Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who I first wrote about back in July, has reached the appointed hour for his execution at the hands of the Iranian theocracy. His lawyers have been making optimistic statements about the possibility his death sentence will be overturned, and have even made unconfirmed statements that an Iranian judge has already done so… but if not, Nadarkhani could find himself dancing on the end of a rope any minute now. Even if he escapes the hangman, he’ll probably spend the rest of his life in prison.
Fox News says “officials at the U.S. State Department declined to comment when reached on Wednesday,” but perhaps they changed their minds, because the Australian Herald-Sun says they “condemned the Iranian judiciary for demanding that Nadarkhani renounce his faith or face execution.” Or maybe that was an old statement. This is not an hour for muddled responses and refusals to comment.
President Obama hasn’t had much to say about the impending execution, as far as I can tell. He spent an hour at the United Nations telling the world that “peace is hard,” but he didn’t have anything to say about murdering people for being Christian, in this case on the pretext of murdering them for converting away from Islam. Silence from any citizen or agency of the civilized world in the face of this outrage is unacceptable.
The liberal celebrities who usually rush to demonstrate their depth of character by embracing humanitarian causes have been oddly silent, too. Why no splashy Hollywood events to raise awareness about Nadarkhani? Is execution for apostasy less of an issue than, say, apartheid in South Africa was? Will a certain number of intransigent Christians have to be murdered before the beautiful people give a damn?
For the record, Nadarkhani says he has never been Muslim in his adult life, as if that should make a difference to civilized human beings. The theocracy wants him to recant his Christian faith in exchange for his life, but Nadarkhani told them to pound sand:
When asked to repent, Nadarkhani stated: “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”
“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge replied, according to the American Center for Law & Justice.
“I cannot,” Naderkhani said.
It doesn’t sound like the pastor is interested in buttering up the judges. Treating this case as a “legal” issue is a farce anyway. Iranian law does not mandate execution for apostasy – that comes from good old-fashioned shari’a law, which Westerners are always told is harmless and nothing to worry about when it invades their legal systems. There hasn’t been another apostasy trial in Iran since 1990.
The media seems much less interested in this case than it was in the three hikers taken prisoner by the Iranian government, and released last week. Christians dying for a faith they will not recant is old news.
Update: At last, a statement from the White House:
The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people. That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran’s own international obligations.
A decision to impose the death penalty would further demonstrate the Iranian authorities’ utter disregard for religious freedom, and highlight Iran’s continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens.
We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion.