Monday, March 27, 2006

The Crime of Rejecting Islam

There's a lot of hubbub in the news right now about a man in Afghanistan who rejected Islam in favor of Christianity. The clerics all want him executed, and apparently in that country it is a crime punishable by death.

The first thing that comes to my mind is, what kind of government did we allow to remain there? Sure, the Taliban was bad, but how much better is this?

But although I'm as outraged by the whole thing as everyone else, I can't entirely condemn the people of Afghanistan. They're scared, and understandably so. They had Westerners come into their country five years ago and shake things up, and they want to hold on to their old way of life. Islam is the one thing that unites them and it's the central fact of their lives.

The good thing? At least they don't execute people for never accepting Islam in the first place.

The worst thing? It certainly doesn't show a very strong faith when you have to use duress to keep people in the faith. And it really doesn't encourage people to convert. The only people who apparently want to convert to Islam are boxers and basketball players.

But you know what? They're no worse than a good number of Medieval Christians. They're just a few years behind us in social development, and I don't think it will be too many years before they've caught up. We should be thankful this incident is an excellent example for instruction of these people, so they can really think about the issue if they're able, or at least be forced by international pressure to spare him and let this "rejecting Islam" crime to be an institutionally unenforced law.


  1. The Afghani (is that how you say it? I think it is...) leaders are in somewhat of a tough spot here.

    On one hand, they still, at this point, pretty much still need the support of the western world to keep going.

    On the other hand, they would probably make a lot of fundamentalists in their own country very angry if they simply allow the guy to walk off.

    My guess is, the guy will almost surely not be executed, but he may be released only on some sort of compromise, like he has to leave the country, or convert back.

    Another side note:
    Kelly, if you have time, could you update my link? It's now.

    I made a link image, if you'd like to use it for the link:

  2. Just a few points:

    Apostasy will be punishable by death wherever Shari'a is enforced.

    If you think it's just athletes and wacky stars that are converting, you need to get out a bit more. (Besides, most celebrities seem to opt for $cientology, no?)

    And finally, it's more like a few hundred years behind the West ("us" as in the US being still a good bit behind Europe and therefore prone, in my opinion at least, to similar backward theocratic tendencies; witness Christian Reconstructionism, for example).

  3. Some middle eastern cultures, including rural Afghanistan, are so sheltered and xenophobic, that we cannot begin to understand their seemingly irrational reaction to their new-found freedoms. The rejection of Islam, under their system of beliefs, is as perverse to them as is the suggestion in our culture that men and boys should be allowed to have sex with each other.

    Their immersion from birth in their rigorous system of beliefs, values, and religious culture does not foster many things we take for granted such as critical thinking, tolerance, or relativism, for example. This is not to suggest that they are dumb or lack intelligence, but that the context in which they analyze these kinds of issues is entirely foreign to us. The context in which we analyze things is foreign to them. They literally look at the same set of facts we look at and draw the opposite conclusion that we draw, and then marvel at how obviously wrong we are.

    Though their culture will ultimately develop many of these tools, it will take a great deal of time before their mode of analysis is seen as anything other than irrational by the West.

  4. That's an incredibly insightful way to look at it. I think that's what I was trying to say, but you said it much better than I did.

  5. Interesting choice of analogies, there, TG, but on the mark nonetheless.

    What's really tragic about the Islamic world is that they once had the tools that have insured (ensured, Kelly? :) our freedom and progress but exchanged them for the chains of belief. (I don't buy into the full "Glory That Was Islam" routine, but they did keep the candle burning a little longer while Europe was sweatily flagellating about in the darkness of its own experiment with "belief bondage".)

    There's a cautionary tale in there somewhere....

  6. That would be "ensured," thank you very much. :)