The case of Abdul Rahman is a fascinating one because it exposes the heart of a large segment of Islam. The notion of religious freedom is simply not there for many Muslims, and this is allied, in some of the more backward parts of the world, with a pathological attraction to violence. Here's an AP story that illustrates the chasm:
"Senior Muslim clerics said Thursday that Rahman must be executed and if the government caves into Western pressure and frees him they will incite people to "pull him into pieces." Four senior clerics interviewed by The Associated Press in their mosques in Kabul agreed Rahman deserved to be killed for his conversion. "He is not crazy. He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian," said Hamidullah, chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque.
"The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed."
"He is not mad. The government is playing games. The people will not be fooled," said Abdul Raoulf, cleric at Herati Mosque. "This is humiliating for Islam ... Cut off his head."
I know there are moderate Muslims. I know that in Malaysia, Turkey, Indonesia and India, for example, these kinds of views are not common. I also know that it wasn't that long ago that Christians held similar views about heretics or Jews, and that today's fundamentalist Christianity is often supportive of the death penalty and torture. But that a religious faith contains this kind of fanatical intolerance and violence anywhere is disturbing. It's barbaric. And it is in the Middle East that this kind of theocratic fascism is ascendant.
(Photo: Veronique de Viguerie/WPN.)