Afghanistan: Blasphemy and Human Rights

I’m sorry, there is no kind way to say this.  A country that supports blasphemy as a crime, in particular a crime punishable by death, is ass backwards in the stone age.  I saw this via Ann, but had been following it via slashdot.  A student has been sentenced to be murdered for reading about women’s rights (and sharing what he found):

The fate of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has led to domestic and international protests, and deepening concern about erosion of civil liberties in Afghanistan. He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed.

Mr Kambaksh, 23, distributed the tract to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University with the aim, he said, of provoking a debate on the matter. But a complaint was made against him and he was arrested, tried by religious judges without – say his friends and family – being allowed legal representation and sentenced to death.

In solidarity, I will say this to the violent cowards running Afghanistan:  Your interpretation of Islam is wrong.  You would be committing murder:

The UN, human rights groups, journalists’ organisations and Western diplomats have urged Mr Karzai’s government to intervene and free him. But the Afghan Senate passed a motion yesterday confirming the death sentence.

The world will look down on your country.

The MP who proposed the ruling condemning Mr Kambaksh was Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, a key ally of Mr Karzai. The Senate also attacked the international community for putting pressure on the Afghan government and urged Mr Karzai not to be influenced by outside un-Islamic views.

Those outside views have indeed exerted pressure, not just on Mr Karzai, but on the whole Senate (The Independent):

In a dramatic volte-face, the Afghan Senate has withdrawn its confirmation of a death sentence on Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the student convicted of blasphemy for downloading a report on women’s rights from the internet.

The move follows widespread international protests and appeals to the President, Hamid Karzai, after the case was highlighted by The Independent and more than 38,000 readers signed our petition to secure justice for Mr Kambaksh. In Britain, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and the shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, backed the campaign, and there have been demonstrations in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

This is an encouraging first step, but the ruling remains in place:

Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “This is hugely welcome and I hope it will not be long before this appalling judgment is reversed. The international community must continue to make it clear that Afghanistan cannot cast aside basic principles of justice and human rights.”

HOW YOU CAN SAVE PERVEZ

More than 38,000 readers of The Independent have now joined the campaign to save Sayed Pervez Kambaksh – and yesterday’s breakthrough shows the impact this petition has had. But the student’s fate is by no means decided.

So add your voice to the campaign by urging the Foreign Office to put all possible pressure on the Afghan government to spare his life. Sign our e-petition at www.independent.co.uk/petition

Pervez should not face a single punishment for blasphemy.  It is not a crime, and there is nothing to be gained by pretending it is one.  However there is much to be lost.

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