Thursday, March 23, 2006
Thank Allah Bush Invaded Afghanistan to Remove Religious Fanatical Taliban Government.
Man on trial for converting from Islam; Bush, Rice weigh in on case
The Associated Press
Updated: 9:05 a.m. ET March 23, 2006
KABUL, Afghanistan - Senior Muslim clerics said Thursday that an Afghan man on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity should be killed regardless of whether a court decides to free him.
Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old former medical aid worker, faces the death penalty for becoming a Christian under Afghanistan's Islamic laws.
His trial, which began last week, has caused an international outcry. U.S. President Bush said Wednesday he was "deeply troubled" by the case and expects the country to "honor the universal principle of freedom."
Diplomats say the Afghan government is searching for a way to drop the case, and on Wednesday authorities said Rahman is suspected of being mentally ill and would undergo psychological examinations to see whether he is fit to stand trial.
But four senior clerics interviewed by The Associated Press in their mosques in Kabul said Rahman deserved to be killed for his conversion.
"He is not crazy. He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian," said Hamidullah, chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque.
"The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed."
"He is not mad. The government are playing games. The people will not be fooled," said Abdul Raoulf, cleric at Herati Mosque. "This is humiliating for Islam. ... Cut off his head."
Raoulf is considered a moderate cleric in Afghanistan. He was jailed three times for criticizing the Taliban's policies before the hardline regime was ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001.
Bush 'deeply troubled'
Bush, in a statement Wednesday, said that “I’m troubled when I hear, deeply troubled when I hear, the fact that a person who converted away from Islam may be held to account.”
While not demanding that the trial be stopped and the defendant released, Bush said he wanted to make sure that “people are protected in their capacity to worship.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice followed up with a meeting with Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, whose government is an ally of the United States in the war on terror.
She told him she was deeply troubled by the case and called the prosecution “contrary to universal democratic values,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
Rice also told Abdullah that those values include freedom of religion, which the United States fought for in Afghanistan and elsewhere, McCormack said.
And she told the foreign minister that the case ran contrary to the Afghan constitution.
Germany, Italy issue statements
The statements by Bush and Rice toughened the U.S. stance in a controversy that has spread beyond South Asia, evoking statements of concern, for instance, in Germany and Italy.
On Tuesday, administration officials expressed respect for Afghanistan’s sovereignty while also registering their concern over the case.
Rahman was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian. The conversion is a crime under Afghanistan’s Islamic laws.
Abdullah made no statement after his meeting with Rice, which was not listed on her public schedule.
Here for strategic talks, Abdullah said Tuesday he hoped “through our constitutional process there will be a satisfactory result.” He did not say whether he thought the defendant would be found innocent.
Afghanistan ‘pursuing’ case
On Wednesday, the Afghan embassy responded to expressions of concern with a statement saying the Kabul government “is fully aware of and pursuing the best way to resolve Mr. Rahman’s case judicially.”
“It’s too early to draw a conclusion about the punishment,” the statement said.
Michael Cromartie, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said in a statement he had written to Bush to express concern about the trial and the threatened execution of Rahman.
Cromartie told the president that the prosecutor had called Rahman “a microbe (who) should be cut off and removed from the rest of Muslim society and should be killed.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement calling for Rahman’s release. “Religious decisions should be matters of personal choice, not a cause for state intervention,” the Muslim civil liberties group said.