While Afghan prosecutors, amid political pressure, apparently are trying to find a face-saving way to drop their case against a convert from Islam by calling him ‘mad,’ sources close to Abdul Rahman say that despite suffering bouts of depression, he has a strong, genuine faith in Jesus Christ.
An aid worker who knew Rahman “very well” during her time of service in Peshawar, Pakistan, and asked not to be identified, told WorldNetDaily she spoke Tuesday by telephone with the Afghan Christian’s sister-in-law.
The relative, who lives in Germany, told the source Rahman had suffered from time to time from depression after having returned to Afghanistan from Germany in 2002 to recover two teenaged daughters who were living with his parents in Kabul.
Also, sources for the U.S.-based Christian group Voice of the Martyrs confirmed Rahman has experienced depression in the past, which may “give the Afghan legal system a face-saving way out in a case that has drawn international attention and criticism.”
Rahman’s trial on the charge he violated Afghanistan’s Islamic-law code by converting to Christianity started last week, but a state prosecutor said yesterday the 42-year-old might not be fit to stand trial.
An aide to President Hamid Karzai said Rahman would be given a psychological examination and prosecutors will drop the case if he’s determined to be mentally unfit.
When Rahman came back to Afghanistan for his daughters his father resisted, denouncing his son as a convert and reporting him to police. Rahman immediately was arrested and a Bible was found in his possession.
An Afghan Christian in the U.S. who has regular contact with Christians in his home country through his ministry, posted a video clip of Rahman on his website which shows, he believes, that Rahman is in his right mind.
Hussain Andaryas told WND Rahman’s clear declaration of faith in the clip is not the action of a crazy man but a courageous, “joyous” believer in Jesus who is inspiring many Afghan Christians.
Rahman says in the clip, according to Andaryas: “The punishment by hanging? I will accept it gladly, but I am not an infidel. I am not a traitor. I am a follower of Jesus.”
Andaryas asked: “How can a man be mentally unfit when he boldly says, ‘I’m not an infidel and not a traitor,’ that he’s a follower of Jesus not afraid to be put to death?”
Andaryas noted Rahman’s stand for faith has been a great source of inspiration.
“I personally, in my faith, I have been encouraged just to hear this man,” he said.
The former aide worker in Pakistan who knew Rahman affirmed he has been an encouragement to many Afghan Christians.
“We need strong people like him as an example for others,” she said.
Andaryas, who says he has the names of 6,000 Christians in Afghanistan, is receiving e-mails throughout the day from his home country, and most in recent days are about Rahman.
Yesterday, one of his correspondents in the country reported he interviewed Afghans on the street and many, who are Muslims, have sympathy for Rahman, believing he should be allowed to practice his beliefs.
Afghanistan’s new constitution declares “followers of other religions (other than Islam) are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law.”
But it also says “the religion of the state is the sacred religion of Islam” and that Shariah, or Islamic, Law is the controlling legal authority. Under Shariah, in many Muslim countries, anyone who abandons Islam is subject to the death penalty.
Andaryas, pointing out he is grateful to the U.S. for liberating his country from the Taliban, said he has been disappointed at the Bush administration’s response to Rahman’s prosecution, in contrast to the approach taken by Germany, Italy, Australia and Canada.
U.S. State Department spokesmen have said in the past two days they are monitoring the situation and want to see religious freedom upheld, but they have been unwilling to condemn the process outright, saying they trust the Afghan system to come up with the right solution.
Italy, on the other hand, has threatened to withdraw troops and Canada, Andaryas pointed out, said it didn’t lose soldiers in Afghanistan so the new government could hang people.
“I wish our State Department could say it like that,” he said.
President Bush yesterday said in a speech he was “deeply troubled” that Afghanistan’s “young democracy” was trying a person for religious conversion.
“We expect them to honor the universal principle of freedom,” Bush said. “I’m troubled when I hear, deeply troubled when I hear, the fact that a person who converted away from Islam may be held to account. That’s not the universal application of the values that I talked about. I look forward to working with the government of that country to make sure that people are protected in their capacity to worship.”
Earlier yesterday, Afghan prosecutor Sarinwal Zamari said of Rahman, “We think he could be mad. He is not a normal person. He doesn’t talk like a normal person.”
Moayuddin Baluch, a religious adviser to Karzai, said Rahman will have to undergo a psychological examination.
“Doctors must examine him,” he told the Associated Press. “If he is mentally unfit, definitely Islam has no claim to punish him. He must be forgiven. The case must be dropped.”
Western observers in Afghanistan say the government is looking for a face-saving way to drop the case in light of the international firestorm it has caused.
Although some nations have challenged Afghanistan to free Rahman – Italy reportedly has threatened to withdraw its troops if the Christian convert is executed – the U.S. has thus far responded in a cautious manner.
Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus told WorldNetDaily U.S. officials will follow Abdul Rahman’s case closely and raise the issue with Afghan officials.
“We believe it is important that the Afghan authorities handle the case in a transparent manner,” she said. “Freedom of religion is fundamental to the existence of democracy and is protected under the Afghan constitution. It must be protected and practiced as well.”
If sentenced, Rahman apparently would be the first person punished for leaving Islam since the Taliban was ousted by American-led forces in late 2001.
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