Sunday, March 26, 2006

No More Martyrs

"The Quran is very clear, and the words of our prophet are very clear. There can only be one outcome: death,"Khoja Ahmad Sediqi of the Afghan Supreme Court

“We don't care if the West drops its support for us. God will look after Afghanistan.”Mohammed Qasim, a cleric in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan

Americans of all faiths have died in Afghanistan, fighting to take down the Taliban, fight al-Qaeda and bring democracy to the country. And for what? What have we been fighting for there? Only to see the Afghans take a page from the Taliban, with plans to execute a guy simply because he converted from Islam to Christianity (proving once again what we can ultimately expect from Islamic “tolerance” of other faiths) sixteen years ago.

We need to free Abdul Rahman. By force, if necessary. And it appears that such a goal might be best done militarily anyway. His family has already long ago rejected him. Even if he is released, he could be executed by fellow citizens on the streets for apostasy. Don’t believe me? The chief imam at Haji Yacob Mosque said “He is not crazy. He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian. The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed.” Send in Special Forces to wherever Abdul Rahman is being held and bring him to the United States. That's a quick enough settlement, I think.

I don’t give a rat’s ass if they are our “allies” (with friends like these, who needs enemies?). And you know what? I don’t care what effect it will have when we humiliate a few more Muslims on the battlefield. Plenty of people are willing to die in the struggle to kill as many of us non-Muslims as possible anyway. Afghanistan doesn’t deserve our help if they are going to execute a guy because, out of obvious conviction,he converted from Islam to Christianity sixteen years ago while helping out fellow Afghan refugees. Enough of them don't want our help anyway, because our power gets in the way of their extremist ambitions.

Why should such a man have to be a martyr in this day and age? Why should anyone be killed simply by virtue of the fact that they are Christian, Jewish, or Muslim? Haven’t enough people died in the name of religion already? Let us not forget that we did not start the modern “Reverse Crusade” being waged against our societies by extremist Muslims. Let us also not forget the martyrs of many religions over the past few thousand years, who died because of zealotry - from the days when Jewish Zealots through "peaceniks" over the walls of Jerusalem for wanting to talk peace with the Roman legions surrounding the city in the 1st century CE, to the Crusaders slaughtering Jews and Muslims a thousand years later, to today, where in a "free Afghanistan" the right for one to worship as they wish apparently a right good only on paper, not in practice. Enough is enough.

Enough, yes, is enough. Why should more Americans die for and in an Afghanistan that has to debate whether or not a man should be executed for making a personal choice that causes absolutely no harm to others around him?

Think about it: Islam holds Jesus to be a prophet in the same line of prophets that they claim their all-but-deified Prophet Muhammad to be a part of. Because a man who at one time followed the teachings of one of the prophets of Islam chose to follow the teachings of another in that line, he deserves to be executed? I think not. Some constitution they’ve got there – Abdul Rahman is free to vote, to speak what he wants to speak, but not to believe what he wants to believe. The message of the Afghan Constitution, and it seems all of Islam, is “If you leave Islam you die” (it is also, by the way, apparently so that if you don’t believe in the Prophet Muhammad, you die).

In days of yore, the Taliban blew up Buddha statues and imprisoned Christian missionaries in Afghanistan. How, by executing Abdul Rahman, would the “new” Afghanistan be any different from the old one? Is it the democratic forces in Afghanistan that are gaining from the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban, or the clerics? Is Afghanistan to be a sham democracy? Is that what we've spent the past few years fighting for there?

I let out a huge, disbelieving guffaw when President Bush said last week “I look forward to working with the government of that country (Afghanistan) to make sure that people are protected in their capacity to worship”. That’s just stupid. You look forward to it? You look forward to “working with the government” of that country? What nonsense! Haven’t we made it clear since October 2001 that if there is an Afghan government dedicated to stripping people of religious freedom, rather than to upholding it, we’re going to act against it? Did we really “work” with the Taliban?

No! They wouldn’t hand over bin Laden, so we acted. Now, I think that Afghan president Hamid Karzai is a good man who loves his country. But if he cowers before the ultra-conservative clerics who manipulate his nation's politics not-so-behind-the-scenes he’s no better for the Afghan people than Mahmoud Abbas is for the Palestinians. If Karzai gives in, or the West gives in, then one would have to wonder to what lengths we will go to protect freedom – is it only oil that we fight for, or human decency as well? Will we tolerate hundreds or thousands of coalition troops dying not fighting Islamic extremism, but propping it up?

To those that object to using force and suggest diplomacy in this matter, I admit that yes, diplomacy might work to free Abdul Rahman – in two months, in ten years, or on his death bed – but what about the next Christian convert? What if – by God – someone decides to go Jewish in Afghanistan? What can we expect to hear? Infidel! Apostate! Free-thinker! Zionist! KILL HIM! How many “Abdul Rahmans” will there be before we throw up our hands in disgust, give Kabul the finger, and leave them to the warlords they seem so inclined to bow down to? Is it realistic to expect that even a plea of mercy from the Pope himself will do much good? It's nice to dream about, but reality cautions us to prepare for a negative outcome.

This affair should also make us reconsider what sort of government in Iraq we're fighting to set up, too. Will a government in Baghdad with a mindset similar to that in Kabul protect freedom of worship – of any religion – or hinder it? If a finalized Iraqi constitution has as many contradictions as the Afghan one, then I say again we should think long and hard about keeping our troops fighting to create such a situation whereby thousands of American troops are dying to prop up those who would preach our destruction. There would be cause for shame, were we to pull out of Iraq out of some sort of perception that we can’t, or shouldn’t, fight the terrorists there.

However, there would be very little shame at all to pull out the Christians, Jews and Muslims fighting on behalf of the Stars and Stripes – and democratic change – there because we don’t want to aid in the creation of another intolerant government in the Middle East. It’s bad enough, quite embarrassing really, that we have already fought to uphold such governments in the past – namely, in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Why continue to fight to create a regime that we’d just be inclined to “change” in the near future because it seeds and grows jihad-obsessed warriors? What a waste that would be! Is American blood that cheap?

Our president has said on this matter that “We have got influence in Afghanistan, and we are going to use it.” You’re right – we do have influence. Military influence. Use the troops. Show the world that America will not give into the clerical bully followers of a 7th century CE self-proclaimed Arab Messiah, whose adherents preach not peace and love but hate and blood toward their fellow human beings, in a country we've fought to bring freedom of choice to.

Let us show that freedom of choice in religion, the freedom to worship whomever or whatever a person may choose, is an inherent part of democratic societies, and that the U.S. is prepared to take up arms not just to bring democracy to foreign countries when undemocratic leaders might wish to harm us, but also to rescue those whose only crime is believing what they wish, in their hearts, to believe. Get Rahman out of there.

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