The government has been hurt by a Taliban attack from an unexpected corner. As a result of a domestic dispute, an Afghan man is in court, being threatened with the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity. The accused, Abdul Rahman, converted in 1990, while in exile in Pakistan, working for a Christian relief organization. His wife, and his wife's family, disagreed with his religious decision, and his wife eventually divorced him and returned to her family in Afghanistan. Rahman then spent many years trying to get into Europe, but was never able to get legal migrant status, and ended up back in Afghanistan. When he tried to make contact with teenage daughters and ex-wife, his in-laws reported him to the police. According to Afghan law, which respects many Islamic practices, it is illegal to convert from Islam to any other religion, and those disobeying this rule are subject to the death penalty. The Taliban and al Qaeda are particularly found of this rule, and have killed five converts to Christianity over the last few years, without bothering to use the legal system. Naturally, the Western media got hold of the Rahman case and made it into a big story. Clash of cultures and all that. Many, quite possibly a majority, of Afghans agree with the death penalty in this case, and the primacy of Islam in Afghanistan. But much foreign aid from the West is contingent on Afghanistan sharing certain cultural norms with the donors. One of these norms is not killing people just because of their religion. In the last week, as the media attention grew more intense, several other Afghan Christians, who converted, have been attacked. Religious bigotry is an integral part of many faiths, but Islam practices this bias more fervently than any other major religion. Many Moslems take pride in this, particularly the pro-Taliban tribes of southern and eastern Afghanistan. The government cannot afford to let the Islamic conservatives have their way in this case, and the pro-Taliban crowd will come out of this as victors no matter how it turns out.
March 23, 2006: An arms and ammo dump in the north, where confiscated material is stored, caught fire and exploded. Two died and over fifty were wounded.
March 22, 2006: Two Taliban bombs were discovered planted at a Shia shrine near Kabul, ready to go off during a major Shia religious festival. The Taliban, like, al Qaeda, are Sunni Moslem movements that consider Shias to be heretics, and kills them frequently.
March 21, 2006: Police killed 17 suspected Taliban, who were crossing the border near the southern town of Spin Boldack. Later, Pakistanis claimed that the men were Pakistanis on their way to a religious festival in Afghanistan. This is complicated by the fact that there are a lot of people moving along the roads of southern Afghanistan, who are armed, but not Taliban. Some are from Pakistan. The Taliban, many of whom are Pakistani, have claimed before that their dead gunmen were actually innocent civilians. Information war and all that.