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FUMARE

Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Abdul Rahman and the Clash of Civilizations

Richard Cohen in the Washington Post has an interesting editorial about Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert to Christianity from Islam who was charged with apostasy, a crime which carries the death sentence. The charges were dropped on account of "insanity." (Several Western nations, including the Vatican in a letter from the Pope, had made appeals for clemency on Rahman's behalf.) What is noteworthy is Cohen's observation that the Rahman situation demonstrates that we are not simply facing a few insane terrorist individuals, but rather a true difference of cultures.
But you can say that these horrors are usually being inflicted by a minority. You say it is a few crazed terrorists of Iraq who are doing the killing. It is not most Iraqis. You can say the same about suicide bombers and torturers and rogue governments, like the one Saddam Hussein once headed. You can take solace in numbers. Most people are like us.

Then comes the Rahman case and it is not a solitary crazy prosecutor who brings the charge of apostasy but an entire society. It is not a single judge who would condemn the man but a culture.

. . . .

It is also frightening to confront how differently we in the West think about such matters and why the word "culture" is not always a mask for bigotry, but an honest statement of how things are. It is sometimes a bridge too far -- the leap that cannot be made. I can embrace an Afghan for his children, his work, even his piety -- all he shares with much of humanity. But when he insists that a convert must die, I am stunned into disbelief: Is this my fellow man?
The most recent news is that Afghanistan wants to prevent Rahman from leaving the country, even though Italy has offered asylum. With the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Afghan clerics, leaders, and citizens demanding Rahman's death, if Rahman is not allowed to leave the country, he might still be subject to a death sentence.

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