Afghan Democracy Stumbles With Arrest
of Christian Convert
is no doubt that the only way to effectively defeat religious extremism
in the Muslim world is through the spread of democracy in the region. As
is demonstrated in several existing cases and is imminent in many more,
countries where moderate Islam is the dominant force are very much
capable of sustaining democracy. While at times a move to democracy must
be instigated through diplomatic pressure or, as we have recently seen
in two cases, military force, it is clear that such a colossal change in
the political structure of the Middle East must be achieved in order to
ensure victory against terror in the long run.
sometimes, extremism is a lot more ingrained in a society than one would
expect. Afghanistan, the first Muslim nation that the United States took
upon itself to democratize shortly following the attacks of September 11th,
is one example of how freeing certain societies can be thornier than it
looks. Once the Taliban regime, one of the most despotic regimes of the
modern era, was removed, assumptions had it that moderate Islam would
prevail in Afghanistan. Turns out we were a bit off.
is currently on trial in Afghanistan for committing a crime so serious
that a guilty ruling would warrant putting him to death. Abdul Rahman’s
crime was not murder, nor treason, not even rape. The man simply decided
to convert to Christianity. For doing so, he was accused of violating
Afghanistan’s new constitution, which is based on Shariah law, the
radical interpretation of which necessitates the execution of Muslims
who choose to change religions.
let me get this straight – we went into Afghanistan, lost American lives
on the ground, spent large amounts of money rebuilding the country,
invested our citizens’ morale, and put the reputation of the United
States on the line just so that we can replace a regime that would
immediately kill a Muslim convert to Christianity with one that would
only kill such a convert after due process and a trial? Clearly,
something, somewhere, went terribly wrong.
Bush administration is at fault not for assuming that Islam cannot
coexist with a democratic system, since it can and should in its
moderate form. The United States has instead erred by assuming that the
defeat of the Taliban would lead to a takeover of moderate Muslims of
the society and of the religious culture in the country. Or else, why
would you let go of the administration of a country’s judicial system if
you knew that it would fall in the hands of radical Muslims who would so
strictly interpret Shariah law?
might have been a mistake to have the remnants of Islamic extremism in
the judicial branch of the Afghani government go unchecked so soon after
the invasion of the country, but such move is not completely
irreversible. Our troops are still in Afghanistan, we are still the most
influential military and foreign power there, and we still have a
friendly government in place. In short, there is nothing that should
stop us from preventing such a terrible violation of human and religious
rights from taking place in a country we just freed.
Afghanis are indebted to the United States for giving them their
freedom. Now that does not necessarily mean that they are eternally
obliged to give us thanks or money or services, but we should have the
complete right – if not the duty – to interfere in a situation such as
this one. Not only would we be preventing the illegitimate and inhumane
death of Adbul Rahman, but we would be making sure that such a
horrendous standard is not set within the Afghan judiciary and culture.
Whether or not he is executed, even simply punishing Abdul Rahman for
converting to Christianity would render our invasion and
“democratization” of Afghanistan completely useless. We are teaching the
Afghanis democracy, and our version of democracy is not selective. Our
version of democracy is not limited to elected government and the
education of young girls. True democracy involves the elimination of
extremism from the judicial system, and the promise of freedom to those
who wish to select their own religion. If America wants to maintain
credibility for its campaign to democratize the world, it must
demonstrate that what it is spreading is actual democracy, and not a
© 2006 North Star
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