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Meditation 481
Apostasy in Afghanistan

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Probably there has not been a newspaper in the western world that has not had several articles in the past week about Abdul Rahman, the unfortunate Afghan on trial for his life because he converted from Islam to Christianity.

And some of these articles detail the efforts of various Western leaders to lobby the President of Afghanistan to intervene and have the charges dropped.

Superficially, at least, most of the articles I have read suggest the man's crime was in becoming a Christian. This is not quite true. His crime is that he renounced Islam, an act of apostasy.

Article 3 of the constitution of Afghanistan states:

"In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provision of the sacred religion of Islam."

That is why Abdul Rahman is on trial for his life.

Apostasy has been a capital crime under Sharia law since the Wars of the Ridda which followed Muhammad's death in 632 CE. While the Qu'ran states that Allah despises apostasy, it does not specifically require the death penalty. That is a subsequent interpretation.

In addition to Afghanistan, apostasy from Islam is a capital crime in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, and Mauritania. In addition it is informally imposed at the local level in other nations with a majority Muslim population.

Back to the case at hand; that of Abdul Rahman:

Would his case have got the same international attention if he had converted from Islam to Hinduism? to Buddhism? to Sikhism? to atheism? to agnosticism?

Would the newspapers have given the same coverage?

Would Western political leaders have been so active in pressing President Hamid Karzai?

I wish it were so, given that there are followers of most of the world's religions and philosophies in the Western nations. However, I suspect if Abdul Rahman had converted to anything but Christianity, his case would have been relegated to a filler, if reported at all, and Western leaders would have done nothing.

In lobbying for Mr. Rahman's release, the specific belief system he converted to should be irrelevant. The real issue here is the obscenity of any government regarding apostasy as a crime, particularly regarding it as a capital crime.