Monday, March 20, 2006

I Thought We Were Fighting for "Freedom?"

Afghan Man Faces Death for Allegedly Converting to Christianity
Sunday, March 19, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan man who allegedly converted from Islam to Christianity is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death, a judge said Sunday.

The defendant, Abdul Rahman, was arrested last month after his family went to the police and accused him of becoming a Christian, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada told the Associated Press in an interview. Such a conversion would violate the country's Islamic laws.

Rahman, who is believed to be 41, was charged with rejecting Islam when his trial started last week, the judge said.

During the hearing, the defendant allegedly confessed that he converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago when he was 25 and working as a medical aid worker for Afghan refugees in neighboring Pakistan, Mawlavezada said.

Afghanistan's constitution is based on Shariah law, which states that any Muslim who rejects their religion should be sentenced to death.

"We are not against any particular religion in the world. But in Afghanistan, this sort of thing is against the law," the judge said. "It is an attack on Islam. ... The prosecutor is asking for the death penalty."
The prosecutor, Abdul Wasi, said the case was the first of its kind in Afghanistan.

He said that he had offered to drop the charges if Rahman changed his religion back to Islam, but the defendant refused.

Mawlavezada said he would rule on the case within two months.

Afghanistan is a deeply conservative society and 99 percent of its 28 million people are Muslim. The rest are mainly Hindus.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

U.S. Backs Afghan Man Who Converted to Christianity

Tuesday , March 21, 2006

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration issued a subdued appeal Tuesday to Afghanistan to permit a Christian convert on trial for his life to practice his faith in the predominantly Muslim country.

The State Department, however, did not urge the U.S. ally in the war against terrorism to terminate the trial. Officials said the Bush administration did not want to interfere with Afghanistan's sovereignty.

The case involves an Afghan man who converted from Islam and was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian. The conversion is a crime under Afghanistan's Islamic laws.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and department spokesman Sean McCormack asked Afghanistan to conduct the trial "in a transparent way." Burns said he told Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, with whom he held talks at the department, that "we would follow the case closely."

At a joint news conference, pressed by reporters, Abdullah said he hoped "through our constitutional process there will be a satisfactory result." He did not say whether the defendant, Abdul Rahman, 41, would be found innocent.

Abdullah said officials of his government "know that it is a very sensitive issue and we know the concerns of the American people." He said the Afghan Embassy in Washington had received hundreds of messages of concern.

The Bush administration went to war four years ago, ousting the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan, and then joined with other countries to help steer the nation to constitutional rule. About 18,000 U.S. troops are on duty there, and more than 200 have died.

"Our government is a great supporter of freedom of religion," Burns said. "As the Afghan constitution affords freedom of religion to all Afghan citizens, we hope very much that those rights, the right of freedom of religion, will be upheld in an Afghan court."

Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., released a letter he said he had sent to Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressing dismay over the case.

"In a country where soldiers from all faiths, including Christianity, are dying in defense of your government, I find it outrageous that Mr. Rahman is being prosecuted and facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity, which he did 16 years ago before your government even existed," Lantos wrote.

German and Italian officials have voiced concern, too.

State Department spokesman McCormack contrasted the government in Kabul with its fundamentalist predecessor.

"Under the Taliban, anybody considered an apostate was subject to torture and death," he said. "Right now, you have a legal proceeding that is under way in Afghanistan."

McCormack said the administration underscored to Abdullah "that we believe tolerance and freedom of worship are important elements of any democracy.