U.S. Must Redouble Efforts for Rahman

The following letter was sent to President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), the respective foreign affairs committee chairmen, urging them to intervene to save Abdul Rahman, who is now on trial for his life in Kabul for converting to Christianity.

On behalf of Family Research Council and the families we represent, thank you for your work in helping Afghanistan establish a genuine democracy. We also want to express our deep concern about reports that an Afghanistan citizen, Abdul Rahman, faces the prospect of the death penalty for converting to Christianity. According to press reports, Abdul became a Christian years ago, and during a custody dispute over his children was charged with converting to Christianity from Islam. Reports claim he is on trial and the prosecutor is seeking a death sentence. This trial belies any idea that Afghanistan, under its constitution, is committed to fundamental human rights. Such a trial is a flagrant violation of Article 18 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights—to which Article 7 of the Afghan Constitution mandates state adherence.

We believe that efforts to guarantee fundamental rights cannot be separated from freedom of religion. The action taken by Judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada has been condemned by numerous groups, and not just by Christian organizations. Prosecuting Adbul for converting to Christianity is wrong per se. In addition, allowing this trial to continue, and potentially to sentence Adbul to death, will confirm in the minds of radicals in that country that religious minorities are not protected by the Afghan Constitution. The potential devastation for religious freedom and other fundamental rights is staggering, not only in Afghanistan but in the broader Middle East as well.

The decision to topple the Taliban from power was just, and American and allied forces have died to achieve that goal. We are fighting now to defeat state-sponsored terrorism and surely that must mean we oppose state-practiced terrorism against its own citizens. The most recent reports that Abdul Rahman may be found unfit for trial due to mental illness do not alleviate our concern. The substitution of Soviet-style psychiatric repression for a more lethal form may be only death by slow-motion.

We ask you to redouble your efforts to ensure that Afghanistan guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms for every one of its citizens. We ask that you do everything in your power to protect the life of Abdul and all who choose to follow their own conscience.