Rahman One of Thousands Awaiting Death Sentence

Jody Brown & Allie Martin | AgapePress | Thursday, March 30, 2006

Rahman One of Thousands Awaiting Death Sentence

U.N. Expects Approval of Asylum Request from Afghan Convert

(AgapePress) - News reports indicate that Abdul Rahman, the Afghan man who faced a possible death penalty for his acceptance of Christ as his personal Savior, has been released from a Kabul prison. No one, however, seems to know where he is since being released late yesterday. He had indicated that because of death threats from radical Muslim clerics, he wished to seek asylum in another country.

The United Nations says it will work with Afghanistan to accommodate Rahman's request for asylum. Rahman, who claims he converted from the Muslim faith 16 years ago, recently faced the death penalty for that decision until a Kabul court dismissed the charges and reportedly released him from a high-security prison near Kabul on Monday night.

But Islamic extremists have called for his death since the start of the trial, prompting groups that are concerned about Rahman's safety to call for his quick exit from the predominantly Muslim nation. Associated Press is now reporting that Rahman "quickly vanished" after being released on Monday night, and speculates he did so "out of fear for his life" with Muslim clerics still demanding his death.

A spokesman says the U.N. expects the 41-year-old convert's request for asylum to be met. "We've been working closely with the government of Afghanistan to find a solution to this," Adrian Edwards tells Associated Press. "As for Mr. Abdul Rahman, he has asked for asylum outside Afghanistan. We expect this to be provided by one of the countries interested in seeing a peaceful solution to this case."

He says the U.N. assistance mission in Afghanistan "has a mandate for good offices and for upholding human rights in Afghanistan" and has been following the case "closely since the outset." Hundreds of people protested against the court's decision to drop the case. The decision came partly because officials expressed concern that Rahman is mentally unfit to face trial. (See earlier story)

Conversion from Islam Taboo in Most Muslim Nations
The president of a grassroots human-rights organization says while much attention has been focused on the Afghan Christian who was on trial for his faith, the case is not an isolated incident. A recent report from Associated Press confirms that observation.

AP points out that Afghanistan is not the only U.S. ally where Muslim converts to Christianity can face prosecution or even execution. Saudi Arabia, for example, neither permits conversion from Islam nor allows other religions in the kingdom. In addition, there are no churches, and missionaries are barred. Islamic Shariah law considers conversion to any other religion apostasy and most Muslim scholars agree the punishment is death. Saudi Arabia considers Sharia the law of the land, though there have been no reported cases of executions of converts from Islam in recent memory.

The report continues, noting that in Jordan, after a Muslim man converted to Christianity two years ago, a court convicted him of apostasy, took away his right to work, and annulled his marriage. And in Kuwait, a court convicted a Shiite Muslim man who publicly proclaimed his conversion to Christianity, but did not sentence him since the criminal code did not set a punishment.

Jim Jacobsen, president of the group Christian Freedom International (CFI) says there are "literally thousands" of Christians all over the Islamic world who are awaiting a death sentence because they converted to Christianity.

"We're involved with many, many other cases just like [Rahman's]," Jacobsen says. "They lose everything -- all possessions, their inheritance. They're literally thrown out into the streets. The local mosque will issue a fatwa or death sentence against them."

The CFI leader says his organization sent a letter to President George W. Bush, asking him to push for Rahman's immediate release -- and reminding him that minority Christians face severe and growing persecution in many Muslim nations. Jacobsen theorizes that Rahman's case has received widespread media coverage simply because it can embarrass the president.

"He's spent so much effort and treasure on assisting in Afghanistan, and they see this somehow as the president's fault and that his policies have failed," he says. "But give me a break here. Yeah, we'd like to see a lot more, but this is the kind of thing that's happening throughout the Islamic world."

Associated Press contributed to this story.
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