Friday, March 24, 2006

Tolerance? Ah... Is that What You Call It?

I've just been reading the BBC News coverage regarding the trial of Abdul Rahman - an Islamic convert to Christianity. This story is probably only in the news because Afghanistan is a country that has had it's politics and power structure uprooted by the West. Sharia Law was in place under the Taliban and it is still the law under the new administration. This would have happened no matter who was in power... our attention has only been drawn to it because of recent political history.

Abdul Rahman is facing the death penalty.

What crime has he committed? How has he transgressed? What unspeakable evil has he unleashed on his community that leads them to demand his life from him.

It's simple. He just chose to follow a different belief. Under Islamic Sharia law, any person who rejects Islam in favour of any other religion and refuses to have second thoughts is punishable by death.

Anyway, from the article I have linked above, I wanted to highlight some comments made by the trial judge - Ansarullah Mawlafizada:

"The Prophet Mohamed has said several times that those who convert from Islam should be killed if they refuse to come back"


"Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, kindness and integrity. That is why we have told him if he regrets what he did, than we will forgive him"

How can any man hope to utter both those sentences in the same statement, and expect to be treated as anything other than an imbecile? Tolerance means respecting the right of every individual to find their own path. It is not conditional as to whether or not you manage to bully them back into your way of thinking. By all means be a sadistic persecutor and butcher people who don't adhere to your belief system, if you must. However, do not presume to take the moral high ground about it and spout false declarations of how tolerant and understanding you are at the same time. There is a word for that - hypocrisy.

Abdul Rahman does not deserve death.

Perhaps Western and Islamic interpretations of the word tolerance, differ somehow. This is how the dictionary defines the word:

  1. The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.
  2. Leeway for variation from a standard.
  3. The permissible deviation from a specified value of a structural dimension, often expressed as a percent.
  4. The capacity to endure hardship or pain.
  5. Medicine: Physiological resistance to a poison.
  6. The capacity to absorb a drug continuously or in large doses without adverse effect; diminution in the response to a drug after prolonged use.
  7. Acceptance of a tissue graft or transplant without immunological rejection.
  8. Unresponsiveness to an antigen that normally produces an immunological reaction.
  9. The ability of an organism to resist or survive infection by a parasitic or pathogenic organism.

In light of that definition, particular the first two meanings that I highlighted... how does the approach of Sharia Law in this instance, even come close to being defined as "tolerant"? Perhaps the followers who support these actions see Christianity as a parasitic or pathogenic organism and tolerance for them means the destruction of that organism when it crosses their borders.


I completely understood the complaints of Muslims over the Mohamed cartoons issue. Although I respected the rights of the media to express themselves through free speech... I completely empathised with the anger of seeing a person you value or revere, being portrayed in a negative manner. The difference is that where Mohamed in spin doctor fashion legislated against it... Jesus Christ was prepared to endure it - even to the point of death.

Just days after the furore of the cartoons we had the incident in London of a young man protesting in a bomb harness. Ironically when his friends defended him against police charges, they did so under the banner of free speech. Hello? Were they missing something there? How can you criticise the offence caused by the use of free speech in one breath and with the very next one attempt to justify your own offence by quoting the same mantra of free speech?

Either you believe in free speech or you don't! Either you believe in tolerance or you don't!

I don't wish evil on those who seek to rob Mr Rahman of his life. I pray that they repent of their unforgiving attitude. I pray that they relent from the course of action they so avidly pursue. Should they fail in this, I pray that God may have mercy on their souls - should they be wise enough to one day seek his forgiveness.

To all Christians reading this, pray for Abdul Rahman. Thank God for his faithful witness. Pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen him for whatever he has to face... even if that sadly means death. Pray that the strength he is displaying through his trials will encourage and inspire other Christians in Afghanistan and around the world to stand firm in their beliefs. We face very little cost in the UK for having our beliefs, it is only right that we stand side by side with those who suffer. Perhaps WE should go to Trafalgar Square and protest to the world's cameras. Finally, may undecided people who see his example ask questions about why a man might consider losing his life for having a belief.

Pray for forgiveness for his persecutors.



Update as of 27th March:

Afghanistan officials appear to be backing down following international pressure. This is wonderful news. News agencies seem to be explaining the reasoning behind this decision as a combination of different factors. Mr Rahman's family believe he suffers from mental illness, and claim that he appears to hear voices (how much of this is true and how much is actually derived from his relationship with God through the Holy Spirit remains to be seen). He is also of disputable nationality and there is a lack of evidence in the case (although when has that stopped people persecuting Christ and his followers. Jesus himself was the subject of a "fit up", after all).

It is now the people of Afghanistan who are enraged. Several hundred hardliners are quite literally baying for this man's blood - men of violence. If the Koran demands the life of a human being simply because they choose to follow another path then it is the basis of a fundamentally flawed belief system. There has to be lee way. One of God's greatest gifts to mankind is free will. Yes... He wants us to follow Him, but no He will never force us against our will. God does not want an army of automatons.

These men, Mohamed, the Koran... none of them have a valid stake in determining whether this man dies or not. The Bible says it is appointed for man to die once and then the judgement. If Islam really has the best interests of this man at heart, then why speed his eternal judgement by slaying him?

FINAL Update (hopefully)

Decency, common sense and righteousness appear to have prevailed. Abdul Rahman is a free man. Some people have callously attacked his request for asylum. However, no one can deny he has a valid case. even though his own Government released him... a significant amount of his own fellow countrymen want him dead.

Thank you to all who prayed.


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