Respectful Insolence

Is this what we’re fighting for?

American soldiers are still fighting and dying in Afghanistan. It’s not nearly as many as in Iraq, and there aren’t nearly as many news stories about it, to be sure, but we are still spending blood and treasure to “stabilize” this supremely dysfunctional nation. The reason, we are told, is to bring freedom and to prevent the Taliban from coming to power again.

Well, here’s what we’re spending our blood and treasure for: To protect a theocracy that punishes infidels with death:

An Afghan man is being tried in a court in the capital, Kabul, for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Abdul Rahman is charged with rejecting Islam and could face the death sentence under Sharia law unless he recants.

He converted 16 years ago as an aid worker helping refugees in Pakistan. His estranged family denounced him in a custody dispute over his two children.

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

Here’s the definition of “tolerance” in Sharia law:

Trial judge Ansarullah Mawlazezadah told the BBC that Mr Rahman, 41, would be asked to reconsider his conversion, which he made while working for a Christian aid group in Pakistan.

“We will invite him again because the religion of Islam is one of tolerance. We will ask him if he has changed his mind. If so we will forgive him,” the judge told the BBC on Monday.

Or consider this statement from the prosecutor:

The prosecutor, Abdul Wasi, said he had offered to drop the charges if Mr Rahman converted back to Islam, but he refused. “He would have been forgiven if he changed back. But he said he was a Christian and would always remain one,” Mr Wasi said. “We are Muslims and becoming a Christian is against our laws. He must get the death penalty.”

Yes, this is the sort of “tolerance” that our tax dollars–yours and mine–are supporting right now and that our brave soldiers are dying for: Convert back to Islam or die! We’ll “forgive” you if you do. Supposedly Islam forbids compelling anyone to convert, or at least so I’ve been told. Apparently my understanding was incorrect.

Let’s see. We liberated Afghanistan from an intolerant, backward, violent bunch of religious fanatics in order to turn it over to a different group of religious fanatics, it would appear. I fully supported ousting the Taliban back in 2001. After all, they housed and supported the enemies who attacked us. They had to go. But now that they’re gone, can someone explain to me why we should continue to support a government that would even consider executing someone solely on account of his religion?

Here’s a scary thought: Does anyone want to take bets on how long it is before we start seeing stories like this emerging from Iraq?

Comments

  1. #1 Ali
    March 21, 2006

    My suspicion is that we’re fighting for stable military bases that surround Iran on either side. I also suspect that this has been the long-term plan from the Pentagon, and this is what has accelerated Iran’s search for nukes. If/when the insurgency subsides and US military resources replenish, we’ll have a couple of convenient launchpads in order to put real pressure on Iran. As it stands now, they’re winning the race, I fear. I hope I didn’t go too far off-topic, but really I think issues like the one above (heard the sad story on NPR today) are incidental as far as the State department is concerned.

  2. #2 Roman Werpachowski
    March 21, 2006

    There is too litle effort in Afghanistan to bring this country up to shape.

  3. #3 Ahistoricality
    March 21, 2006

    I hate to say this, but the only reasons we haven’t seen stories like this from Iraq are: a) lousy reporting, in no small part because of b) a lack of normative legal systems. Given what we know has already happened with regard to women’s rights there, and the targetting of Christian peace activists and other westerners, the shuttering of liquor shops, etc., I’d not want to be a “secular Muslim” in Iraq right now.

  4. #4 Roman Werpachowski
    March 21, 2006

    I hate to say this, but the only reasons we haven’t seen stories like this from Iraq are: a) lousy reporting, in no small part because of b) a lack of normative legal systems.

    I would expect Iraq to be more moderate than Afghanistan. They were a secular dictatorship for decades with many Iraqis visiting former Communist block countries (mostly as university students, IMHO) and they have much more people with higher education than Afghanistan.

    Lack of particular kind of bad news (not that we’re lacking them in Middle East in general) doesn’t ALWAYS has to be attributed to “lousy reporting”. I think Western press does a superb job of reporting every possible failure and mishap in Iraq.

  5. #5 Khalil A. Cassimally
    March 21, 2006

    Actually, think about it? America lost the war in Afghanistan ages ago and let the country fall into bits and pieces (ok, maybe it already was in bits and pieces) but point is, if you think that the Talibans are no more there, you must be joking.

    In Irak, America lost again. Actually the US had made it earlier for terrorist groups from outside to penetrate the country.

  6. #6 Ahistoricality
    March 21, 2006

    I would expect Iraq to be more moderate than Afghanistan. They were a secular dictatorship for decades with many Iraqis visiting former Communist block countries (mostly as university students, IMHO) and they have much more people with higher education than Afghanistan.

    You’re right: That’s pretty much what everyone expected. Nonetheless, the most powerful people in Iraq are religious leaders, women’s rights are rolling back to Afghani levels, and educated professionals are being killed or chased out of the country at a prodigious rate.

    One of the first true lessons of history: that which is logical and sensible doesn’t always happen.

  7. #7 Graculus
    March 21, 2006

    I think Western press does a superb job of reporting every possible failure and mishap in Iraq.

    One or two years after the fact, as a footnote, on page 7.

  8. #8 Roman Werpachowski
    March 22, 2006

    Graculus, I disagree. Maybe we browse different media, but European ones are full of information on Iraq.

  9. #9 Prup aka Jim Benton
    March 22, 2006

    The latest on this is that the Afghan government is trying desperately to find an excuse not to prosecute him. They are trying to declare him mentally ill, and unfit to stand trial. For his sake, of course, I hope they come up with something like this.

    Here’s a quote from the CNN story:
    “Doctors must examine him,” he said. “If he is mentally unfit, definitely Islam has no claim to punish him. He must be forgiven. The case must be dropped.”

    It was not immediately clear when he would be examined or when the trial would resume. Authorities have barred attempts by the AP to see Rahman and he is not believed to have a lawyer.

    A Western diplomat in Kabul and a human rights advocate — both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter — said the government was desperately searching for a way to drop the case because of the reaction it has caused.

    But what matters as much as the fate of this one man is that the law remains on the books. This too is something that our Congressmen should be contacted about.

  10. #10 BronzeDog
    March 22, 2006

    Here’s a quote from the CNN story:
    “Doctors must examine him,” he said. “If he is mentally unfit, definitely Islam has no claim to punish him. He must be forgiven. The case must be dropped.”

    Didn’t the Soviet Union treat some people who rejected Communism as insane?

  11. #11 Prup aka Jim Benton
    March 22, 2006

    One side note as well. According to the BBC, Karzai has announced a cabinet reshuffle. Formerly the cabinet had three women. Now there is one, and she’s the secretary of ‘women’s affairs.’

    Why do I hear the voice of Roger Daltrey in my head…

    “Meet the new boss…”

    Okay, that’s a major exaggeration, but it’s getting scary over there.

  12. #12 Graculus
    March 23, 2006

    The problem, Roman, is that the Europeans and the Canadians (that’s me), who still have press that walk on their hind legs occassionally, are not the ones that need to know this stuff.

  13. #13 Roman Werpachowski
    March 23, 2006

    Didn’t the Soviet Union treat some people who rejected Communism as insane?

    Yes, as a form of torture.

    The problem, Roman, is that the Europeans and the Canadians (that’s me), who still have press that walk on their hind legs occassionally, are not the ones that need to know this stuff.

    What, the BBC newssite is unavailable in the USA?

  14. #14 KeithB
    March 23, 2006

    Well, NPR ATC had a story the other day about the rise of intolerance in Basra. It was clear that there were islamic enforcers going about harrasing folks with the authorities looking on disinterestedly.