Monday, March 27, 2006

Being Troubled Is Not Enough...

...we must be outraged instead. The recent trial of the Christian Afghani man forces me to think that maybe we're not doing such a good job in truly conveying to our friends in Afghanistan exactly what a free society is all about. Here's my column (from the Picket about the situation:

An Afghani man is reportedly facing the death penalty for rejecting Islam and embracing Christianity over 16 years ago. State department officials have played down the situation as a situation a matter for Afghan authorities, despite a firmer stance from some European nations. Prosecutors say the case could be dropped if the man converts back to Islam. Other Afghan officials seem to be concerned about the fallout from the touchy situation and are now saying that the trial should be dropped because the man may be “mad.”

The Washington Times reports that Bush has taken a somewhat harsher stance. “It is deeply troubling,” Bush said, “that a country we helped liberate would hold a person to account because they chose a particular religion over another.” Mr. Bush is troubled over the case and I am troubled over US response.

The unwillingness of a democracy to accept difference in religious belief is in and of itself antidemocratic. It cannot be written off as needing to be “left to Afghan authorities” or as being part of the “Afghani-style democracy.” Instead it must be promptly, accurately and, if need be, bluntly called what it is: unacceptable.

The idea that the United States, a historically and predominately Christian nation, liberated an entire country only to have that nation turn around and practice persecution of those who do not walk lock-step with what the government dictates can only be described as disheartening. This daunting reality will, without a doubt, call into question the broader success of our mission: though we ousted a terrorist regime in the Taliban, did we assure that a functioning democracy which is tolerant of diverse ideas and beliefs has been successfully installed? Have we won the “war of ideas” or, at the very least, even a single battle?

The free world must speak swiftly and act patiently, and the United States must champion this cause. It is the responsibility of US leaders to call on nations such as Afghanistan and the emerging Iraq to be open for difference in thought and belief. While calling on Afghani leaders to seek justice in this case, it is more critical that it be clearly conveyed that this must be a wide-spread ideology of acceptance. Freeing this man on account of him being mentally unfit is not enough, regardless of his mental capacity. It must be noted that this is not proper behavior for the treatment of anyone with differing thought.

While we must speak swiftly, we must also remain patient. It is of vital importance that our leaders are vocal yet understanding in dealing with this important matter. Sanctions or other actions that may be viewed as too harsh could bring a bitter backlash from the Muslim world and crush the shaky alliances we have built with leaders of nations such as Afghanistan. Any action taken must be done so in a manner that clearly demonstrates a willingness to work with developing democracies while also maintaining our belief that such intolerance must be rejected for acceptance.

It is tempting to condemn Afghanistan and other developing democracies for crushing the freedoms which we often take for granted. Yet in our haste, we must also be patient. It is imperative that we be vocal about pointing out mistakes and that we help to arrive at a conclusion which advances basic freedoms and protects those who are must vulnerable, all the while remembering that new nations are on a learning curve. With patience and resolve, the United States will win the ‘war of ideas’ and guide these nations to become leaders of freedom, democracy and understanding.
This man is amazing. As a Christian, I dont' know how anybody could not be inspired by this man. He challenges me to wonder if I'd be half as strong as he has been. He's also a reminder to the world that all the pre-9/11 troubles in Afghanistan have not been resolved: this is intolerance is exactly what led to the rise of a regime such as the Taliban. And that's simply not acceptable.


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