Thursday, March 23, 2006

Identity/Difference at the Gallows

I'm not a big proponent of ever constructing difference on a strict "us" vs. "them" logic, but this warrants it.
Afghan prosecutors have requested the death penalty for the 41-year-old convert, Abdul Rahman. Mr. Rahman told a preliminary hearing in Afghanistan last week that he converted to Christianity about 15 years ago while working with a Christian aid group helping refugees. When he recently sought custody of his children from his parents, family members reported his conversion.

Prosecutors have described Mr. Rahman as a "microbe" and said conversion is illegal under Islamic law. Conservative Afghan religious leaders dominate the country's courts and prosecutorial offices, but Afghanistan's American-backed constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
I particularly like their reference to Rahman as a "microbe." Essentially he's a disease that might taint the glorious Islamic purity of Afghanistan. If only we were so lucky.

Humans have a knack for determining who's "one of us" and who's the "Other." There is much danger in dichotomies such as this. But sometimes, just sometimes, it's appropriate. This is why liberal democracy or the "us" is so much better than theocracy, "the them." Americans should look at this with horror (and not just because he's a Christian there Reactionary Right). Freedom of worship is one of the most hallowed principles of a liberal democracy because effectively we say, "We don't care what you belief, as long as you allow others to believe what they want in the process of pursuing each's interest." I like it because, well, if I made Afghanistan my home or found myself unfortunately born in a period before the Enlightenment I'd lose my head or be a bit overcooked.

Also, as Americans, we should remember this type of tyranny intimately because like Rahman, there was a time in our history when neighbors and family ratted on individuals for not holding the "correct" beliefs. Incidents like this should allow us to travel back to our own checkered past, whether that be McCarthyism or the disgraceful foolishness and fear of Salem, Massachusetts.

And from this gut-check should come a harsh rebuke from all Americans of all confessions and beliefs as well as from the international community. Or are we too manically wedded to a perverse sense of multiculturalism for that?