The striking thing about the Abdul Rahman prosecution — in which an Afghanistan court is considering whether to execute Rahman because he converted from Islam to Christianity — is how Establishment the prosecution is. The case is before an official Afghani court. The death sentence is, to my knowlege, authorized by official Afghani law. The New York Times reports that the prosecutor, an Afghan government official, "called Mr. Rahman 'a microbe' who 'should be killed.'" The case is in a country which is close to the West, and is presumably under at least some special influence from Western principles (whether as a matter of conviction or of governmental self-interest).
We're not talking about some rogue terrorist group, or even the government of Iran, which is deliberately and strongly oppositional to the West. We're talking about a country that we're trying to set up as something of a model of democracy and liberty for the Islamic world. And yet the legal system is apparently seriously considering executing someone for nothing more than changing his religion.
This is telling evidence, it seems to me, that there is something very wrong in Islam today, and not just in some lunatic terrorist fringe.
Those of us in the West watching this case are outraged and are hoping for a positive outcome for the sake of Rahman, as well as the future of Afghanistan as a free nation and a member of the modern world.
Presumably, that was one of the objectives when we got rid of the Taliban. The Rahman case represents-- for me anyway-- a kind of "final straw" or tipping point in my thinking about the fundamental strategic question of our day: Is Islam compatible with a free society? Or is it just another thuggish totalitarian system that wishes to impose its will on humanity?
I have never been optimistic about the possibility that Islam is compatible with freedom. As I observe the manner in which it is practiced in most of the world, I often wonder if it is even compatible with human life.
As Rand Simberg notes, it is impossible to make a parody of these kind of statements:
"Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, kindness and integrity. That is why we have told him if he regrets what he did, then we will forgive him..."That was actually said by the trial judge in the case, so you know that we are, in fact, dealing with a medieval and barbaric mindset that has somehow survived into modern times.
That mindset appears to represent the real Islam and not just the fanatical extremists.
OTOH, this editorial suggests that the real enemy is not Islam but shari'a, and that the Rahman case is shining a light on it:
It's a serious argument, and a serious point. But we need to get past it, because, oddly enough, the Rahman case in fact represents progress. It has caused an uproar in the West. It has focused attention on the problem with the radical Islamic law code, shari'a. It has embarrassed moderate Muslims, and widened the gap between them and the radicals in their midst. It makes it more difficult for the moderates to do nothing about the problem.
In the end, Rahman himself will probably get off on some sort of technicality, such as finding him not guilty by reason of insanity. Critics will be outraged at such a verdict, but both their outrage and the verdict itself will be constructive.
What the case allows the West, and the moderates, to do is to give a name to the enemy, and the name is shari'a.
And finally, Mark Steyn asks if we will stick our necks out for Islam?
For what it's worth, I'm with the Afghan Ulama Council in objecting to the insanity defense. It's not enough for Abdul Rahman to get off on a technicality. Afghanistan is supposed to be "the good war," the one even the French supported, albeit notionally and mostly retrospectively. Karzai is kept alive by a bodyguard of foreigners. The fragile Afghan state is protected by American, British, Canadian, Australian, Italian and other troops, hundreds of whom have died. You cannot ask Americans or Britons to expend blood and treasure to build a society in which a man can be executed for his choice of religion. You cannot tell a Canadian soldier serving in Kandahar that he, as a Christian, must sacrifice his life to create a Muslim state in which his faith is a capital offense.
Even more than the Danish cartoons, this case is a tipping point for Americans and people of the West. If Rahman is executed for his Christian faith, then the answer most will give to the strategic question is a resounding, "NO!"
I guess we will see if there is a way to amputate shari'a from Islam; or if drastic measures must be taken to surgically remove Islam from the body of humanity.