Afghan Court Releases Christian Convert

Jody Brown & Allie Martin | AgapePress | Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Afghan Court Releases Christian Convert

'Lack of information' cited.

(AgapePress) - News reports say Adbul Rahman, who was facing possible execution in Afghanistan for converting from Islam to Christianity, has been released. But there are still concerns about his physical safety if he remains in the predominantly-Islam nation.

Afghan officials say the case has been dismissed against a man facing possible execution for converting from Islam to Christianity, and have ordered him released. But Abdul Rahman may need protection, because Muslim clerics have called for him to be killed. Last week some senior clerics in Kabul warned that if the government caved to Western pressure and freed Rahman, they will encourage people to "pull him into pieces so there's nothing left."

The human-rights group International Christian Concern encourages continued prayer for Rahman's safety. "He will be in grave danger as long as he remains in the country," says ICC president Jeff King. "The fundamentalists will seek to kill him regardless of what the courts say. He is an apostate and must be killed according to Islamic law."

In an interview published Sunday by an Italian newspaper, Rahman said he chose to become a Christian "in small steps." In his words, "I read the Bible, it opened my heart and my mind." Rahman added, "If I must die, I will die." In a clear reference to Jesus, he said, "Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us."

Last week Associated Press reported that an Afghan prosecutor suggested the Afghan Christian might be deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. "We think he could be mad. He is not a normal person. He doesn't talk like a normal person," stated prosecutor Sarinwal Zamari. That report said if Rahman was examined and found to be mentally unfit, Islam would have "no claim to punish him" and charges would be dropped.

Indeed, that may have been part of the Afghani court's rationale for releasing Rahman, along with a reported "lack of information" to continue the case. The chief counsel for Washington, DC-based Concerned Women for America questions the "mentally unfit" comments.

"Muslim leaders accused this man of being insane and mentally unfit to stand trial," observes Jan LaRue. "Since when does being a Christian discredit your sanity?" But the CWA spokeswoman believes those leaders were following "the model of atheist Soviet regime by using the insanity claim" on Rahman.

A Pivotal Point for Islamic Nations
Wendy Wright, president of CWA, says Rahman's case may provide an insight into the sincerity of Islamic nations and their stand on basic human rights. Religious freedom, says Wright, is a key element of freedom as a whole.

"Inherent in religious freedom is the freedom to convert to another religion," she says, "and Afghanistan is now struggling with coming to grips with what is universally recognized as a fundamental right, a fundamental freedom."

The 2004 constitution declares that "Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic" and that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions" of Islam. But its preamble declares respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says people are free to change their religion or belief. The Afghan constitution says non-Muslims can practice their faith "within the limits of the provisions of law." But Islamic law is commonly interpreted to forbid conversion away from Islam.

"There seems to be a contradiction within the Afghan constitution. This may happen as well with Iraq's constitution," says Wright. "And so this is a pivotal moment for these countries to decide which way they will go."

The CWA president says Americans have bled and died to give these nations freedom, and a basic element of freedom is religious freedom and the right to believe as one wishes.

On Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasized the centrality of religious liberty and said the U.S. intends to help Afghanistan "work through some of these contradictions."

"They have constitutional expectations that have been written in that they will, in fact, live up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects individual conscience on religion," said Rice. "What we have to do is stand with the Afghans to continue to insist on the principle and to help them work through some of these contradictions."

Prior to Rahman's release, the secretary of state said the U.S. was pressuring Afghanistan to drop the case against the convert. "We have been very clear with the Afghan government that the freedom of religion and the freedom of religious conscience is at the core of democratic development," she stated, noting that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states an individual should be free to choose which religious beliefs they wish to follow.

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