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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Afghanistan: Blasphemer sentence reduced

A student and part-time journalist in Afghanistan was recently sentenced to death but upon appeal the sentence has been reduced to 20 years in prison.

I agree with the many negatives pointed out in the article about the situation but I wanted to highlight one positive that was not really stressed. He won't be killed! Under the Taliban they would not have even given him the charade of a kangaroo court. There were people 'protesting' in support of his death penalty which I'm sure in an unstable place like Afghanistan puts pressure on the judges to go along with public opinion. Thankfully the judges were more tempered than the average Afghan's thirst for Islamic "justice".

The judges may have reduced his sentence as a baby step away from radical Islam. If in five or ten years there is a rule of law in Afghanistan which allows for a more moderate interpretation of Islam there could be a possibility of his release. While it might not be the intention of the judges, by leaving him alive this gives his family, friends and supporters a cause to organize around. Not only can people fight for the struggle of women's rights but their struggle is personified in the attempt to release this young man from prison.

We have seen these struggles between radicals and moderates in Iran and Turkey and the progress that has been made there, especially in Turkey gives us hope that Afghanistan can be reformed.

Like I mentioned in my post on Reforming Islam any changes towards a more Humanist society in these Muslim nations is going to have to start with a reinterpreting of Islam. There have been many recent Islamic scholars who reinterpret the Quran to say that X,Y or Z scientific discovery was first mentioned in the Quran. While this is convenient revisionary history it's an example of reinterpreting the Quran without being blasphemous.

If you put Mohammad and the Quran in context, Mohammad was a champion for women's rights in his time and if God/Allah told Mohammad to improve the rights and condition of women in the 7th century then why would it be blasphemous for God/Allah to be on the side of an interpretation of the Quran that furthers women's rights in this time?

By Peter

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