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Allies Troubled by Afghan Threat to Christian Convert From Islam

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<NYT_BYLINE type= version="1.0">By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

</NYT_BYLINE>Published: March 23, 2006

<NYT_TEXT>The case of an Afghan man who could face the death penalty in his country for converting to Christianity from Islam has prompted a swift international outcry. President Bush said yesterday that he was "deeply troubled," and leaders of three other nations with troops in Afghanistan also voiced objections.


The convert, Abdul Rahman, has been accused of apostasy and jailed, but not formally charged. In the United States this week, Christian talk shows and advocacy groups rallied their supporters, who flooded the White House and the Afghanistan Embassy with complaints.

The embassy released a statement yesterday saying that it was "too early" to draw conclusions, and that a judge was now "evaluating questions raised about the mental fitness of Mr. Rahman." The embassy said the results of that evaluation "may end the proceedings."

Mr. Rahman told a preliminary hearing in Afghanistan last week that he converted to Christianity about 15 years ago while working with a Christian aid group helping refugees. When he recently sought custody of his children from his parents, family members reported his conversion.

The prosecutor in the case called Mr. Rahman "a microbe" who "should be killed."

Although an American invasion overthrew the Taliban government four years ago, there are still judges who hold radical interpretations of Shariah, or Islamic law.

The case presents a challenge for President Hamid Karzai's government, which is dependent on foreign troops and foreign aid but insistent on the independence of its courts.

Mr. Bush, in a visit to Wheeling, W.Va., yesterday to rally support for the war in Iraq, said: "I'm troubled when I hear — deeply troubled when I hear that a person who has converted away from Islam may be held to account. That's not the universal application of the values that I talked about."

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan government group that works closely with the State Department, has previously warned that the Afghan Constitution does not adequately protect religious freedoms, said Tad Stahnke, the commission's deputy director for policy.

Officials from Germany, Italy and Canada, which all have troops serving in Afghanistan, have voiced their concerns to Mr. Karzai's government. The Italian foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Gianfranco Fini, said Tuesday that he had received assurance that Mr. Rahman would not be executed, but he did not elaborate.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, called for Mr. Rahman's release, saying that the Koran supported religious freedom and that Islam was never compulsory. CAIR said its position was endorsed by the Fiqh Council of North America, a committee of Islamic legal scholars.

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Pseudo-secular Congress govt. of Hindu dominated India should learn from these SECULAR but Christian dominated countries. These countries never compromise with Christianity and indirectly they are always supporting Christian cause whereas Indian govt. is never interested in supporting Hindus who are suffering in Russia, Pakistan , Bangladesh or elsewhere.. just for vote bank politics.

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<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width=533 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD class=mainnewstitle vAlign=center>Islamic world indifferent to plight of Afghan Christian



</TD></TR><TR><TD vAlign=bottom height=10><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD class=maintime>16:13</TD><TD class=maindatedelim width=1>|</TD><TD class=maindate>27/ 03/ 2006</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></TD><TD align=right>Posted Image



BEIRUT, (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya)

The story of Afghan citizen Abdul Rahman, who was arrested in Kabul after his relatives turned him in for converting from Islam to Christianity, and could be sentenced to death in accordance with Afghan law, should teach the West a lesson. It may be able to help topple an unwanted regime and bring new people to power, and even write a new constitution, but it cannot change the local mentality overnight. Western democracy cannot take root in traditional Eastern society. The West has been outraged by the plight of Rahman, but the Islamic world has hardly paid much attention to the story.

Rahman has become the first Afghan to be imprisoned for converting to another religion since the Taliban regime was forced out. He was arrested in February. On March 1, U.S. President George W. Bush, who did not know about Rahman at the time, visited Kabul, where he said, "it's our country's pleasure and honor to be involved with the future of this country. We're impressed by the progress that your country is making." Three weeks later, after the world media learned about Rahman's plight, Bush had to explain, primarily to his fellow Americans, why he had said the above words. Indeed, how can a country, which is building democracy and has approved a constitution with the direct assistance of the West and the United States, sentence a man to death simply for converting to another religion?

This is also a serious problem for Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai. He has to justify the court's decision in the West, which propelled him into power and is providing military and economic assistance to his country. He also needs to show to his own people that he is their leader and that he respects Afghan laws, however severe they may be.

In fact, his own legitimacy is ensured by the same constitution, which is based on Sharia, or Islamic law, and says that apostates can receive the death penalty. The Afghan constitution also claims to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates the freedom of worship. But the Afghan people respect the Sharia law more, which is logical.

It was not the authorities, but Rahman's relatives who created the problem by reporting the poor man. The West pressured Karzai to promise to free him. But how could he do so without setting the clergy against himself and how could he convince the people that he was doing the right thing? The Associated Press cited Hamidullah, the chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque as saying "The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed."

The Arabic television network Aljazeera's website reported blitz polls in Afghanistan showing that the majority of the respondents were for executing Rahman. According to the TV channel, Afghan judges reject Western calls for freeing the man as interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.

Some people there were troubled by Rahman's arrest and the possibility that he would be killed for his personal religious convictions, but the majority of Afghans live according to ancient traditions, which cannot be changed overnight. What other pillar would support Afghan society then? Even the acquittal of Rahman would not solve the problem and will mean not a step forward, as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, but a case of successful interference by the West.

On the other hand, this is not only Afghanistan's problem. The point at issue is the incompatibility of two attitudes. Those who live by modern rules cannot understand those who live according to their old traditions. Nobody would speak to cannibal tribes about human rights. We can be shocked and repulsed at their customs, and try to save their prisoners, but changing their way of thinking looks impossible. But then, can we remain silent on matters of life and death?

The Western public was outraged by the arrest of Rahman because it sensed that this decision was incompatible with the ideals of democracy in the country and that Western governments were responsible for events in Afghanistan and hence the fate of the Afghan Christian. But Islamic countries remained completely indifferent to his plight.

The only Islamic organization to report the scandal was Aljazeera. There are several reasons for this. To begin with, there are too many other problems, including human rights violations, in the Islamic world. When regarded against the backdrop of Iraqi developments, the trial of Rahman is not news at all. After all, he could save himself, but who will save Iraqis? Then, the issue of apostates in many Islamic, including Arab, countries is too painful to be discussed publicly.

"What could people think about Christian converts when Sunnis say Shiites are apostates?" asked Manal al Nahas, a journalist with the Arabic daily Al Hayat.

However, despite the complicated attitude towards converts, many Muslims, in particular in Lebanon, still think that the death penalty is a much too severe punishment in such cases. Islam and the Islamic world have many faces.

Yousef Subeidi, the Beirut representative of Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, the most influential Shiite cleric, said, "This is Afghanistan. What is there to discuss when they don't know what Islam is? They are distorting the image of Islam. To them, the main thing is violence, which Islam does not accept."

This opinion may be one more reason for the unwillingness of Islamic religious leaders to publicly interfere in the Afghan story: they know that their words will mean nothing to Afghan Muslims. Others prefer never to hold public disputes about Islam, especially disputes provoked by Western interference. The East has a different way of life and different problems and we can do nothing about it.

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This has been a real eye opener for me. It is actually in their constitution that to convert from Islam to another religion is punishable by death. The US should pull out now and leave these 7th century troglodytes to their own madness.


If the Taliban takes over again the US should be prepared to bomb them back to oblivion but no more boots on the ground providing aid for people that think like this.


Democracy without a quaruntee for freedom of thought is just another way of administering tyranny.

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It is not that the person has accepted Lord Jesus Christ. He has become a christian (whatever that is), and has been convinced that he should denounce Islam. What kind of religion has this person accepted?


Lord Chaitanya did not make the Kazi denounce Islam. Srila Prabhupada did not make his disciplkes denounce the religions of where they came from. Denouncing Islam, Lord Jesus, Krsna, all this stuff is a great evil.


I dont like all this killing, its just the fire of kali yuga. I dont like fasle religionists who claim Islam any more than I accept the false religionists who in the name of jesus do these horrible, materialistic crusades. But I do write here to hope that vaisnavas arent fooled by the tactics of anti-christians predicted by Lord Jesus Christ himself who fan the flames of discvord, agents of this kali yuga.


The dude is a fool to denounce Islam in afghanistan, and he is fooled into martyrdom to get the anti-christians all spun up into war consciousness. Those who demand that he denounce Islam in public in afghan do not care one iota about his well being. All fanatics, no value to society at all.




I agree with theist that no more boots should be there. But if we want to send Taliban back to stone age, why not saudis who have same religion as the taliban? UAE, Iran, Uzbekistan, turkey, all of them will kill ya if you denounce Islam. What about denouncing krsna? Is that not punishable by death in some fanatics' minds? Abandon all varities of religion, folks. Dont get suckered into favoring zionist or anti-christ religions that claim to be rabbinical or based on the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ.

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It is not that the person has accepted Lord Jesus Christ. He has become a christian (whatever that is), and has been convinced that he should denounce Islam. What kind of religion has this person accepted?

I never heard of him denouncing anything although the acceptance of one thing implies a preference over another thing.

The point is not what kind of religion he has accepted. THAT'S HIS BUSINESS. That's the point. This also includes rejecting Krsna consciousness and becoming an atheist if one wants. Marginal energy is based on free will. No free will = no jivas period.

Why not Saudia Arabia? Tha's no secret...oil. You knew that so I take it as a rhetorical ?.We are held captive by the demons that run the oil trade.

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Dont get suckered into favoring zionist or anti-christ religions that claim to be rabbinical or based on the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ.

So - of the three - two are misguided - one is lost alltogether...


Well I know that if I had to choose - I'd rather have these two over that 'other one' - wouldn't you?


At least misguided souls are less of an issue to deal with than lost souls...

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Yes but the pace and effort is not strong enough due to the liberal voice in America.


I see little difference in killing a man because he changes religious belief and killing a woman because she exposed a toe nail from under her berqua (sp).


What is this ...Taliban lite or something.

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By Patrick Goodenough






(CNSNews.com) - An Afghan Christian leader in the U.S. has welcomed reports that criminal charges may be dropped against an Afghan convert who was threatened with execution for refusing to return to Islam. The case has prompted strong international condemnation.


Hussain Andaryas said the publicity surrounding the Abdul Rahman case had resulted in a surge of interest in Christianity among Afghans, strong concern for the plight of Afghanistan's underground Christians -- and an antagonistic response from Muslims.


On Sunday, Afghan officials were quoted as saying that Rahman would likely be released soon while the case against him was examined further. Reports said variously that this was due to a lack of evidence, or because of doubts about the convert's sanity.


In a telephone interview early Monday, Andaryas said he understood from well-placed sources inside Afghanistan that Rahman does struggle with depression, but he was not insane.


Of the possibility that Kabul may declare him mentally unfit to stand trial, he said that was simply "a matter of politics" and a convenient way to "get rid of the shame."


Andaryas runs a collection of Christian websites in Afghanistan's Dari-Persian tongue as well as daily radio programs and a weekly television program.


He is in daily contact with individuals in his homeland, and has been reporting for several years about the risks faced by Afghan Christians -- all converts from Islam and thus considered apostates worthy of death, according to Islamic law (shari'a).


He said one of the websites, which carries news on Afghan Christians, typically drew about 300 unique visitors every month, but since the Rahman story emerged it had attracted half a million visitors.


The number of emails received also has risen enormously, and 13 people are now tasked with responding to them.


The majority of emails are negative and many are abusive, coming from Muslims who felt that Rahman and other apostates -- including Andaryas himself -- should be severely punished.


But there also are many messages of support, he said.


And then there are emails coming from Afghans wanting to know more about Christianity, asking where they can get a Bible in the Dari or Pashto language, or sharing the news that they had become believers in Jesus Christ.


Among the most stirring messages are those from Afghan Muslims marveling about a faith for which a man was willing to die and wanting to study the Bible further.


"I strongly believe God is using this situation for His glory," Andaryas said. "One man's bold step has shaken the world."


Andaryas estimated there are up to 10,000 Christians in Afghanistan. He based that figure on the 6,000 messages sent to his ministry since it began in 1996, all from individuals inside Afghanistan who identified themselves as believing Christians.


Even if some of those messages were not genuine, he said, the number would be more than evened out by Christians living in remote areas without access to computers; and those who are too scared to risk their safety by coming out.




In recent days a number of news reports have quoted Afghan clerics, government officials and some ordinary citizens as saying the convert, Abdul Rahman, should die.


President Hamid Karzai has been described as being caught between Western pressure and hardliners at home demanding that the shari'a-required punishment be meted out.


Andaryas acknowledged that the international uproar over the Rahman case may make life more precarious for other believers in Afghanistan.


But the situation was dangerous already, he stressed, citing cases in recent years where converts had been killed by Islamic zealots -- usually Taliban adherents -- including in Kabul itself.


Christians were aware of the perils, and were careful not to take unnecessary risks.


Andaryas recalled instances like the one in which a father and two sons all became Christians independently of each other, but were so careful about keeping their new faith secret that more than a year passed before each became aware of the others' conversion.


Devout Muslims, he said, take their guidance not only from the Koran but also from the traditional collections of sayings and doings of Mohammed, known as the Hadith.


"In the Hadith, which are the words of Mohammed himself, it has been said multiple times that a man who leaves Islam must be put to death. Muslims take this seriously. The Western media -- there is a big blinder before their eyes, they don't understand that."


Andaryas' own journey took him from Afghanistan to Iran, where he said he was caught communicating with a local Christian and arrested. In detention, he was cut with a knife and beaten with a rod bearing the words "confession or death" in Farsi.


"The three days and nights of torture in Iran brought me to understand that God cannot be like that, that God does not need protection for His religion, His way," he wrote later.


He later managed to leave Iran and eventually found his way to the U.S. by way of Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan and India.

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<HR>Paolo Bassi


The decision to change one's faith is rarely ever done on a whim. Conversion almost always results from some life altering personal experience that leaves the individual changed forever. History's seismic religious movements were triggered by such individuals and groups questioning established beliefs – often placing themselves in great danger. Six hundred years before Christ, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) challenged orthodox Brahmanism in <?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = ST1 /><ST1:COUNTRY-REGION w:st="on"><ST1:PLACE w:st="on">India</ST1:PLACE> </ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>to give the world the serenity of Buddhism. Two thousand years later, in 16<SUP>th</SUP> Century Northern India, the Sikh socio-political movement arose to challenge both the stranglehold of the Brahmanical caste system and the religious apartheid system imposed by India's then Islamic rulers. Considering the immense psychological pressure from Hinduism to-absorb Sikhism and the intimidation and violence inflicted on Sikhs by Muslim rulers in the 1700s, it is a miracle these people survived. Around the same time in Europe, the "heretical" Martin Luther was challenging the <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION w:st="on"><ST1:PLACE w:st="on">Vatican</ST1:PLACE> </ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>'s 1500 year reign. The Reformation Luther started permanently altered the nature of European Christianity and freedom.

While the 1789 French Revolution deprived the established Catholic Church of its traditional power, it simultaneously enshrined into law the individual's religious freedom to enter or leave a faith.

This freedom of conscience, in subsequent centuries, became fully protected by the secular law of pluralistic democracies throughout Europe, <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION w:st="on">America</ST1:COUNTRY-REGION> and elsewhere, such as modern <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION w:st="on"><ST1:PLACE w:st="on">India</ST1:PLACE> </ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>. However, there has never been any such an affirmation of human rights in the Islamic world, and so the right to choose one's religion – a fundamental human right according to the United Nations – is unknown in the Muslim world. The reason is simple. The Koran and Islamic law expressly reject the idea that other faiths are worthy of equal respect. According to the Koran, non-Muslims are to be converted, slain or reduced to second class status or "dhimmitude". Such totalitarian ideas cannot be conveniently ascribed to Islamic radicalism – they come from Islam's basic texts and historic practices. The religious duty to crush other faiths is at the heart of Islam.

For those who doubt this, one need only study the history of how today's Islamic countries, such as <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION w:st="on"><ST1:PLACE w:st="on">Iran</ST1:PLACE> </ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>, became Islamic in the first place.

In the early 1990s, while working with refugees in <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION w:st="on"><ST1:PLACE w:st="on">Pakistan</ST1:PLACE> </ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>, Abdul Rahman, an Afghani Muslim, secretly converted to Christianity. In converting, Rahman did nothing different from Mohammad himself 1,400 years earlier, who in starting Islam, had also broken with his own Meccan pagan cult. Yet while Mohammad is revered, Islamic law regards Rahman as a traitor and an apostate, who must be killed for leaving Islam. Since the only way for a Muslim to leave Islam is by death, Islam, in this regard at least, shares the same fundamentalist belief of Brahmanical Hinduism, in which the only escape from one's birth caste is at death.

Although <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION w:st="on"><ST1:PLACE w:st="on">Afghanistan</ST1:PLACE> </ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>has adopted a new post-Taleban constitution, that sounds secular, it remains subservient to and based upon Islamic (Sharia) law. This arrangement is disturbingly contradictory, since Islamic law by its very nature seeks power and thus is diametrically opposed to secularism and religious equality. Bolstered by this confusing duality, an Afghani Islamic court took jurisdiction over Rahman's case and threatened to execute him for apostasy unless he returned to Islam. Sharia law – regarded as divine since it is based on the Koran and Mohammad's words and deeds – demands death for any Muslim who leaves Islam. Rahman knew this when he converted to Christianity. Since the issues and law are clear for once, the case raises critical human rights issues for Muslims and the West which need honest examination, unhindered by political correctness or expediency.

The Islamic demand that Muslim apostates be killed raises a glaring contradiction between the rights that Islam reserves for itself and those it denies to other faiths. From its beginnings, Islam established itself as a world force by converting others, whether by force or persuasion. The right to convert others is taken directly from the Koran, which exhorts Muslims to fight non-Muslims until Islam is supreme (Surah 2:193 and 9:33). Those who did not convert could stay alive provided they agreed to live as "dhimmi" or second class citizens, with severe restrictions and upon payment of special taxes. Those who could no longer take the humiliation or pay the taxes, often accepted Islam – proof enough for Islam of its power. Islam also made it quite clear that any non-Muslim daring to try to convert Muslims was to be killed. In <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION w:st="on"><ST1:PLACE w:st="on">Saudi Arabia</ST1:PLACE> </ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>, to this day, new converts are publicly feted and financially rewarded to show the power of Islam. In the west, especially <ST1:PLACE w:st="on">Europe</ST1:PLACE> , Islam actively seeks converts among non-Muslims – this is part of the reason for Islam's claim of being the fastest growing faith in the West. Two of its more infamous converts being Richard Reid, of shoe-bomber fame (recruited while in prison) and John Walker Lindh who was converted through a local mosque in <ST1:STATE w:st="on"><ST1:PLACE w:st="on">California</ST1:PLACE> </ST1:STATE>.

Since Islam demands that a Muslim who leaves Islam be killed, it should, for example, willingly accept the British Government punishing, even murdering, its Christian citizens who embrace Islam. Since nothing as fascistic as this is likely, Islam will continue to use the religious freedom of the West to expand while silencing its own dissenters. However, if Islam is to be morally consistent and in compliance with international norms, it must respect the rights of those Muslims, who choose to leave it and also allow other faiths to actively reach out to Muslims. If Islam cannot do this, it must stop, or be stopped from, converting others. There is no moral legitimacy in Islam's position in demanding rights for itself that it denies to other religions.

The Rahman case also raises a theological problem for Islam. If Sharia law (which demands the death of apostates) is Allah's divine will and if Allah is all powerful, without whose will nothing occurs, then the very existence of an infidel, or an ex-Muslim, is also Allah's will. Therefore, logically, it seems that either Islam is against Allah himself, or Allah is setting up apostates and non-Muslims for slaughter. In either case, an explanation is needed.

When a Danish paper published cartoons of Mohammad in 2005, Muslims worldwide exploded in violent rage, claiming that Islam had been insulted. However, the idea that a man should be killed for choosing Christianity over Islam has triggered no protests in Islamic countries. No Islamic leader has dared to publicly defended Rahman's right to leave Islam and still live. Where then is Muslim moral outrage, if any? Where is the voice of Islamic moral consistency and its much-vaunted tolerance?

The same question can be asked of Western liberals and the left in general, whose usual timidity and fear of questioning Islamic practices is evident. The left seems simply unable and/or unwilling to raise its voice against Islamic excess, regardless of the human rights at stake. If Western liberals can defend such minority interests rights as same-sex marriage, is the right of people such as Rahman to leave Islam less worthy of support? Rahman's case is far more important because it goes to the essence of what it means to be human – the right to free thought and individual responsibility. The death penalty facing Rahman is an attack on all humanity since it seeks to crush freedom of conscience. It is an attack on human freedom by a totalitarian ideology using terror, pure and simple.

To show that Islam is tolerant, Muslim scholars often quote from a particular part of the Koran which states "there is no compulsion in religion". This is part of a larger chapter or Surah and is in direct contradiction to other parts of the Koran which explicitly demand death for apostates. According to the Afghani trial judge in Rahman's case, Ansarullah Mawlazezadah, Islam is a religion of tolerance because Rahman would be invited to return to Islam and only be killed if he refused. In a further absurdly Kafkaesque comment, Ahmad Fahim Hakim, deputy chairman of the state-sponsored Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission stated that any Muslim who rejects Islam should be sentenced to death. The irony is too deadly to be amusing.

<ST1:COUNTRY-REGION w:st="on"><ST1:PLACE w:st="on">Afghanistan</ST1:PLACE> </ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>'s constitution recognizes the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in Article 18 demands the freedom to worship and to "change" religion or belief. The Rahman case clearly reveals that the UN declaration is inconsistent with Islamic Sharia law, yet <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION w:st="on"><ST1:PLACE w:st="on">Afghanistan</ST1:PLACE> </ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>continues to allow Sharia a stranglehold on Afghani life. It is this convenient duality that leaves individuals like Rahman with no legal protection.

Rahman in the end avoided the death penalty. It was not the "secular" Afghani constitution or Islamic clemency that saved him, but rather concerted international pressure from the <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION w:st="on"><ST1:PLACE w:st="on">United States</ST1:PLACE> </ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>and various European governments. The publicity in the end was too much to ignore but a face saving formulae had to be found to appease the Afghani mullahs. These mullahs had threatened to incite the people to tear "Rahman to pieces" should the Afghan Government yield to international pressure and interfere with the death penalty that Islamic law had imposed. Rahman was declared unfit to stand trial, even though he had bravely stated he was ready to die for his Christian faith and rejected accusations he was an infidel. While Rahman's reprieve is welcome, the one-time face-saving, ad-hoc solution is wholly unsatisfactory for a problem that is world wide and will recur. This arbitrary solution may have saved Rahman's life but does nothing for the debate over religious rights under Islam. It merely continues to screen Islamic totalitarianism from attention. In time the world will forget Rahman yet the tragedy is that there are thousands more Rahmans and will be in the future. These silent dissidents are unlikely to receive any attention from the <ST1:STATE w:st="on"><ST1:PLACE w:st="on">Washington</ST1:PLACE> </ST1:STATE>.

The clerics and mullahs too will learn from the Rahman case and ensure that the next Islamic apostate is dealt with quietly. It is now critical that the West and other countries that respect religious equality and freedom put intense diplomatic pressure on Muslim countries to force them to grant equal rights to non-Muslims and Muslim apostates. The Western press also has a duty to ensure that this issue be kept alive until Muslim governments are forced to respond.

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