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A Christian family advocacy group is calling on President Bush to grant asylum to Abdul Rahman, the 41-year-old Afghan who faced the death penalty under Shariah law for converting from Islam to Christianity.
Rahman is now in Italy after the Berlusconi government granted him asylum in the wake of death threats from Muslim clerics.
The American Family Association said it is “calling on President Bush to offer Mr. Rahman asylum in the United States as Italy has already done.”
“This man has done absolutely nothing wrong and his life is in danger simply for being a Christian,” said AFA president Tim Wildmon.
“Offering asylum would send a strong message to the parliament of Afghanistan and to the people of Afghanistan that American men and women did not liberate them from the Taliban so their country could promote the persecution of Christians.”
As WorldNetDaily reported, charges against Rahman were dropped Sunday with the court citing a lack of evidence. Last week, Western nations pressured Afghanistan for threatening to execute him.
Presidential press secretary Scott McClellan Tuesday said President Bush was “pleased” Rahman was released, but did not say what the administration might do specifically to protect other Christians in Afghanistan from the nation’s Shariah law.
“We are pleased that this was resolved in a favorable manner and that he has been released,” McClellan told reporters at the White House.
As WorldNetDaily reported, however, two more Christians in Afghanistan reportedly have been jailed for their faith.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said yesterday Rahman was “under protection.” of Italy’s Interior Ministry, but he would not give more details.
In Afghanistan, the new parliament demanded Rahman be barred from leaving the country but did not take a formal vote.
Muslim leaders gathered with about 500 Afghans at a mosque in the southern town of Qalat to demand Rahman be forced to return to Islam or be killed, the Associated Press reported.
“This is a terrible thing and a major shame for Afghanistan,” said Abdulrahman Jan, top cleric in the local province of Zabul.
Last week, while an outraged Italy threatened troop withdrawal over the situation, the United States government cautiously monitored Afghanistan’s prosecution of Rahman.
State Department spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus told WorldNetDaily U.S. officials would follow Abdul Rahman’s case closely and raise the issue with Afghan officials.
At a State Department briefing March 21, spokesman Sean McCormack responded to a question about Rahman, saying the U.S. brought up the case with Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah and was encouraging the government “to conduct any legal proceedings in a transparent and a fair manner.”
The reporter replied that it sounded as if the U.S. was only requesting fair play, asking, “Why don’t you simply ask that it be canceled? I mean, what possible justification is there for putting someone on trial for changing his religion?”
McCormack responded that “this is a question of the Afghan constitution and its laws.”
“There are differing interpretations of it, and I think that that’s the issue with which they’re trying to grapple with,” the spokesman said.
In Rome last week, meanwhile, the Italian government confronted the Afghan ambassador, indicating Italy would withdraw troops unless Rahman was spared.
Rahman’s 75-year-old father, however, believes his son must be punished.
“We are Muslim, our fathers were Muslim, our grandfathers were Muslim,” said Abdul Manan, according to the Chicago Tribune. “This is an Islamic country. Imagine if your son told a police commander, also a Muslim, that he is a Christian. How would this affect you? It’s very difficult for us.”
The Times said Rahman worked with an international Christian group in Peshawar, Pakistan, just across the Afghan border, for four years then spent the next nine in Germany.
He encountered problems when he returned to Afghanistan in 2002 and tried to recover two teenaged daughters who were living with his parents in Kabul.
Rahman’s 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.