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Afghanistan Muslims Protest Against Release Christian

Tuesday, March 28, 2006 | Tag Cloud

By BosNewsLife News Center

KABUL/WASHINGTON/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife) -- Led by angry Muslim clerics, hundreds of people on Monday, March 27, protested in a northern Afghan city against a decision to free an Afghan man who faced a possible death sentence for converting from Islam to Christianity.

About 700 people, including Muslim clerics, gathered in central Mazar-e-Sharif, chanting "Death to Bush" and other anti-Western slogans, a day after a court announced it had dropped its case against Abdul Rahman, The Associated Press news agency quoted police commander Nasruddin Hamdrad.

Muslim clerics have denounced the decision by a court to release Rahman, 41, who became a Christian in the 1990s while working for an aid group in neighboring Pakistan. They say he has clearly violated Islamic laws and must be killed.

The religious leaders have called for protests across the country against both the government and the West, which had pressured President Hamid Karzai's administration to drop the case. It came as Christian human rights activists warned they remained concerned over the plight of Haman.

CONCERN REMAINS

"For one thing, an anonymous official has said that the prosecutors will be doing further investigation of the case. Secondly, senior Muslim clerics in Afghanistan had already warned that if Rahman were released he would be murdered," said Barnabas Fund, which investigates the situation of Christians in especially Muslim nations.

An official of the country’s main Islamic organization, the Afghan Ulama Council reportedly said his group "will call on the people to pull him to pieces so there’s nothing left." Analysts say it seems likely that people would respond to such incitement as an overwhelming number of ordinary Afghans apparently believe that Rahman has erred and deserves to be executed.

Barnabas Fund told BosNewsLife that the case could also have an impact on other Muslims who converted to Christianity. "There are former Muslims who now follow Jesus Christ in every country of the world, including others in Afghanistan. For all of them Islam’s apostasy law has implications."

MENTAL EXAMINATION

Prosecutors have suggested that the case against Rahman depended on the result of a mental examination. Analysts expect the case to be dropped if Rahman is found to be unstable.

According to the Afghan constitution, "no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam". But the constitution also states that Afghanistan will abide by international agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines freedom of religion.

The government has been searching for a way out of the problem, trying to satisfy Western demands while not angering Afghanistan's powerful conservatives, who have stated that they will "consider struggle their legal and religious duty" if Islamic law is not enforced in this case.

Several Western leaders, including American President George W. Bush and Pope Benedict Pope Benedict XVI have urged Afghanistan to respect the rights of Rahman. Tom Lantos, a US citizen who immigrated from Hungary and now serves as a ranking Democrat on the House's International Relations Committee, lambasted Afghanistan for continuing its system of Sharia (Islamic) law, which experts say has been in practice since the 7th century.

"UNACCEPTABLE" LAW

"It's absolutely unacceptable, and I made it very clear to [Afghan] President Karzai and the foreign minister in very plain English that this has to stop, not as an individual case, but as a generic solution. We simply will not put up with this," the conservative WorldNetDaily website quoted Lantos as saying.

He earlier showed a letter to reporters he said he had sent to Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressing dismay over the case. "In a country where soldiers from all faiths, including Christianity, are dying in defense of your government, I find it outrageous that Mr. Rahman is being prosecuted and facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity, which he did 16 years ago before your government even existed," Lantos wrote.

"It's absolutely unacceptable, and I made it very clear to [Afghan] President Karzai and the foreign minister in very plain English that this has to stop, not as an individual case, but as a generic solution. We simply will not put up with this," Lantos explained about the letter.

SUPREME COURT

Lantos stressed that "President Karzai has a tremendous opportunity at the moment because he's now naming new members to the supreme court, and it's absolutely critical that every single member he names be a civilized, moderate individual who understands that having death sentences passed on people who convert to Christianity is not acceptable in the 21st century."

He added that Afghanistan should realize it "has been liberated by soldiers of the United States and other NATO countries, most of whom are Christian," WorldNetDaily reported.

Lantos is himself of a Jewish background and survived during World War Two the Holocaust in Hungary, in which an estimated 600,000 Hungarian Jews died. (With BosNewsLife Chief International Correspondent Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center, BosNewsLife Research and reports from Kabul, Washington and Budapest).

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