Friday, March 24, 2006

Should Afghanistan "give in" to international pressure

and substitute international notions of basic human rights in place of its own constitution and religious mores?

This may sound like a callous question to raise regarding the case of the Afghan Christian convert facing a death penalty under Sharia law in Afghanistan.

But isn't this basically the complaint of far-right conservatives in this country when U.S. Supreme Court justices appear to base their decisions at least in part on international laws and concepts of human rights? Complaints that have, as the link points out, reached the level of death threats?

By all means, yes, let's bring to bear whatever pressure we can to prevent this execution from going forward, and in ensuring that governments in Afghanistan and Iraq understand the need to work towards pluralistic and Democratic societies. In his West Virginia appearance Wednesday, President Bush indicated the U.S. had the ability to apply such pressure and that he would ensure that it did.

But it points to one of the problems the nation faces in reconstructing governments and societies in the Middle East. And our interest in making sure that these budding democracies gain an appreciation for modernist international norms such as the freedom of religion, democracy, and the basic human rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" should serve as a barometer to our more home-grown conservative bretheran and sisterhood that these freedoms and rights apply to our own citizens as well.

And it should go without saying that NO ONE should be killed based on their religious beliefs. But the pre-modernist cultures of the Middle East are not alone in wanting to base their constitutions on centuries-old religious books of poetry and apocalyptic writing, as Christian Reconstructionists want to do today, or in favoring the execution of religious dissenters, as the Christian church did in the Middle Ages.

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