In what may play out as one of the most important religious stories of the year, if not socially relevant in general, is the story of Abdul Rahman. Rahman, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, was arrested and faced the death penalty for posession of a Bible. Afghanistan, whose laws are tightly wound with those Islamic Law, views conversion away from Islam as an act of apostasy and treason. Ironically, Rahman’s conversion occurred 16 years ago when he was working with a Christian aid organization to help Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
Western response to the arrest and probable punishment was overwhelmingly negative. As we in the United States have spent much of the past four and a half years mending bridges with followers of Islam after the negative backlash from the 9/11 attacks, one of our strongest allies against the Taliban was going to put a man to death for his beliefs.
Now, I say “was” because the Afghan government has been heavily pressured in the past few days to let this man go. However, this would also be a sign of weakness to all Muslims. That has lead them to bring in a doctor to determine if Rahman is “mentally competent to stand trial”. His relatives are claiming that he is mentally unstable, which probably means that they just don’t understand his beliefs. This would save face for the Afghan government if they release him based on his determined competency.
However, this still leaves the problem that Muslim Clerics have threatened to have Rahman killed in accordance to their beliefs in Islamic Law. So that leaves Afghanistan with three choices:
- Follow through with the letter of their law, and put Rahman to death. However, this may incite the wrath of current allies.
- Find Rahman mentally unfit to stand trial and release him into the Afghan public, where there’s a good chance he’ll be killed nonetheless. Even in this case, the Afghan government would likely be blamed for knowingly releasing Rahman to his death.
- Finding Rahman mentally unfit to stand trial and banishing him from the country. This is probably the only way that Rahman has a chance of walking alive, but Muslims may be insulted by the turn of events and he may be hunted down in the end anyway.
It will be very interesting to see how this scenario plays out. If Rahman does die for his faith, he will be recognized as a Christian martyr. Heck, even if he walks away, what he has done already has shown more commitment to his faith than most people could ever claim to have.
It’s so amazing to watch God move and plant a seed in ground so infertile. I know that what He has planned is what will play out, but it is very captivating watching it develop.