How do you spell freedom in Afghanistan?
F R E E D U M B.
On October 21,2008 an Afghan appeal court overturned a death penalty ruling against student journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, sentencing him instead to twenty years imprisonment. His crime? Questioning the tenets of Islam relating to women. The charge? Blasphemy.
One year ago, Mr. Perwiz Kambakhsh was arrested for downloading an article from the internet which discussed and questioned Islam’s treatment of women under sharia law. He proceeded to bring the article in question to journalism class, presumably hoping to debate it’s contents. His professor informed the authorities and he was promptly arrested and charged with insulting Islam.He sits in pul-e-Charki prison. This was not an act committed by the Taliban, but by the Afghan government, which surely must convince even the most stubborn defender of the world’s religion of peace that brutality and ignorance meted out against Afghanis is not specific to Taliban henchmen. The government itself is devoted to the same Islamic idiocy albeit to a somewhat lesser degree. Sharia law is incorporated into the Afghan constitution; insulting Islam is illegal and blasphemy is a crime punishable by death.
The judges presiding over Mr. Perwiz Kambakhsh’s speedy and closed trial, epitomize the seemingly overwhelming low level of average intellect among Afghanistan’s elite policy makers and legal officials. These same judges were left confused, unaware and bewildered that an article could be downloaded and printed from the internet at all, yet believe themselves fully qualified to oversee legal proceedings which impact the lives of Afghanis in the 21st century.
“The judges who are living in the Middle Ages did not understand the case and readily complied” says Kambakhsh”s brother Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, also a journalist. He asserts that Islamists pressured President Hamid Karzai and the appeal court to impose the stiff penalty and asks countries like Canada to intervene on behalf of his brother and condemn the ruling.
In an article from today’s Ottawa Citizen,” Canada must protest sentence of Afghan ‘blasphemer’ brother says” Mr. Ibrahimi notes that his brother has one more chance to appeal the ruling to Afghan’s Supreme Court. It is at this junction he believes Canada could intervene. ” Canada is one of the biggest supporters of Afghanistan. It must ask President Karzai why it is spending millions and millions of dollars for democracy, justice and freedom (when cases like this happen).
Perhaps we should. Or perhaps not.
There can be no doubt by international and rational standards, the penalty brought against Mr. Perwiz Kambakhsh is extreme and unwarranted. If Canada were to consider protesting this sentence and confronting President Karzai on such matters, then perhaps it would also be timely and appropriate to include Canadian Muslim organizations to accompany the Canadian government in issuing a joint statement of condemnation. It would be a breakaway opportunity to end their silence on such matters and contribute in the denouncement of Mr. Kambakhsh’s treatment while simultaneously promoting Western progressive, egalitarian and tolerant ideals they have come to admire and have had the advantage to experience.
Surely, Dr. Muhammed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress would welcome such an opportunity to exercise his groups long established record on insisting the progression of human rights and fairness for all Muslims. By extending it’s zeal to help a fellow brother of faith in a case clearly mismanaged, the CIC could shake it’s obsession with condemning the Canadian media and to stand behind it’s purported mandate of good will, peace, solidarity and aid as national spokesmen of Canada’s Muslim majority.
Additionally, Muslim organizations such as the CIC and Caircan may be briefly catapulted away from their standard insistence and inflated notion that Muslims are victims primarily of Western, bullish, Islamophobic tactics and openly realize the fact that the vast majority of brutality and oppression perpetrated against Muslims globally comes first and foremost from Islam itself in Islamic nations.
If Canada’s much despised presence in Afghanistan and billions of tax payer dollars are to be spent promoting the principles of democracy and individual freedom amongst a populace either unable or unwilling to progress only to have cases such as this come to the fore where stone age mindset is the obvious rule, then perhaps it is time to re-evaluate our commitment and stop enabling such an ignorant and lost cause, that is Afghanistan.
Unlikely as it is, I would like to believe that Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh would receive fair legal treatment in his appeal in this case and hope for his release. As unlikely, would be any denouncement from Canadian Muslim organizations in relation to such harsh religious interpretation and Mr. Kambakhsh’s ordeal. All things considered and seven years later the fact remains, this is Afghan freedumb, Islam style.