Thursday, March 23, 2006

Official Responses Miss the Mark… “Unresolved” Says It All

The story of Abdul Rahman’s arrest in Afghanistan for conversion to Christianity is all over the news. Thankfully! America still gets the freakiness of prosecuting someone for their religion, much less threatening the death penalty. Unfortunately, America does not understand the inherent differences between Islam (which will kill you for converting to another faith) and Christianity (which will tolerate you practicing another faith).

The Afghanistan Embassy, sensing public pressure, has issued a press release. Of course, it dances all around the fundamental issue and misses the point altogether.

But that’s more than our government has done. I’m still waiting for my reply from the State Department to my Tuesday letter.

Thank you for your question to the U.S. Department of State web site. Your question has been received and we are working on an answer for you. Question Reference #060321-000440
Summary: Afghan prosecution of Abdul Rahman
Category Level 1: Foreign Policy
Category Level 2: Expressing Foreign Policy Opinions
Date Created: 03/21/2006 04:00 PM
Last Updated: 03/21/2006 04:00 PM
Status: Unresolved

Discussion Thread

American diplomacy is at work. We want to be sure we don’t advocate our values too loudly or too boldly. After liberating Afghanistan will billions of our tax dollars and hundreds of American soldier’s lives, we wouldn’t want to offend a country that despises our values.

Here’s an excerpt from Tuesday’s daily briefing by State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Probably you’ve seen an Afghan citizen faces prosecution, possibly the death penalty --
QUESTION: -- for converting to Christianity. Do you have any observation?
MR. MCCORMACK: I talked a little bit about this yesterday, Barry, but thank you for bringing it up.
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. Thank you for bringing it up because we did raise this particular case with Foreign Minister Abdullah. We are watching this case closely and we urge the Afghani Government to conduct any legal proceedings in a transparent and a fair manner. Certainly we underscored -- we have underscored many times and we underscored also to Foreign Minister Abdullah that we believe that tolerance and freedom of worship are important elements of any democracy. And certainly as Afghanistan continues down the pathway to democracy these are issues that they are going to have to deal with. These are not things that they have had to deal with in the past. Previously under the Taliban, anybody considered an apostate was subject to torture and death. Right now you have a legal proceeding that's underway in Afghanistan and we urge that that legal proceeding take place in a transparent matter and we're going to watch the case closely.
QUESTION: Well, I don't want to quibble but it sounds like you're asking for fair play and good procedure. Why don't you simply ask that it be cancelled? I mean, what possible justification is there for putting someone on trial for changing his religion?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, Barry, this is a question of the Afghan constitution and its laws. There are differing interpretations of it and I think that that's the issue with which they're trying to grapple with. That's the allusion that I made to -- of Afghanistan being a new democracy and coming to terms and dealing with these issues.
So it is, in the eyes of Afghanistan, the Afghan Government now, a legal issue that we are going to watch very closely.
QUESTION: I mean, it does seem a little lukewarm to just say you hope that they treat him fairly in this court case when it's questionable whether that is even a moral grounds to hold a proceeding. Is that something that the U.S. Government has pressed the Afghan Government to do is just to allow people to convert their religion?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, in the sort of -- within the Afghan -- confines of the Afghan constitution, this becomes a legal question. We have underscored the importance of freedom of worship, tolerance and freedom to express oneself as a core element of democracy. Like I said, we raised this issue with Foreign Minister Abdullah and I think that he and the Afghan Government understand very clearly where we stand on this issue. But as I said, this is, at the moment, a legal issue for the Afghan Government and that we would urge the Afghan Government to proceed in a fair and transparent manner.
QUESTION: Do you feel that that's all it's appropriate for the U.S. Government to do is just to hope the court case goes --
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, we have raised it with the Foreign Minister and we're going to continue to watch the case very closely.
QUESTION: But I guess my question is: Are you raising the fact that you want the court case to go transparently or raise the fact that there should even be a legal question?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that the concerns that I have expressed in public are the ones that we have expressed to the Foreign Minister.
QUESTION: Isn't there something wrong with the constitution of Afghanistan if it's -- I mean, the Secretary of State goes around, you know, telling countries which have, you know, bad human rights records to respect the freedom to worship, and here's a country where America has gone in and tried to help, has been praised by the President, praised by the Secretary of State for its democratic progress, and here it is persecuting somebody because they've converted to another faith.
MR. MCCORMACK: Jonathan, as I said, this is right now -- it's a constitutional matter so it's a legal question. So what that tells you is that there are two sides to this. There are those that believe that this is absolutely this person's right within Afghanistan, Afghans who believe that. So right now this is -- I believe certainly this is the first case that I have heard of of this type. So it is a test of the Afghan constitution. It's a test of Afghanistan's democracy. And so as I said, we will watch the case very closely. We have raised it with the Foreign Minister.
QUESTION: Is there anything at stake if they choose to prosecute -- choose to actually take -- persecute, perhaps, this man for his faith?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's deal with the situation as we have it right now. This is the -- it is at an initial stage and, like I said, we're going to watch it closely.
QUESTION: But by waiting until the results of the trial come out, you're not casting judgment on whether there should be one in the first place.
MR. MCCORMACK: Teri, I've provided the answer that I'm going to provide to you on it.
QUESTION: Let me try it a slightly different way, though the answer may be the same. Are you troubled in any way by the case?
MR. MCCORMACK: Charlie, again, I've answered the question.

Maybe it’s just me, but when an American reporter gets the point, you know it’s pretty clear. Our government’s response to this affair is pathetic.

Of course, our President (or Theologian-in-Chief on this issue..."the religion of peace" mantra, remember?) chimed in with his poignant insights. You can see his "fury" here.

Sadly, the case against Mr. Rahman is only one of many abuses. Check this out for a bigger picture on what is happening in Afghanistan. Also, you might want to monitor columnist Michelle Malkin. She’s a brilliant writer and seems to have taken a keen interest in writing on this matter.

Liberty and Islam are simply incompatible. We are fools to think freedom will endure in the countries we’ve liberated without a foundational change in those countries. There is a reason the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution deals with the freedom of religion. Without it, all other freedoms we cherish cannot flourish. And since we have it, we should aggressively denounce all governments that attack it, especially those who owe their very existence to us.

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