Christian convert faces death penalty in Afghanistan
Shariah law states that any Muslim who rejects Islam should be sentenced to deathDaniel Cooney in Kabul
A man could be sentenced to death after being charged with converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under Afghanistan's shariah laws, a judge said yesterday. The trial is thought to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam will take four years after the fall of the Taliban.
Abdul Rahman, 41, was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada told Associated Press. The accused was charged with rejecting Islam.
The leader of Afghanistan's puritanical Taliban militia has issued an edict imposing the death penalty on any Afghan Muslim who converts to Christianity or Judaism, an official radio report said Monday.
The decree from Taliban Supreme Leader Mulla Mohammad Omar also said anyone caught selling "anti-Islamic literature" would be sentenced to five years jail, according to state-run Radio Shariat.
AFP, Jan.8, 2001
During the one-day hearing on Thursday, the defendant allegedly confessed to converting to Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, Judge Mawlavezada said.
"We are not against any particular religion in the world. But in Afghanistan, this sort of thing is against the law," the judge said. "It is an attack on Islam." He will rule on the case within two months.
Shariah law states that any Muslim who rejects Islam should be sentenced to death, according to Ahmad Fahim Hakim, deputy chairman of the state-sponsored Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. Repeated attempts to impose a jail sentence were barred.
The prosecutor, Abdul Wasi, said he had offered to drop the charges if Mr Rahman converted back to Islam, but he refused. "He would have been forgiven if he changed back. But he said he was a Christian and would always remain one," Mr Wasi said. "We are Muslims and becoming a Christian is against our laws. He must get the death penalty."
A Christian aid worker in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was no reliable figure for the number of Afghan Christians. 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. The only other churches are believed to be inside foreign embassies or on bases belonging to the US-led coalition or a Nato peacekeeping force