Democratic apostasy

Posted: Mar 21, 2006 8:05 AM

Since October 2001, approximately three hundred Americans have been killed and another eight hundred have been wounded in Afghanistan. The overthrow of the Taliban was about more than denying a base of operations to al Qaeda—it was also about liberating the people of Afghanistan from a brutal theocracy.

All of this makes recent news from Kabul all the more ironic—and outrageous.

Abdul Rahman is on trial for his life in a Kabul court. His crime? Converting to Christianity.

According to reports, Rahman converted to Christianity sixteen years ago while working for a Christian group that helped Afghan refugees in Peshawar, Pakistan. When he returned to Afghanistan in 2002, he tried to regain custody of his daughters from his parents. They referred the matter to the police, and his conversion came to the attention of Afghani authorities.

While the Taliban no longer rules the country, conversion from Islam to another religion, called apostasy, is still punishable by death. The prosecutor offered to drop the charges if Rahman converted back to Islam, but Rahman refused. According to the prosecutor, Rahman “said he was a Christian and would always remain one.”

That fidelity could cost Rahman his life if the judge decides that his “attack on Islam” meets the requirements of apostasy.

The irony is inescapable: This is the country that we rid of the Taliban because of its religious oppression. This is the country in which we have spent at least $70 billion to establish a free democratic government. This is the country whose freedom cost us three hundred American lives and eight hundred casualties. And this is the country that is preparing to execute a man for becoming a Christian after he witnessed other Christians caring for his countrymen.

Is this the fruit of democracy? Is this why we have shed American blood and invested American treasure to set a people free? What have we accomplished for overthrowing the Taliban? This is the kind of thing we would expect from the Taliban, not from President Karzai and his freely elected democratic government.

I have supported the Bush administration’s foreign policy because I came to believe that the best way to stop Islamo-fascism was by promoting democracy. But if we can’t guarantee fundamental religious freedoms in the countries where we establish democratic reforms, then the whole credibility of our foreign policy is thrown into serious question. I hope the president and the administration can recognize what a devastating setback Rahman’s execution would be to the cause of democracy and freedom.

But just in case they don’t, we had better tell them. While Abdul Rahman is prepared to be a martyr, it is our solemn obligation before God to protest as loudly and strenuously as we can. You need to both call and e-mail your elected representatives and the White House. You need to tell them that Abdul Rahman’s execution must not take place. You need to let them know that “democracy” worth the name must include protection of the most basic human right: freedom of conscience and belief.

Otherwise, places like Afghanistan, whoever is in charge, are nothing more than brutal theocracies and will always remain so.

Take action: Contact your representative and senators (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) and President Bush (e-mail or call 202-456-1111), and urge them to take action to prevent the execution of Afghan Christian Abdul Rahman.

For further reading and information:

Dr. Timothy George, Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?: Understanding the Differences between Christianity and Islam.

Daniel Cooney, “Afghan Christian Could Get Death Sentence,” Associated Press, 19 March 2006.

Tim Albone, “Afghan faces death penalty for Christian faith,” The Times (London), 20 March 2006.

Gretchen Peters and Lara Setrakian, “Afghan Faces Death Penalty for Converting to Christianity,” ABC News, 20 March 2006.

BreakPoint Commentary No. 040726, “Overlooking the Problem: Tolerance and Theological Blindness.”