Sunday, March 26, 2006


Abdul Raman

We must secure his freedom and protect him, regardless of cost

An Afghan court on Sunday dismissed the case against Abdul Raman, who was charged with apostasy for converting to Christianity some 14 years ago. He is to be released soon although a prosecutor is apparently still reviewing the case.

A number of commentators have suggested that Raman be granted asylum in a Western country. If that's what he wants, that's fine with me. But what if he wants to continue living in Afghanistan?

Prior to Rahman's release, Mark Steyn observed:
Unfortunately, what's 'precious and sacred' to Islam is its institutional contempt for others. In his book Islam And The West, Bernard Lewis writes, 'The primary duty of the Muslim as set forth not once but many times in the Koran is 'to command good and forbid evil.' It is not enough to do good and refrain from evil as a personal choice. It is incumbent upon Muslims also to command and forbid.'

Or as the shrewd Canadian columnist David Warren put it: 'We take it for granted that it is wrong to kill someone for his religious beliefs. Whereas Islam holds it is wrong not to kill him.' In that sense, those blood-curdling imams are right, and Karzai's attempts to finesse the issue are, sharia-wise, wrong.

I can understand why the president and the secretary of state would rather deal with this through back-channels, private assurances from their Afghan counterparts, etc. But the public rhetoric is critical, too. At some point we have to face down a culture in which not only the mob in the street but the highest judges and academics talk like crazies.

Raman embodies the question at the heart of this struggle: If Islam is a religion one can only convert to not from, then in the long run it is a threat to every free person on the planet. What can we do? Should governments with troops in Afghanistan pass joint emergency legislation conferring their citizenship on this poor man and declaring him, as much as Karzai, under their protection?

In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of 'suttee' -- the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

''You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

(My emphasis)
If Abdul Raman wishes to live in Afghanistan, as is his right, the US must do whatever is necessary to secure his safety.


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