March 26, 2006

"A lack of information and a lot of legal gaps."

So says an anonymous official "closely involved with the case," giving the reason for dismissing the case against the Abdul Rahman, who faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity. An authorized speaker for the court pointed to "problems with the prosecutors' evidence," specifically, Rahman's mental fitness to stand trial.

Should we look closely at this to determine whether the court caved to political or moral pressure? Or should we keep our distance and feel vaguely good that the court found a way to reach a satisfying outcome? We sometimes ask ourselves these questions about our own courts. But our courts can bear intense scrutiny. The Afghan court had a hard task before it, and the human beings who hold the public trust made their way through it.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ... stressed the U.S. needs to respect the sovereignty of Afghanistan, which she called a "young democracy."

"We have our history of conflicts that had to be worked out after a new constitution. And so the Afghans are working on it. But America has stood solidly for religious freedom as a bedrock, the bedrock, of democracy, and we'll see." Rice said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Aptly put.

ADDED: Was Rahman mentally unfit?
Rahman, [before his release], said he was fully aware of his choice and was ready to die for it, according to an interview published Sunday in an Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"I am serene. I have full awareness of what I have chosen. If I must die, I will die," Abdul Rahman told the Rome daily, responding to questions sent to him via a human rights worker who visited him in prison.

"Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us," he added in a clear reference to Jesus.

Rahman also told the Italian newspaper that his family - including his ex-wife and teenage daughters - reported him to the authorities three weeks ago.

He said he made his choice to become a Christian "in small steps," after he left Afghanistan 16 years ago. He moved to Pakistan, then Germany. He tried to get a visa in Belgium.

"In Peshawar I worked for a humanitarian organization. They were Catholics," Rahman said. "I started talking to them about religion, I read the Bible, it opened my heart and my mind."
Ah, but I just said, don't look too closely....

IN THE COMMENTS: Twwren writes:
It's Sharia Catch 22. He must be insane because any sane Muslim would reconvert to Islam therefore he cannot be executed.
I like having that part of the law and note that, extended, it would mean that anyone who embraces martyrdom for religion is insane. That's a useful idea. I hope they propogate it.


Lester Hunt said...

I was most impressed by the fact that his ex-wife and daughters reported him, in a deliberate attempt to get him killed. This is one reason why laws that criminalize ideas are so evil: immediately, everyone who has ideas (and so might be suspected of having the wrong ones) is surrounded by a thousand potential enemies. Such laws can come between friends, split up families, and pulverize society into atoms separated by mutual fear. Ironically, it's often done in the name of "unity."

Unknown said...

I agree, Lester.

I think many more Afghans than not are happy that the world community stood up for principle.

PatHMV said...

On one hand, I rather hope this is all part of a larger deal which involves him suddenly and mysteriously arriving in this country in a few days. On the other hand, I think it would be better in the long run for him to stay in Afghanistan and promote tolerance and separation of church and state (a pretty foreign concept to Islam as it has developed over the centuries).

At least one Afghani newspaper has come out against the execution.

bearbee said...

"...ex-wife and daughters reported him, in a deliberate attempt to get him killed.."

With family like this who needs enemies..

"And so the Afghans are working on it."

Afghanistan Constitution

Article 3 [Law and Religion]
In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.

Under the Afghanistan Constitution it appears Islamic Sharia law trumps all other law.

Troy said...

"Martyrdom for a religious idea as insanity" is a morally idiotic (and repugnant) statement. There's no difference between the apostle Peter or Paul and Mohammed Atta under logic like that.

The suicide bombers are not "martrys" in the traditional sense since most Christian martyrs -- historical and those being killed and imprisoned today around the world in Africa, the Middle East, and China are having punishment inflicted upon them. "Turn the other cheek" does not in any way refer to the insanity of a Muslim radical.

Troy said...

I should add that traditional (Protestant and Catholic) mainstream Christians don't "embrace" martyrdom -- also something anti-Christian ("Take this cup from me").

Ann Althouse said...

Troy: "Martyrdom for a religious idea as insanity"

You put something in quotes that no one wrote! What's with that? I referred to someone who "embraces martyrdom for religion." The act in question is the affirmative "embrace" of martyrdom, not affirmatively doing something else, with motives other than seeking martyrdom, and accepting the consequences.

I think there is a great evil in this world that comes in the form of encouraging religious believers to pursue martyrdom and understand life in terms of a hope for martyrdom. I would love to see this delegitimated.

ShadyCharacter said...

Ann, I think Troy was thrown by your use of "embrace". You seem to have meant it as someone actively going out with the intention of becomming a martyr - i.e. going to Rome wanting to be fed to the lions or stapping on a belt and intentionally blowing oneself up.

However, "embrace" is often used by Christians to mean "accept" in the context of martyrdom. A Christian goes to Rome to preach and willingly dies (embraces martyrdom) rather than recant.

Your deviation from the traditional usage made it look as if you were implying that it would be a "useful idea" to hold that anyone willing to die for their beliefs should be considered insane.

ShadyCharacter said...

Would "pursue" in place of "embrace" in your original formulation accurately describe what you are getting at?

Troy said...

Ann, You're right. I misinterpreted what I thouht was a quote. Sorry.

I would use "embrace" as "accepting" in a Christian -- "embrace" means affirmatively seeking in the Islamo-radical version. That second one seems insane.

Sorry again.

Ann Althouse said...

I considered "pursue" and then "seek" before I decided on "embrace." I used "embrace" deliberately to include what the judges conceived of Rahman as doing, which ties to the "insanity" theory that I'm hoping will carry over to the other context.

I do respect the people who have held to their beliefs even in the face of death. Obviously, I don't think Rahman is insane, but I'd like to be able to say something like: If you think Rahman is insane, then you must think these suicide bombers are insane.

ShadyCharacter said...

Ann, that's an interesting idea, but it would only work if Muslims considered an executed apostate to be a martyr. Being willing to die for an obvious lie (Christianity) would not be seen as in any way corresponding to a willingness to die for an obvious truty (Islam).

Charles Chapman said...

"I'd like to be able to say something like: If you think Rahman is insane, then you must think these suicide bombers are insane."

That will never happen. It assumes a degree of equality of religion and reciprocity that has no basis in the Quar'an or elsewhere in Islam. As a result, it would be a grave mistake to make policy on that basis.

The people we are dealing with are prefectly capable of making what, for them given the dicates of Islam, are rational distinctions. Allowing oneself to be killed rather than reconvert from Christianity to Islam? Insane. Blowing oneself up in order to also kill infidels who have insulted the Prophet by drawing critical cartoons of him? Not only obviously sane, but highly comendable.

In addition, while it was expedient, I find this easy out of accepting the forumla that Rahman was insane for refusing to renounce his faith in order to save his life to be deeply insulting not only to Rahman, but to Christians everywhere. Also, incredibly cowardly and short-sighted. We simply put off the critical issue for what? A day? A week? A month? A year? What happens with the next Rahman?

Or did we conviently push the issue under the radar for all time? I'm sure the Islamists in Afghanistan have learned their lesson. Do not officially prosecute the next convert to Christianity. Simply issue a religious fatwa and have him "unofficially" stoned to death.

Won't we be proud.

reader_iam said...

Ponder this:

He said the only way for Rahman to survive would be to go into exile.

But at Hossainia Mosque, one of the largest Shiite places of worship in Kabul, Said Mirhossain Nasri said Rahman must be barred from leaving the country.

"If he is allowed to live in the West, then others will claim to be Christian so they can, too," he said. "He must be hanged." [Emphasis added.]

The clerics said they were angry with the United States and other countries for pushing for Rahman's freedom.

From this news article.

Unknown said...

It's a step forward, not an unmitigated triumph over evil. A few years ago, no nation could have brought pressure to bear on this judge. Now, whether the Islamists like it or not, their country is a member of the world community how. Hutwa bi hutwa, step by step--let's not despair that Rome wasn't built in a day.

nk said...

Please see my apology and further comments at Prawfsblawg.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, NK.