Friday, March 24, 2006

Oxymoron: Modern Afghanistan - Updated

In the American political game winning points is frequently a matter of opportunism. Any story that flashes across the wire is another chance to bash one’s opponent. When "shit happens" it's always the other guy's fault. There’s a bunch of people earning a good living because they can take almost anything that happens, on any given morning, and turn it into a little bomb to throw at the other side of the aisle in time for the afternoon news cycle. Almost.

Every so often a story comes along that must baffle even the most hardened of spin doctors. Don't believe me? Try this one: Where’s the red state/blue state angle on the bubbling brouhaha in Afghanistan over Abdur Rahman’s trial, set to begin next week? Rahman is apparently facing execution for committing the crime of converting from Islam to Christianity. Click here to read the story from Reuters.

“...Virtually everyone interviewed in a small sample of opinion in several parts of the deeply conservative, Muslim country on Friday said Rahman should be punished. Several clerics raised the issue during weekly sermons in Kabul Friday, and there was little sympathy for Rahman.

“‘We respect all religions, but we don't go into the British embassy or the American embassy to see what religion they are following,’ said cleric Enayatullah Baligh at Kabul's main mosque. ‘We won't let anyone interfere with our religion, and he should be punished.’ Analysts say they doubt the man will be executed and his case could hinge on interpretations of the new constitution, which says ‘no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam.’”

While I can’t say Rahman’s problem makes President George Bush’s policy in Afghanistan look bad, neither can I say it makes it look good. All it does is make me shake my head with wonder at how different that part of the world is from what makes sense to me. It seems to me that people from the Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan region of the globe are more different from us in America, culturally, than people from China, or Peru, or Iceland, or you name it.

It reminds me of listening to a woman who had just come home from a Peace Corps tour of a year or so in Afghanistan in the early 1970s. Here’s how it went: She was quite disillusioned, not so sure the mission of the Peace Corps was even workable in some places. Her story was that the people she met, at various levels of society in Afghanistan, would all steal anything of hers she turned her back on.

This woman, who was about 25 and a liberal, said the people there -- even those who needed help from the modern world the most -- generally considered Americans to be fools for coming there to try to change anything. Anything.

That was then, this is...

Update (TUESDAY, Mar., 28): Afghan Convert in Hiding After Release

"...Abdul Rahman, 41, was released from the high-security Policharki prison on the outskirts of the capital late Monday after a court dropped charges of apostasy against him for lack of evidence and suspected mental illness.

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