The right-wing blogs are flogging the story of Abdul Rahman for all its worth. This time, they have a point.

Abdul Rahman, 41, has been charged with rejecting Islam, a crime under this country’s Islamic laws. His trial started last week and he confessed to becoming a Christian 16 years ago. If convicted, he could be executed.

…Afghanistan’s constitution is based on Shariah law, which is interpreted by many Muslims to require that any Muslim who rejects Islam be sentenced to death. The state-sponsored Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has called for Rahman to be punished, arguing he clearly violated Islamic law.

The case has received widespread attention in Afghanistan where many people are demanding Rahman be severely punished.

“For 30 years, we have fought religious wars in this country and there is no way we are going to allow an Afghan to insult us by becoming Christian,” said Mohammed Jan, 38, who lives opposite Rahman’s father, Abdul Manan, in Kabul. “This has brought so much shame.”

Rahman is believed to have converted from Islam to Christianity while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

He then moved to Germany for nine years before returning to Kabul in 2002, after the ouster of the hard-line Taliban regime.

Police arrested him last month after discovering him in possession of a Bible during questioning over a dispute for custody of his two daughters. Prosecutors have offered to drop the charges if Rahman converts back to Islam, but he has refused.

At a minimum Rahman should be offered exile and a comfortable life anywhere it is still legal for him to be alive. No government should take away freedom of conscience for its citizens. I don’t care what the Koran says. The Old Testament has a lot of rules and regulations that we consider barbaric today. We do not enforce those laws. Afghanistan should come out of the Dark Ages and stop pretending it is 900 AD.

There can be no justicification for killing (or even punishing) a man because he lost his belief in Islam and gained a belief in another religion. Fortunately, it looks like the Afghan government has taken so much heat over this that it is going to save this man’s life by calling him insane.

Moayuddin Baluch, a religious adviser to President Hamid Karzai, said Rahman would undergo a psychological examination.

“Doctors must examine him,” he said. “If he is mentally unfit, definitely Islam has no claim to punish him. He must be forgiven. The case must be dropped.”

I hope Abdul Rahman’s life is spared and that he is given his freedom. I don’t think he will be getting custody of his daughters, though.

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