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ICC Note:
A great article that sheds light on the Afghani/fundamenatlist Islamic culture and worldview.

Islamic world indifferent to plight of Afghan Christian

For the full article, go to Russian News & Info Agency
BEIRUT , The story of Afghan citizen Abdul Rahman, who was arrested in Kabul after his relatives turned him in for converting from Islam to Christianity, and could be sentenced to death in accordance with Afghan law, should teach the West a lesson. It may be able to help topple an unwanted regime and bring new people to power, and even write a new constitution, but it cannot change the local mentality overnight. Western democracy cannot take root in traditional Eastern society. The West has been outraged by the plight of Rahman, but the Islamic world has hardly paid much attention to the story.

This is a serious problem for Afghanistan ‘s President Hamid Karzai. He has to justify the court’s decision in the West, which propelled him into power and is providing military and economic assistance to his country. He also needs to show to his own people that he is their leader and that he respects Afghan laws, however severe they may be.

In fact, his own legitimacy is ensured by the same constitution, which is based on Sharia, or Islamic law, and says that apostates can receive the death penalty. The Afghan constitution also claims to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates the freedom of worship. But the Afghan people respect the Sharia law more, which is logical.

The West pressured Karzai to promise to free him. But how could he do so without setting the clergy against himself and how could he convince the people that he was doing the right thing? The Associated Press cited Hamidullah, the chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque as saying “The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed.”

The Arabic television network Aljazeera’s website reported blitz polls in Afghanistan showing that the majority of the respondents were for executing Rahman. According to the TV channel, Afghan judges reject Western calls for freeing the man as interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan .

Some people there were troubled by Rahman’s arrest and the possibility that he would be killed for his personal religious convictions, but the majority of Afghans live according to ancient traditions, which cannot be changed overnight. What other pillar would support Afghan society then? Even the acquittal of Rahman would not solve the problem and will mean not a step forward, as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, but a case of successful interference by the West.

On the other hand, this is not only Afghanistan ‘s problem. The point at issue is the incompatibility of two attitudes. Those who live by modern rules cannot understand those who live according to their old traditions. Nobody would speak to cannibal tribes about human rights. We can be shocked and repulsed at their customs, and try to save their prisoners, but changing their way of thinking looks impossible. But then, can we remain silent on matters of life and death?

The Western public was outraged by the arrest of Rahman because it sensed that this decision was incompatible with the ideals of democracy in the country and that Western governments were responsible for events in Afghanistan and hence the fate of the Afghan Christian. But Islamic countries remained completely indifferent to his plight.

The only Islamic organization to report the scandal was Aljazeera. There are several reasons for this. To begin with, there are too many other problems, including human rights violations, in the Islamic world. When regarded against the backdrop of Iraqi developments, the trial of Rahman is not news at all. After all, he could save himself, but who will save Iraqis? Then, the issue of apostates in many Islamic, including Arab, countries is too painful to be discussed publicly.

“What could people think about Christian converts when Sunnis say Shiites are apostates?” asked Manal al Nahas, a journalist with the Arabic daily Al Hayat.

However, despite the complicated attitude towards converts, many Muslims, in particular in Lebanon , still think that the death penalty is a much too severe punishment in such cases. Islam and the Islamic world have many faces.

Yousef Subeidi, the Beirut representative of Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, the most influential Shiite cleric, said, “This is Afghanistan . What is there to discuss when they don’t know what Islam is? They are distorting the image of Islam. To them, the main thing is violence, which Islam does not accept.”

This opinion may be one more reason for the unwillingness of Islamic religious leaders to publicly interfere in the Afghan story: they know that their words will mean nothing to Afghan Muslims. Others prefer never to hold public disputes about Islam, especially disputes provoked by Western interference. The East has a different way of life and different problems and we can do nothing about it.