posted on Mar, 28 2006 @ 10:35 AM
When I heard that the man had been released, I went back and re-read what I wrote on the previous post on this subject and I found that I had written
an essay and it still pertient on this subject. Without compassion we are no better than our prejudices, and some of the worst of the prejudices deal
with religion...on all sides.
For the most of the past 2000 years, to apostate, that is to reject, the religion you were born into or were a part of, was punishable by death. This
is true of Islam, this is true of Judaism and it was most certianly true of Christianity. The last witches were burned at the stake in the 18th
century during the lifetimes of the founding fathers, and many of the colonies were founded by religious groups that were forced out of the
neighboring colonies by the dominate religion there. Religion which can be the fountianhead of some of the most noble and beautiful that mankind has
created, has been, often at the same time been the source of some of the greatest evil tham man has done. This is true of all religions, not just
In fact under Islam if you were one of the people of the book i.e. Christian or Jewish, you had certian well protected rights such as freedom from
molestion because of belief...this is a matter of historical record and part of why for example Islamic civilization thrived and florished while
Europe wallowed in its own filth. Why do you think Moorish Spain was so highly regarded by scholars throughout the middle ages? It waasn't because of
forced conversions. Part of the reason for this is that a tax was levied upon you if you were so the Muslim governments wer not especially keen on
converting Jews and Christians lest this revenue dried up. Also as a matter of record, several times laws were inacted forbidding conversion to save
this said revenue, and also because Islam, like the other two took apostation very seriously. As a matter of record, the only people who were
presented with the convert or die proposition were the pagans.
I am not justifying the Afghan law but I wish to point out a few things.
(1) Unassailable human rights are a fine and noble goal to be sure, it would be nice if we achieved them to the level our reteroic assumes.
(2) Our founding principles are not by necessity the rest of the worlds founding principles and to assume that we have the right or obligation to
impose them on the rest of the world is the height of arrogance and harkens back to the notion of the white man's burden.
(3) If we really want these countries to have democracy...we had damned well be ready for results we don't like, and we'd better be ready to accept
them, to fail to do otherwise would be to give lie to our moral assertions...democracy is not pretty and we do not always get what we want.
(4) Democracy cannot be imposed from outside, it has to be cultivated, the same goes for human rights. The vast majority of the world has a far longer
history than we do, 500 hundred years seperates us from Jamestown, in the case of the mid-east it is measured in thousands of years, and for the vast
majority of it absolute monarchies were the rule...you do not change that long standing cultural bias overnight, or even a handful of years.
(5) Finally for the most part the government of Afghanistan is the government in Kabul and the majority of the country is still in the hands of feudal
overlords, where we have little influnce unless it is bought with money and arms, even then that influence lasts only as long as we are looking. That
part of the world is conservative in ways we will never understand, simply because we do not have the cultural context, or patience to understand it
enough to actually facilate any meaningful change.
What I wonder is where the christian outrage would be if this man converted to Judasim, or Buddhism or Hinduism or Bahai? I would think out of
simple human decency they would be outraged regardless to what he converted to but somehow I tend to feel that the funnymentalists would be slient.
If you listen to the news mongers, it certianly looks like the Islamic community is awash in terror, intolerance and misbenighted...But look at it
wil ya...there are scattered seperatist groups (true thoughout the world Islamic or not) there is Palestine, the Iraq mess (which is our own doing,
and was predictable) There is Iran and there is Afghanistan (which was wounded country after 20 years of invasion and civil war)...the majority of the
people in each of these places want to be left alone to live in peace and get on with their lives...the people protesting in the streets are almost
always government or other politically staged events...if you grouped all the extreme elements together in one place and counted noses, I would
hazzard a guess that they wouldn't amount to 1% of the billion and better Muslims in the world, who as I said want to be left alone, both by the west
and the terrorists as well.
I am not apologizing for the Afghan or Islamic law about apostation...I just want to try and point out the cultural contexts that so many on here
in their jingoism, seem incapable of considering.
Alot of people here in America call themselves conservatives but in many cultural contexts, it wouldn't even begin to apply. According to Karen
Armstrong in her excellent "The Battle for God; a History of Fundamentalism" points out that cultures that are based around either a tribe, clan or
the peasantry are deeply conservative in ways that we cannot even begin to grasp here. Their whole world view is conservative. The ultimate example I
guess would be the dreamtime of the Australian aborigines. It is the same idea anyway. What we have was passed down from our ansestors and it would be
heresy to change. Examples of this abound ranging from the way they plow the ground, to the boats they make, to what is considered a proper education,
which is rarely more than just enough to get by. This is true even of the clergy and the ruling classes...remember, until the counter-reformation many
priests had no idea what they were saying in the latin masses they offered, they had merely learned the sounds. It is no different. These societies
hold long standing grudges (look at some of the things that fueled the Balkan wars to get the idea) and resent change. They are also very fragile
societies, subject to famaine and drought to a degree we have far surpassed. Many of the things that we in the west find so objectionable about (some)
Islamic practices pre-date Muhammad by in some cases thousands of years...that is conservative...that were merely adapted to fit in with the new
religion. And when these societies feel (or are) threatened they react like all societies, by contracting and clinging that much harder to what they
consider waht makes them most distinctivily themselves. And, almost all of the middle-eastern world considers itself threatened and nothing we have
done has changed this opinion, and of course governments have encouraged the idea for their own purposes as well. Thus in such a context, to renounce
ones faith, in a serious matter and not one of merely conversion, but in essence it is to renounce one's culture as well. It may not be the intent
but that is beside the fact that it is how it is viewed, and as such seriously resented, especially if it is a conversion to the precieved enemy.
Does this man have the right to practice his faith? Of course he does, in our context...in the context of his tribal society, he has become a
tratior, and four years of American occupation will not change those deeply seated views and is rather childish on our part to expect it.
Personally I wish the man well but that won't change the fact that I try and understand the context. To fail to do so is to profoundly simplify an
ancient and complex world.