"If I must die, I will die," Abdul Rahman told a human rights worker.
Facing execution for converting to Christianity, Rahman had just been moved from a jail in Kabul, where his life was in imminent peril, to the notorious Policharki prison outside Kabul, where 2000 are incarcerated, including 350 Taliban.
Rahman is a man of faith and courage, the stuff of which Christian martyrs have ever been made. And, thanks to U.S. intervention, he is a free man, though he will live, if he remains in Afghanistan, in constant danger of being assassinated or lynched.
The ordeal of Abdul Rahman, whose death was demanded by the imams of Afghanistan, causes one to ask: What is this new democracy President Bush celebrates? Is it really something for which we ought to be sending young Americans to fight and die?
If the Afghan people are comfortable with Rahman being beheaded, what does that tell us of their tolerance of Christianity and of the depth of their commitment to freedom of religion?
"We have but one God, Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet," devout Muslims proclaim and believe. As for infidels who enter the Dar al-Islam to preach heresy and convert Muslims, they deserve death, as do any Muslims who apostatize to Christianity. As for those who mock the Prophet, like Salman Rushdie, author of "Satanic Verses," or European journalists who publish blasphemous cartoons of Mohammed, a fatwa for the lot of them.
Christianity does not seem to be faring much better in that other new democracy, Iraq. Under Saddam, Christians practiced their faith in peace and security. But, three years after liberation, their churches are being bombed, and Christian families are being threatened with massacres. They are fleeing to Syria, the new Christian sanctuary.
Our neoconservatives are, of course, anxious to "liberate" and "democratize" Syria, too. If they succeed, God help the Christians there. No one else will.
If democracy means anything, it means rule by the people, i.e., rule by the majority. We Americans add that liberal democracy also means the minority has rights no majority may violate: freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of religion.
How many Muslim nations accept freedom of the press if it includes the right to call for regime change? How many Muslim nations protect the right to contradict Islam in the public square? How many Muslim regimes allow opponents to protest publicly and demonstrate against them?