Breaking news is that Abdul Rahman, who faced execution in Afghanistan for converting to Christianity, has been released. Under Sharia, Islamic law, anyone who converts to another religion must be executed. The reason why he has been released is not because of any recognition of religious freedom on the part of the government there, but because his family members claimed in court that he was deranged. Thousands have demonstrated on the streets of Kabul and elsewhere in the country demanding that he be beheaded. The Taliban may be gone, but the truth is that this is still a country where people fear to follow anything other than Taliban-like rule. The repression of women in particular has continued, for example women have been murdered for helping other women register to vote, girls schools have been attacked, and a female television show host was murdered for playing pop music on her show. But it has not been limited to women. Barbers have been threatened in Afghanistan and at least one has been murdered for cutting off beards.
Rahman has requested that he be granted asylum in another country, and I hope that he is granted asylum. The United States should be first in line to grant it. This is not a time to timidly try to avoid stepping on toes in the middle east on the issue of religious freedom. The United States, which was settled in many cases by people who wanted the freedom to practice their religion, must take the lead and be the first country to offer asylum to Mr. Rahman. It is absolutely certain that if Abdul Rahman, who has refused to renounce his conversion, remains in Afghanistan then he will be murdered.
I've blogged before about how we must support freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech and the press. These are very important tests of our democratic ideals, but freedom of religion is equally as important.
I've also blogged against the state supporting a religious viewpoint, but it is very clear that the first amendment was written to protect the rights of all to practice their religion as they please, and we should make that clear by supporting Mr. Rahman's right to practice his religion in a place where he won't have to fear an angry mob slicing through his neck with a scimitar.
If we cannot see and act on that, then we are no longer America.