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Afghan Charges Against Christian Convert Dismissed:

Story here:

After days of international outcry, an Afghan court has dismissed the case against a man threatened with being put to death for having converted from Islam to Christianity, a court official said Sunday.

The charges of apostasy against Abdur Rahman, a 41-year-old medical aid worker, were being dropped for lack of evidence, said Abdul Wakil Omari, a spokesman for the Afghan Supreme Court.... Omari, the court spokesman, cited two factors for the case's dismissal: signs that Rahman might be mentally disturbed and the possibility that he had become a German citizen.

Naturally, a "dropped for lack of evidence" result is far from perfect. But here the perfect may be the enemy of the good. Sometimes liberty progresses through small steps and legal fictions. That's better than liberty not progressing at all, which is what might have happened had Rahman's defenders insisted on all (a rousing decision affirming religious freedom) or nothing.

What's worth remembering about the case, though, is that "even moderate Muslim clerics, as well as members of Rahman's own family, have said that death is the only fair and logical punishment for him." If that's "moderat[ion]" as Muslims go, that's mighty troubling.

BobH (mail):
We had to kill the apostate in order to save him.
3.27.2006 4:28pm
anonymous coward:
Moderate as Muslims go, or "moderate" for Muslims in Afganistan? (Yes, obvious.)
3.27.2006 4:36pm
JohnAnnArbor:
We had to kill the apostate in order to save him.

That was the Inquisition's position on things.
3.27.2006 4:36pm
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
"We had to kill the apostate in order to save him."

I know this sentiment sounds insane, but if you logically pursue the dictates of most religions, that's where you end up. So it isn't that islam is any worse than, say, christianity, but rather that christianity had its back broken by the enlightenment: "God is dead". So lets not mince words, because what we want to do is kill islam, or at the very least render it a pale shadow of its former self.
3.27.2006 4:37pm
WB:
If "a pale shadow of its former self" means reducing its ability to kill people who don't adhere to all of its rules, then I'm happy with that.
3.27.2006 4:38pm
BU2L (mail):
Glenn:

I know this sentiment sounds insane, but if you logically pursue the dictates of most religions, that's where you end up.

That statement is only correct if we disregard the provisions in Christianity that dictate against murder - notably, umm - "thou shalt nor murder." Basically, you are assuming that there is no argument within Christianity compelling the conclusion that apostates should live on. That's just not true. Christian texts are open to range of interpretations. One can reach a peaceful conclusion on the apostasy question without leaving the 4 corners.
3.27.2006 5:10pm
Aultimer:
EV is clearly right that "[s]ometimes liberty progresses through small steps and legal fictions" but that's hard to square with conservative judicial theories. Is it just tempering those theories with realism?
3.27.2006 5:11pm
Bobbie:
I think what's most interesting about his case is what it says about conservatives. The case presents a direct conflict between the rule of law (which dictates that the man die) and the general notion of liberty (which dictates that the man should live). Conservatives often lambaste the U.S. Supreme Court for allegedly trying to further the former at the expense of the latter. Here, however, without even noting that tension, conservatives have been hailing the result.
3.27.2006 5:12pm
Hoosier:
It comes as a surprise to this RC that MY Church's back was broken by the Enlightenment. Someone will have to fill me in on the Enlightenment's contribution to the dicussion of primary causation. Last I noticed, it was still mired at the secondary level.

Yet, as much as it pains me to say it, Islam really needs a Martin Luther.
3.27.2006 5:13pm
Houston Lawyer:
Christians have been fighting for freedom of conscience for at least 500 years. Martin Luther had to be hidden away to protect him from the church's enforcers of the day.

Islam appears to still be in its dark ages.

I recall the story of a British officer in India who came across a funeral at which the widow was to be burned. When he objected, the locals proclaimed that sutee had a long tradition. He explained that the British also had a tradition, called hanging, which he would enforce.

I think that this situation calls for less tolerance on our behalf, not more.
3.27.2006 5:15pm
Ghost:
In my opinion im glad that Abdur Rahman made it out ok. But it would have been nice to see how the case would have played out with out a insanity plead. This case could have been one of those landmark cases where the islam culture does a little self analysis and realizes the error of their ways. But thats just hopeful thinking...
3.27.2006 5:16pm
BU2L (mail):
Bobbie,

If I, (as a sorta-conservative), am hypocritical for saying that the Commerce Clause should not be twisted into an all purpose tool for "positive results" on one hand, but on the other hand believe that the intellectual integrity of Shari'a can go to hell if it means the Muslims won't kill Xtian converts, well, then I guess I'm a hypocrite.
3.27.2006 5:17pm
davod (mail):
His family will kill him if he stays in Afghanistan.
3.27.2006 5:18pm
BU2L (mail):
Houston Lawyer, this is the incident I believe you are referring to - conveniently recounted on TimBlair:


Mark Steyn applauds an historical example of multiculturalism:

In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of "suttee"—the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

''You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

Damn imperialists.
3.27.2006 5:18pm
Hoosier:
Bobbie--

Conservatism is the most contextual of all political philosophies. Conservatives--at least those of us in the Burke-Disraeli-Oakeshott crowd--don't worship rule of law in all contexts, as against all other claims. But we DO think that there is a point to having a written constitution. And to knowing what the rules are, and how they are to be changed.

Application of domestic constitutional disputes to Afghan politics strikes me as a complete misreading of what it is to be a conservative. There is no "tension" between wanting the Court to be humble here and generous there.
3.27.2006 5:19pm
Justin (mail):
What's worth remembering about the case, though, is that "even moderate Muslim clerics, as well as members of Rahman's own family, have said that death is the only fair and logical punishment for him." If that's "moderat[ion]" as Muslims go, that's mighty troubling.

What, we're supposed to remember that the LA Times classified some of the (Afghan) clerics who said it was fair and logical to put him to death? Why? For conservative bias against the LA Times? Or is there another reason that I'm missing? Surely its not because we need to take the LA TImes's sentence and apply it as a priori fact.

To note, CAIR (hardly called moderate in conservative American circles) called for his release, as did the MPAC and the Fiqh Council of North America.

Indeed, the BBC characterization of the position of moderate and reformer Muslims even within Afghanistan couldn't be more different:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4831426.stm

It should also be noted the UN, criticized here as apologists for extremist Islam, made a unilateral and clear statement that the execution of Rahman would be a violation of international and human rights law.

Finally, at least one member of Afghanistan's parliament got himself quoted in Canadian press saying that he opposed the prosecution:

Malalai Joya, the youngest member of Afghanistan's Parliament, said the case proves "there is no freedom of opinion, that there is no democracy in Afghanistan, no freedom of speech in Afghanistan."

Unfortuantely, I don't read arabic, so I can't tell what others have said. But I find it silly to take the LA Times word that "even moderate" muslims support this act - particularly when they probably meant "even moderates" amongst the ruling council of clerics in Afghanistan, a country that has long been under Wahabbist influence and rule.
3.27.2006 5:23pm
Justin (mail):
Christians have been fighting for freedom of conscience, and you use Martin Luther as an example? Ignoring the fact that he was being persecuted by Christians, he ordered the massacre of German Jews for not converting to his brand of Christianity.
3.27.2006 5:24pm
Wally (mail) (www):
I found interesting the "man in the street" comments on the subject, many of which threatened Jihad if we did not refrain from interfering and 'telling them what to do'. This coming from the same quarter who were frothing at the mouth over Danish cartoons published in Denmark.

I notice the protests in the US concerning immigration seem to have taken on the same sort of threatening tone. The racists from "La Raza" busy whipping up hatred, and the geniuses in Congress make felons out of destitute refugees. I wonder if the rest of the world is catching on to the idea that threats get your pretty far...the Palestinians have been doing it for years...with good results...
3.27.2006 5:29pm
Bobbie:
Hoosier, Martin Luther hardly had a pacifying effect on Christianity: he thought heretics should be killed. For example, in "On Jews and their Lies," among other nasty things, Luther wrote this about Jews:


There was never a viler people than they, who with their lying, blaspheming, cursing, maligning, their idolatry, their robbery, usury, and all vices accuse us Christians and an mankind more before God and the world than any others ... Their great slothfulness and malice prompt these blasphemous scoundrels to mock Scripture ... what can we expect of these degenerate Jews who haughtily disdain to know anything about this story? ... No, you vile father of such blasphemous Jews, you hellish devil, these are the facts: God has preached long enough to your children, the Jews, publicly and with miraculous signs throughout the world ... save our souls from the Jews, that is, from the devil and from eternal death ... First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss in sulphur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire ... that they be forbidden on pain of death to praise God ... that they be forbidden to utter the name of God within our hearing. For we cannot with a good conscience listen to this or tolerate it, because their blasphemous and accursed mouth ... He who hears this name-from a Jew must inform the authorities, or else throw sow dung at him when he sees him and chase him away. And may no one be merciful and kind in this regard ...
3.27.2006 5:32pm
BU2L (mail):

Their great slothfulness and malice prompt these blasphemous scoundrels to mock Scripture

of all the things to say about Jews, to call us slothful? Come on. Even my great-grandfather's colleagues in the Tsar's Army, who accused him of having a tail and horns, never thought to call him lazy. I'm incensed - incensed, I tell you.
3.27.2006 5:34pm
Christopher C (mail):
I think Condolezza Rice was largely correct in her assessment of this situation: Afghanistan's new government is still very new to democracy, etc., and is going to make some mistakes along the way (she didn't say this directly, she implied it), and we should remember where this country was, only 4 years ago, with the Taliban running things. In the end, Karzai's government listened to the West. That is a pretty good result, given the precarious situation in Afghanistan and not as bad as stoning some Saudi princess (as happened a few years ago in Saudi Arabia, see "Death of a Princess"). All in all, this incident is an argument why the West should stay engaged with the Islamic world, and not retreat from it.
3.27.2006 5:38pm
Bobbie:
BU2L wrote:

If I, (as a sorta-conservative), am hypocritical for saying that the Commerce Clause should not be twisted into an all purpose tool for "positive results" on one hand, but on the other hand believe that the intellectual integrity of Shari'a can go to hell if it means the Muslims won't kill Xtian converts, well, then I guess I'm a hypocrite.
Well, at least you're an honest hypocrite. I hope your conscience pains you -- even if only a bit -- next time you attack "results based" jurisprudence

Hoosier wrote:

Conservatism is the most contextual of all political philosophies. Conservatives--at least those of us in the Burke-Disraeli-Oakeshott crowd--don't worship rule of law in all contexts, as against all other claims. But we DO think that there is a point to having a written constitution. And to knowing what the rules are, and how they are to be changed.

Application of domestic constitutional disputes to Afghan politics strikes me as a complete misreading of what it is to be a conservative. There is no "tension" between wanting the Court to be humble here and generous there.

I'm not sure I follow you. Either the rule of law is a virtue that can give way to liberty or it cannot. There's no reason to apply a geographic limitation to the principle. You can throw around words like "humble" and "generous," but there's no side-stepping the issue: if you think the Afghan court came to the correct decisions (we all seem to agree with that), then you think the rule of law should give way. This seems to be quite a concession. Perhaps in this case it is justifiable, but it takes quite a bit out of the argument that there's a bright-line rule against violating the "rule of law."

If there is some exception to the rule of law, then every time you accuse the U.S. Supreme Court of violating the rule of law, you need to go through the proper analysis to show that the side step wasn't justified. (You, meaning, not you specifically, but just any conservative who likes to attack Supreme Court's decisions along this line.)
3.27.2006 5:43pm
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
"That statement is only correct if we disregard the provisions in Christianity that dictate against murder - notably, umm - "thou shalt nor murder." Basically, you are assuming that there is no argument within Christianity compelling the conclusion that apostates should live on. That's just not true. Christian texts are open to range of interpretations. One can reach a peaceful conclusion on the apostasy question without leaving the 4 corners."

Murder only refers to wrongful killing, and therein lies the rub. Let us suppose you live in an authentically christian community, and you yourself honestly believe that we all possess immortal souls whose fate is determined by there actions in this world--some varient of "there is no salvation except through the church." An imam rolls up and starts converting christians. If you *truly* believe in christianity, you should put a bullet in his head--he is dooming hundreds of people to eternal damnation.

Tolerence makes no sense in the context of true belief. The reason we don't kill heretics in America is that we lack true belief(at least in religion). Our real religion is an enlightenment humanism, it just happens to have a mostly judeochristian flavoring.
3.27.2006 5:47pm
BU2L (mail):
Bobbie:

Well, at least you're an honest hypocrite. I hope your conscience pains you -- even if only a bit -- next time you attack "results based" jurisprudence

I apologize. I should have stated the implicit message of my post outright. I do not believe that the two views I stated are actually irreconcilable. The key distinction is that our constitutional jurisprudence, prior to its molestation by FDR, served the country well, for over 150 years. The system more or less worked. Shari'a on the other hand, to put no fine point on it, is medieval bull$*it.

To say that one is a hypocrite for accepting one legal system, but not another, is ridiculous. I accept the US legal system, but reject the one that existed under Stalin, or certain vestiges of English common law, e.g., "defending with the body." The rule of law is only meaningful under certain circumstances, which exist in the US, but do not exist in much (if not all) of the Muslim world.
3.27.2006 5:50pm
BU2L (mail):

If you *truly* believe in christianity, you should put a bullet in his head--he is dooming hundreds of people to eternal damnation.

Negative. Find some support in the Bible for the proposition that killing someone for proselytizing for other faiths is not murder, or is otherwise excusable. You might. Then I'll find some support for the contrary position. It's there. My point is not that Christianity is unequivocally tolerant. It's that the texts can be reasonably interpreted to allow tolerance.

I concede that more tolerant interpretations of Christianity came about because the religion was nudged, so to speak, by external forces. It remains true that justification for the tolerance so allowed is found within Christianity itself.
3.27.2006 5:55pm
Houston Lawyer:
Luther, On Translating

Luther had a habit of going after his opponents pretty hard. His references to the Pope and his followers were of a similar vein of his references to the Jews.

In his day, those who broke their vows (often taken in childhood) were often put to death for breaking those vows.
3.27.2006 6:04pm
Bobbie:
BU2L wrote:

The rule of law is only meaningful under certain circumstances, which exist in the US, but do not exist in much (if not all) of the Muslim world.

I think we're talking past each other at this point. I agree that the rule of law is meaningful only under "certain circumstances." It is not per se a good thing. I do not think most conservative commentators --or, for that matter, our President -- have been willing to concede the same thing.
3.27.2006 6:06pm
David Timothy Beito (mail) (www):
If Rahman is forced to leave in fear of his life, rather than practice freely, this is not a "good result" or a "small step" or "progress" in the right direction. The opposite is the case, especially given the hype and flowerly promises of warbloggers over the past few fears about "liberated Afghanistan." Instead, his defacto deportation would reveal that the warblogger claims that Afghanistan is a "free country" which is worth American blood and treasure is just empty rhetoric.
3.27.2006 7:01pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I know this sentiment sounds insane, but if you logically pursue the dictates of most religions, that's where you end up. So it isn't that islam is any worse than, say, christianity, but rather that christianity had its back broken by the enlightenment: "God is dead".

Actually, Christianity starts off as far more than moderate. Do not judge, love your neighbor, etc. Pretty hard to find anything in the new testament that even mildly encourages homicide, or even punishment. If anything, rules are repudiated.

Over the next 3-4 centuries it gets pretty rough, as it becomes an institution. Many of the early church fathers wouldn't be folks you'd like to sit down to dinner with.

If we're comparing church figures, the historian Oswald Spengler made a useful comparison between Mohammed and Cromwell (and also Augustine of Hippo)... puritanism, a very pure monotheism, rules, submission to divine will, and also a streak of ruthlessness.
3.27.2006 7:27pm
Justin (mail):
Well, I'm Jewish, and under the bible we're technically supposed to kill you from everything from wearing cotton-linen pants to worshipping "False Idols" (other Gods, I presume).
3.27.2006 7:44pm
AK (mail):
Glenn Bridgman:

If you *truly* believe in christianity, you should put a bullet in his head--he is dooming hundreds of people to eternal damnation.

Setting aside the problems with discussing "Christianity" as if it were a monolith or a religion of the book the way that Islam and Mormonism are, you're still wrong. Christianity completely rejects consequentialism. Evil means cannot be justified by good ends, under any condition. The eighth verse of the third chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans: "Let us do evil, that good may come? Those who say so are justly condemned."

That's why Christians can't kill imams, can't kill abortionists, can't kill Jews, can't kill atheists, can't kill anyone else. And just to anticipate your first objection, Christian scripture is clear that the state is entitled to respect, and that the state can do things that individuals may not.
3.27.2006 7:45pm
SenatorX (mail):
Afghanistan is free. Free to grow poppies and Islam again. Hurrah!

Hey about the burning of indian wives...I thought I read somewhere the custom started because of all the Muslim raids. That if their husbands lost in battle they would throw themselves into the fire rather than be taken. I wonder if that is true...
3.27.2006 7:57pm
SenatorX (mail):
Afghanistan is free. Free to grow poppies and Islam again. Hurrah!

Hey about the burning of indian wives...I thought I read somewhere the custom started because of all the Muslim raids. That if their husbands lost in battle they would throw themselves into the fire rather than be taken. I wonder if that is true...
3.27.2006 7:57pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Afghanistan is free to grow poppies and Islam... and to not kill rape victims in the public square, and to listen to popular music, and to debate much more openly than in the past... and to trade with non-UAE entities...
3.27.2006 8:05pm
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
AK, your point about consequentialism is a fair one, but I don't think it gets you where you want to go. The quick, and somewhat unfair, response is simply that everyone's a consequentialist if you amp the stakes enough.(c.f. ticking time bomb scenerios)

The longer response is that just because Christianity enjoins individuals from executing the imam doesn't get you away from the more central point that: if you are a true believer, the imam is profoundly evil. He deserves to die, even if it's not by your hand. Alternatively, to get away from death, he at least deserves to be severed in every possible moral way from the rest of society. In a liberal society, presumably the kind of society we want to see in Afghanistan, it isn't just that we restrain from massacaring infidels, but rather that we have a basic respect for them as persons, even if they practice a different religion than us. Christians interact with Jews and athiests in a (mostly ) normal fashion, not as if they were treating with terrible evils.

Incidentally, isn't it the state acting here?
3.27.2006 9:31pm
Luke R. (mail) (www):

Afghanistan is free to grow poppies and Islam... and to not kill rape victims in the public square, and to listen to popular music, and to debate much more openly than in the past... and to trade with non-UAE entities...


And it's still free to execute rape victims, and people who listen to popular music, and those who take the wrong side of a debate, if those people violate Sharia law. That's the point - just because there is now a semblance of democratic procedure involved does not change the main problem, which is that the basis of Afghani law is a barbaric medieval religious doctrine.
3.27.2006 9:34pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Glenn, you mistakenly equate the term "true believer" with "extremist." You seem to have a preconception of what it means to be a "true believer," that does not correspond to either the religious experience of most Christians, or indeed, most interpretations of Christian texts.

Christianity, as understood by the vast majority of its adherents, or to use your words, "true believers," just doesn't compel you to kill imams, or sever them from society.

For the record, I'm a Jew.
3.27.2006 9:37pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Luke, your point is well taken. There is a lot to be desired, and a lot that we can realistically expect in the near future. I was merely voicing disagreement with Senator over what I understood to be his implication that the liberation of Afghanistan is an unqualified failure. (I happen to think that it's a qualified success).
3.27.2006 9:40pm
MarkM:
As far as sati is concerned, as this wikipedia article makes clear, sati was unevenly practiced among Hindus in India and it was practiced long before the Muslims invaded (1192, if I remember correctly):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sati_%28practice%29

Incidentally, it was the Muslim rulers of India who made attempts at various time to prohibit sati as they considered it a barbaric practice. Under Hindu tradition more generally, widows are not supposed to remarry and become the responsibility of the husband's family which is why in many sati cases it is the husband's relatives who pressure the woman to immolate herself. Under Islamic law, on the other hand, widows are permitted to remarry.

Slightly off-topic but worth sharing especially for those who believe Islam is inimical to progress of any kind.
3.27.2006 9:41pm
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
"Glenn, you mistakenly equate the term "true believer" with "extremist." "

This is actually exactly the point I am trying to make. If I believe, in a deep way, that christianity is true, then by modern standards I have to be an extremist.

"You seem to have a preconception of what it means to be a "true believer," that does not correspond to either the religious experience of most Christians, or indeed, most interpretations of Christian texts."

I don't deny it. But that's because what we call christianity now isn't christianity as it has existed for the majority of it's history--it isn't a theologically "full" christianity. It's humanism with christian windowdressing. All those midwest megachurches put almost no emphasis on the actual theological content of christianity--it's all ritual and communal bonding. Similarly, note all the Jews who continue to go through the motions without having a deep, heartfelt belief in god. In the west, Christ, Muhammad and Abraham have been conquered by Locke.
3.27.2006 9:49pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):

In the west, Christ, Muhammad and Abraham have been conquered by Locke.

Hey, at least it was Locke, and not Marx.
3.27.2006 9:52pm
Donald Kahn (mail):
Sorry to hurt anyone's feelings, but monotheism is the most destructive idea ever to afflict the planet.
3.28.2006 2:09am
Justin (mail):
"That's why Christians can't kill imams, can't kill abortionists, can't kill Jews, can't kill atheists, can't kill anyone else"

As a positive statement, history has proven the above to be quite false.
3.28.2006 6:27pm
Fub:
Having read through the non-legal comments here, I have a legal question.

Eugene Volokh wrote:


Naturally, a "dropped for lack of evidence" result is far from perfect. But here the perfect may be the enemy of the good.


Certainly in American law, dismissal for insufficient evidence is better than getting stuck in the eye with a sharp stick, but it doesn't prejudice the original case.

Prosecution can reindict for the same incident if sufficient evidence turns up later.

So, my question is about Afghan law. Is the same general rule applicable under Sharia or whatever law the courts there follow? If so, then the dismissal is pretty clearly a message to get out of Dodge, and stay out.

Is there a western country with a sufficiently screwy legal system to extradite on the charge of apostacy if the Afghan courts seek it later?
3.28.2006 8:06pm