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March 20, 2006) – The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) is calling on Afghanistan ’s President Hamid Karzai to defend religious freedom and freedom of conscience in his country by pardoning Abdul Rahman. Rahman is facing the death penalty for apostasy (rejecting Islam).

Rahman, who is about 41 years old, converted from Islam to Christianity over 16 years ago. He was turned in to authorities last month by his own family for rejecting Islam. Afghanistan ’s new constitution declares that no law can be contrary to the religion of Islam, which radical Muslims say demands the death penalty for any Muslim who abandons their faith. However, Afghanistan ’s constitution also demands that the state protect the liberty and dignity of all people, and affirms the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in Article 18:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

As we do not believe the people of Afghanistan would have ratified a constitution that contradicts itself, ICC urges the government of Afghanistan to consider that Islam is not in conflict with this portion of the UN’s Declaration on Human Rights. In fact, the Qur’an itself supports freedom of conscience in view of Allah’s absolute authority as judge:

Surah 2:256 – “There is no compulsion in religion…”

Surah 16:82 – “Then, if they turn away, your duty (O Muhammad) is only to convey (the Message) in a clear way.”

Surah 42:48 – “But if they turn away (from Islam). We have not sent you as a Hafiz (watcher, protector) over them (to take care of their deeds and to recompense them). Your duty is to convey (the Message)…”

Surah 88:21-22 – “And so, (O Prophet!) exhort them, your task is only to exhort; you cannot compel them to believe.”

If even Muhammad was commanded not to carry out punishments on those who turned away from Islam, how much less should Afghanistan ’s courts prosecute anyone who decides freely to convert to a different religion?
The Afghani authorities should drop this case immediately. Afghanistan has already had enough of religious extremism under the Taliban. The world is watching to see if Afghanistan has entered the 21st century. We urge Afghanistan not to return to the days of the Taliban.

ICC urges all concerned parties to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan as well as their Congressional Representatives to express their opposition to this violation of freedom of conscience and urge the immediate acquittal of Abdul Rahman. You can contact Afghanistan ’s Ambassador Said T. Jawad at the addresses and phone numbers listed below:

Embassy of Afghanistan
2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW
Washington , DC 20008

Tel: 202.483.6410

Fax: 202.483.6488
[email protected]

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