The oath of the Shrine A.A.O.N.M.S. (Shriners) concludes as follows: "...in willful violation whereof I may incur the fearful penalty of having my eyeballs pierced to the center with a three-edged blade, my feet flayed and I will be forced to walk the hot sands upon the sterile shores of the Red Sea, until the flaming sun shall strike me with livid plague, and may Allah the God of Arab, Muslim and Mohammedan, the God of our fathers support me to the entire fulfillment of the same, Amen, Amen, Amen."
Globe & Mail - Toronto, Ontario
Afghan man faces death for turning to Christianity
Special to The Globe and Mail, with a report from Associated Press
KABUL -- The judge deciding whether an Afghan man should be executed for converting to Christianity does not understand what all the fuss is about.
"In this country, we have [a] perfect constitution. It is Islamic law and it is illegal to be a Christian and it should be punished," Judge Alhaj Ansarullah Mawawy Zada said in an interview yesterday. "In your country, two women can marry. I think that is very strange."
Judge Zada, head of Kabul's primary court, has already heard initial evidence in the case of Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old who converted to Christianity from Islam more than 14 years ago. The judge is expected to deliver his verdict within two weeks.
Mr. Rahman converted while in Pakistan where he worked for a Christian aid agency. He was arrested after he returned to his birthplace and tried to regain custody of his daughters, who had been living with his parents. His family turned him in, and he was arrested with a Bible in his possession.
"It is a crime to convert to Christianity from Islam. He is teasing and insulting his family by converting," Judge Zada said. "The Attorney-General is emphasizing he should be hung."
If sentenced to death, Mr. Rahman has two avenues of appeal: to the Provincial Court and to the Supreme Court. The death sentence also would need President Hamid Karzai's approval to be carried out.
Prosecutor Abdul Wasi said the charge would be dropped if Mr. Rahman converted back to Islam, which he has so far refused to do.
Prison officials refused requests to interview Mr. Rahman, but one of his cellmates said he was resolute.
"He is standing by his words," said Sayad Miakel, 30. "He will not become a Muslim again."
Another cellmate said Mr. Rahman seemed depressed.
"He keeps looking up to the sky, to God," said Khalylullah Safi, 31.
The trial is believed to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam should take four years after the ouster from Afghanistan of the fundamentalist Taliban regime.
It also reveals the friction between Islamic and statutory law.
Both are affirmed in the country's draft constitution, which says Islam is the religion of Afghanistan but also mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which ensures freedom of religion.
Afghanistan is a conservative Islamic country. About 99 per cent of its 28 million people are Muslim and the rest are mainly Hindu.
A Christian aid worker in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there is no reliable figure for the number of Christians in the country, although it is believed to be only in the dozens or low hundreds.
He said few admit their faith because of fear of retribution and there are no known Afghan churches.
An old house in a war-wrecked suburb of Kabul serves as a Christian place of worship for expatriates. From the muddy street, the building looks like any other. Its guard, Abdul Wahid, said no Afghans go there.
The only other churches are believed to be inside foreign embassies or on bases used by U.S. troops or the NATO-led peacekeeping force.
IndyStar.com - Indianapolis, Indiana
Trial of Christian mocks U.S. sacrifices
March 22, 2006
Our position: Bush administration must take a strong stand against the trial of Afghan man accused of converting to Christianity.
Abdul Rahman is facing the death penalty in Afghanistan. His crime? He became a Christian.
Rahman's trial began last week with the prosecutor in the case arguing that the defendant must die for the crime of renouncing the Islamic faith. An employee at the jail where Rahman is incarcerated told a Chicago Tribune reporter: "We will cut him into little pieces.''
Judge Ansarullah Mawlawizada appears a bit more open-minded. He told ABC News that Rahman will be given a chance to abandon Christianity and convert back to Islam. "If he (does),'' the judge said, "we will forgive him, because Islam is a religion of tolerance.''
The Bush administration has been quietly pressuring the Afghani government to intervene in the case. But both Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice must make it clear to President Hamid Karzai's government that it risks losing substantial aid from the United States if the trial proceeds.
Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, also needs to wield his considerable influence in pushing both the Afghani government and the Bush administration to end this travesty.
Over the past four years, 300 U.S. troops have given their lives to drive the Taliban and al-Qaida from power in Afghanistan. Their goal wasn't only to defeat the terrorists but also to bring freedom and democracy to a land ravaged by war and oppression. The trial of Abdul Rahman is a rank insult to their memories.