values.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 March 22 09:18 PM  Civilizations Clash Of

PAKISTANI ATHEIST said at March 22, 2006 11:12 PM:

oh please shut up Randall!
i have been reading this blog for years and have finally summoned up the courage to post a reply to your nonsense today!
I am a Pakistani atheist, i hate Islam, and would happily burn down every single mosque in South Asia, I have felt this wat since4 1999.
BUT (!), I would much sooner use Pakistani weapons to destroy America,than the moqsues. You self-absorbed fool, you really think we Pakistanis give a damn about 9/11?! since 9/11, it's been CRINGE INDUCINGLY EMBARRASING to watch you fat,20 stone Yanks, all of a sudden become 'experts' on Islam. Yuck ! Reading your Amazon wish list after 9/11, mr parker, was so EMBARRASING. How come you had no interest in islam/pakistan BEFORE 9/11? why did it take 9/11 to awaken your interest?
Oh, i know, yourt self-interesdt became aroused by the thought of you losing your nice,comfortable,wal-mart,consumerist existance to the taliban.
To hell with you. I hate islam more than you could begin to imagine. I spend 15 years of my childhood being beaten in mosques by islamic priests,before I finally became an atheist. I have paid the price for being a victim of that sex-mad arab, muhammad. To watch,a fat, american like you, mr parker, all of a sudden become interested in islam is more than i can take.
Sorry for my spelling mistakes,but I am in a very bad mood.
bye my brothers in science. Sorry if i have offended you, but we can't all be as nice as johannes kepler, all of the time.

Bob Badour said at March 23, 2006 5:00 AM:
How come you had no interest in islam/pakistan BEFORE 9/11? why did it take 9/11 to awaken your interest?

Pakistan is mostly a backward-assed shithole whose own citizens debase themselves and the rest of humanity. Why should anyone care about it?

Nevertheless, Randall's knowledge and interest in Islam and the growing problem of Islamic terrorism predates 9/11 by at least a decade. I know because I was discussing these things with him almost a decade before 9/11, and at that time he had already developed well-read, articulate opinions on the topic with high predictive value.

To watch,a fat, american like you, mr parker

You apparently don't really know Randall at all. Only a long-term anorexic/CR fanatic could find any body fat on the man.

Dave said at March 23, 2006 9:11 AM:

I don't understand your comment PAKISTANI ATHEIST, why are you mad with America? just because you think they are fat an had no interest in Islam before 9/11 ? doesn't seem like a very good reason. huh?

crush41 said at March 23, 2006 2:38 PM:

As I understand it, non-Islamic religious practices are not banned under Afghan law. It is apostasy from Islam and conversion to something else that is punishable. Pay homage to the 'emperor' and then do what you will. Rahman presumably converted aware of the consequences. So he's done us a big favor in underscoring the first couple sentences of the post.

Bob Badour said at March 23, 2006 3:09 PM:


Do you understand that as religious freedom?

Stephen said at March 23, 2006 6:53 PM:

Crush, I think it would only be appropriate to use the 'he knew the risks when he bought the ticket' analogy if he had in fact first been given the option of not joining his birth religion. Whereas in this case the likely circumstance is that he was born into Islam, so he never had an opportunity to agree, of his own free will, to the rather hefty penalty clause imposed on people breaching their Islamic club membership contract.

Fox Hound said at March 24, 2006 8:59 AM:

Let's all say it over and over again:

"This is what democracy looks like!"
"This is what democracy looks like!"
"This is what democracy looks like!"
"This is what democracy looks like!"
"This is what democracy looks like!"
"This is what democracy looks like!"
"This is what democracy looks like!"
"This is what democracy looks like!"
"This is what democracy looks like!"
"This is what democracy looks like!"

crush41 said at March 24, 2006 11:43 AM:


No. I'm not trying to make that fallacious argument. On the contrary, it shows Afghanistan to be the illiberal place that it is. I'm just wondering why Rahman openly converted. He's done us a favor in the same way that the cartoonists have.

Bob Badour said at March 24, 2006 11:55 AM:

Given that Rahman converted during the Taleban regime, I suspect he converted in Pakistan where he was relatively safe.

The real question is: Why did he return to Afghanistan? Perhaps he bought the liberal premise that democracy automagically means tolerance and ecumenism? Perhaps he thought the American victors would run the place and force toleration for Christians?

Reading that Rahman's parents are supporting the charges against him to keep him away from his own children reminds me that I was recently told by a muslim that Islam promotes the family. Oh the fibs they tell!

Randall Parker said at March 24, 2006 12:33 PM:

crush41, Bob,

My guess is his parents ratting on him to the government because they do not want to see him raise his kids as Christians.

Bob Badour said at March 25, 2006 5:50 AM:

Of course, Randall, that almost goes without saying. After all, the Ignoble Qur'an instructs them to destroy their own family in favour of religion:

O ye who believe! take not for protectors your fathers and your brothers if they love infidelity above Faith: if any of you do so, they do wrong. Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the commerce in which ye fear a decline: or the dwellings in which ye delight - are dearer to you than Allah, or His Messenger, or the striving in His cause;- then wait until Allah brings about His decision: and Allah guides not the rebellious.
deya said at July 28, 2009 3:02 PM:

who gives a fuck what he did can we just move on and fix our county??? we have alot to take care of than what he did. i am an afghan girl but shit us people cant get over shit.i dont see what is the big deal about about changeing religions. we make a big deal a muslim changeing his religion but when some els become muslim we get happy??its ok for a man to marry a none muslim women but for a women to marry a none muslim. why can it just be equal for all of us that is the reason our country is still pice of shit.

deya said at July 28, 2009 3:16 PM:

i am an afghan girl who does not belive in any kind of god of. but that does not mean to disrespect anyone or any religion.look at our country why are we waisting time on why some one converted to christianity? who cares we have alot more to worry about to work on. look at the homeless people who are dieing because they dont have food, we are not worrying about them and we are worry about what Abdul did? come on people lets grow up shitttt!!!if there was a god why would afghanistan be a kind of place it is now beacuse there is no god and if there was a god we would all be treated the same and equal. what is so hard about getting the dumb shit throught our fuckn heads there is nothing such as goddddddddddddd? and if there is one where is he why can he not treat everyone thesame?

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