The Congressional International Religious Freedom Caucus and Ms. Ramirez, now at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, kept the pressure up on the State Department. A flurry of letters and calls from Caucus leader Rep. Trent Franks pushed reluctant US officials to act. Once they did, the Afghan government moved Mussa to a safer and more humane facility in October. Mussa's trial was delayed and he was finally released in late February, nine months after he was first jailed.
Although Mr. Mussa's story has a relatively happy ending, it points to a more pernicious reality - that the State Department is abandoning its commitment to a core right in any free society - the freedom of faith and conscience. Under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, US government must engage foreign governments to promote religious liberty and take punitive action where appropriate.
The Obama Administration and State Department in particular pay lip-service to this policy but through inaction aid and abet the persecution of religious minorities the world over. The State Department reported that religious liberties had “deteriorated” in 2010 but declined to list Afghanistan as a Country of Particular Concern. For another Afghan Christian Shoaib Said Assadullah who still faces a death sentence for apostasy, the State Department’s ineffectual hand-wringing is cold comfort. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that religious liberty is "a cornerstone of a healthy society," but it is appallingly clear that the Administration does not consider religious liberty to be worth their time or efforts. If Afghanistan routinely undercuts religious liberty, what kind of society are we helping to build there?
As Americans, we expect our foreign policy to be in line with our values. American allies and partners like Afghanistan should be expected to respect core freedoms like religious liberty. As a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Afghanistan already has an obligation to protect religious liberty. The United States must insist that the Karzai government uphold its international commitments and adhere to the core values of a free society by codifying protections for religious liberty into Afghan law.
American soldiers and marines, many of them devout Christians, are dying to protect Afghans from theocratic tyranny. The State Department must do its duty and see to it that Kabul honors those hard-fought freedoms.
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