I remain very uncomfortable with the mix of religion and politics. An example of what seems to me to be a total mix is that of an Islamic state, where criminal and civil rights and responsibilities are all determined according to interpretations of the Qur’an. My discomfort became more so with a story today, out of Afghanistan:
BBC News Asia
December 2, 2011
Jailed Afghan rape victim freed, but ‘to marry attacker’
Human rights activists says Afghan women are still denied their rights
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pardoned a rape victim who was jailed for adultery, after she apparently agreed to marry her attacker.
A government statement said she agreed to the marriage, although her lawyer said she did not wish to marry him.
The woman, named as Gulnaz, gave birth in prison to a daughter who has been kept in jail with her.
Senior Afghan officials told the BBC the government put no preconditions on her release.
“President Karzai tasked the minister of justice to go and talk to Gulnaz to see what she wants. During her meeting with the minister, she said she will marry the attacker only if her brother marries the attacker’s sister,” Emal Faizay, a spokesman for President Karzai, told the BBC.
“This is a decision by her. I can confirm that there is no precondition set by the Afghan government.”
Gulnaz’s lawyer told the BBC she hoped the government would allow Gulnaz the freedom to choose whom to marry.
“In my conversations with Gulnaz she told me that if she had the free choice she would not marry the man who raped her,” said Kimberley Motley.
The case has drawn international attention to the plight of many Afghan women 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban.
Human rights groups say hundreds of women in Afghan jails are victims of rape or domestic violence.
Earlier this month, Gulnaz said that after she was raped she was charged with adultery.
“At first my sentence was two years,” she said. “When I appealed it became 12 years. I didn’t do anything. Why should I be sentenced for so long?”
The most recent appeal saw her sentence reduced to three years.
‘Marriage with conditions’
Some 5,000 people signed a petition for Gulnaz’s release. News of her pardon came in a statement from the presidential palace.
It said a meeting of the judiciary committee had “discussed the issue of rape… and the issue of her imprisonment”.
“As the both sides [Gulnaz and the rapist] have agreed to get married to each other with conditions, respective authorities were tasked to take action upon it according to Islamic Shariah [law],” it said.
“The president ordered the office of administrative affairs and the secretariat of the council of ministers to make the decree of Gulnaz’s release.”
The attack on Gulnaz was brought to light by her pregnancy. Her attacker – her cousin’s husband – was jailed for 12 years, later reduced on appeal to seven years.
Her story was included in a European Union documentary on Afghan women jailed for so-called “moral crimes” – however, the EU blocked its release.
The EU said it decided to withdraw the film – which it commissioned and paid for – because of “very real concerns for the safety of the women portrayed”.
The EU’s Ambassador and Special Representative to Afghanistan, Vygaudas Usackas, said on Thursday he was “delighted” to hear Gulnaz was to be freed.
“Her case has served to highlight the plight of Afghan women, who 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban regime often continue to suffer in unimaginable conditions, deprived of even the most basic human rights,” he said.
“While we applaud the release of Gulnaz, on the orders of President Karzai, it is the hope of the European Union that the same mercy that has been extended to Gulnaz is applied to all women in similar circumstances.”
Human rights workers criticised the EU for withdrawing the documentary, saying the injustice in the Afghan judicial system should be exposed.
Half of Afghanistan’s women prisoners are inmates for “zina” or moral crimes.
The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary, in Kabul, says recent cases of violence against women are embarrassing for the Afghan government.
Many Afghan women rights activists say there must be an end to the culture of impunity and police must punish all those behind violence against women, he adds.
This is the same country where a person was threatened with execution, for conversion to Christianity:
Afghanistan frees Christian convert
Rahman reportedly released to the UN and awaits asylum
Chicago Tribune, March 28, 2006|By Kim Barker, Tribune foreign correspondent
KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan man who faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity, sparking one of the biggest political crises in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, was released late Monday.
Abdul Rahman, 42, was sent to an undisclosed location after being held in his own cell inside Afghanistan’s most hard-core prison, home to Taliban and Al Qaeda inmates. Mohammed Eshak Aloko, Afghanistan’s deputy attorney general, said the government no longer had any authority to hold Rahman, pending a mental examination.
“He has been released,” Aloko said. “The United Nations has said they will give him proper treatment for his mental problems and intervened with one of their nations to give him asylum.”
A UN spokesman Tuesday morning said he could not yet confirm Rahman’s status. But the justice minister’s secretary confirmed Tuesday that Rahman had been released into the custody of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the UN mission in Afghanistan.
The decision caps a week of mounting international pressure on the Afghan government. Many Western officials have said they felt betrayed by a country dependent on Western aid since the Taliban’s fall. The fact that Rahman could face death for a religious choice struck many as barbaric. World leaders, Christian groups and human-rights agencies called for Rahman’s release.
In Afghanistan, the case caused pressure as well. Its constitution protects freedom of religion and human rights, but it also says that Islam is the law of the land. Many Afghan clerics believe that means any Muslim who converts to another religion should face the death penalty, and many Afghans agree. And the judicial system is run mostly by conservative clerics.
But the more moderate Afghan leadership worked behind the scenes for Rahman’s safe release — under the excuse that Rahman is mentally ill, as his family claims. For a while, at least, this will mean Rahman has to leave Afghanistan, largely for his safety.
It’s still not clear how Afghanistan will react to Rahman’s release. Many clerics have called for his death, as have average Afghans. Many are waiting to see what will happen next — and what happens this week when clerics, incredibly influential here, lead Friday prayers.
“This person should be hanged,” said Humayun Hashimi, 32, a tailor. “He has desecrated Islam. That is what our imam said in our mosque.”
At a small protest Monday in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, hundreds of religious students and several clerics called for Rahman’s death and shouted, “Death to America!” But the protest was peaceful, officials said. Violent protests erupted twice in Afghanistan in the past year over religious issues — over the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and over a Newsweek report, later retracted, that said the Koran had been dunked in a toilet.
If Rahman is treated for his alleged mental problems and returns to Afghanistan, he could again face charges for converting to Christianity, unless he returns to Islam. “We will reopen the case again if he’s fixed,” Aloko said.
Rahman, who reportedly converted to Christianity about 16 years ago while working for a Christian relief group in Pakistan, lived overseas for years before returning to Afghanistan in 2003. Since then, he often had fought with his family, largely because he was unemployed and over the fate of his two daughters.
So, we fought for the freedom of a country where a person who converts to a religion other than Islam faces the death penalty. Where a woman who is raped is jailed for sex outside marriage.
Of interest is the comparative silence of Islamic representatives, condemning these actions outright, as fundamentally offensive against basic human rights. The silence from Muslim representatives who live in and benefit from the freedoms in pluralistic democracies is all the more disturbing. It then becomes up to non-Muslims, it seems, to vehemently oppose Islamic statism, as well as the social outrages of certain elements of Islam. It is one matter to respect religious beliefs that involve basic respect for human freedom and dignity. It is quite another matter to accept, without question, that all tenets of a religion become a social imperative for everyone in a society. That everything is all OK. It is not, in Islam or any other religion.
As a Catholic, I accept that the history of the Catholic Church is not pretty, and that a lot of social harm has been done in the name of Catholicism. Most Christians have some vague idea of the Crusades, though the desecration of Christiantiy, through the actions of the Crusades, remains largely unappreciated. I know about as little as the next person.
What I do know is that I am grateful that, due to the Constitution of Canada, an Islamic state shall never, ever occur here, irrespective of how many Islamic Canadians there might be. Large numbers will never, ever do away with the Charter of Rights. Is there a Charter of Rights in any Islamic state?
What I do fear is that state-sponsored multiculturalism may cause criticisms of certain Islamic social practices or beliefs to be muted, be those practices in Canada or elsewhere, based on some relativistic politeness. There is no relativism about imprisoning a rape victim: it is socially repugnant, barbaric and wrong. There is no relativism about a person facing death for converting to a religion other than Islam: it is socially repugnant, barbaric and wrong.
What I also fear is that the lives lost in Afghanistan may have done little to support the pluralistic freedoms and values which are the hallmark of a contemporary, civilized society. All we may have done is drive out one form of barbarism, to be replaced by another. Such barbarism must be opposed, at every turn, should it manifest itself in any form, in Canada and other pluralistic democracies, or elsewhere in the world.
I am still waiting for broad-based condemnation, by Canadian Muslim organizations, of honour killings. Am beginning to think I may be waiting on their silence, for a long time.
Silence unwelcomed, though its own form of hymn, depending on context:
Postscript, December 6, 2011: The need to speak out against absolute falsehoods or false impressions is illustrated by my comments in relation to honour killings. I implied that such killings were associated with Islam. A Muslim friend points out to me that this is categorically not so. As I should have known; honour killings are found in many cultures; India is a significant example of where honour killings are not rare, in a predominantly non-Muslim country. In addition, honour killings are viewed as being predominantly referenced to culture, not religion, as evidenced from the expert testimony of Dr. Sharzhad Mojab at an honour killing trial in Canada, concerning the deaths of three daughters and a first wife.