Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Whatever my doubts about Iraq, I think we did the right thing in removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. But if we were truly successful there, and if we finished our job, and if freedom is on the march, to quote one of our leaders, why does a 41 year-old Afghani man face execution for converting to Christianity 16 years ago?


Tyler Hower said...

1. He isn't jailed under the former Taliban regime. He is jailed currently under the regime that we installed and under a constitution that we oversaw being written.
2. It might not be our responsibility to see that all people have the rights that are RECOGNIZED under our Constitution's Bill of Rights. (They aren't afforded insofar as they were seen to be human rights; i.e., rights that pertain to all people insofar as they are people, not as citizens of the US; this is why it was seen as so important to make sure that Congress did not transgress them.) But, although he earlier disclaimed it, Bush has entered into a campaign of nation-building. He has left Afghanistan with a government that executes converts. This is not consistent with his claimed objectives.
3. He's being tried now for a conversion that took place 16 years ago. His family has denounced him. The issue isn't whether he was tried under the Taliban.
4. Given the history of the long Iran Iraq war which led to the lost of an entire generation of Iranians at the hands of Saddam's forces, Hussein's avowed secularism, his being Arab (unlike Iranians) and Sunni (unlike Iranians), it seems extremely unlikely that he would have joined with Iran in a war against Israel.
5. Since Muhammad expressed respect for the People of the Book, Jews and Christians, there is nothing inconsistent in thinking that a Muslim nation would respect other religions. The problem is a legal tradition that believes that an "insult" to Islam (how is converting an insult?) should be punishable by death. This is the same mindset that caused the Taliban to blow up 3000 year-old mountain carvings of the Buddha. It appears that we have left Afghanistan pretty much as we found it, just with a different leader.

Anonymous said...

ok since somebody mentioned Israel :) I just want to add that whether it be Iraq, Afghanistan or the Gaza Strip, I think it is hubristic (hubristical?) of the West (and Bush)to think that they can swoop in and create insta-democracies that go against centuries of cultural experience in the area.
As Tim Gunn would say: "Make it WORK, people!!!"

Tyler Hower said...

I was thinking more about the issue of contradiction while walking back from my second class today. It seems that the Afghan Constitution is saying something like this: We respect the UN Declaration of Human Rights, but of course we also believe in a higher law, that of God.
The problem, of course is that the clerics (who today were demanding in midday prayer that he be executed) are putting a lot of weight on the higher law. (At the same time, many of them were claiming that Afghanistan had NO international obligations.)
Personally, I find this problematic, because I, for instance, think that sometimes there is a higher law that we ought to answer to. So, for instance, I think Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles is right in saying that Church workers cannot morally report illegal immigrants who come to them for aid, no matter what the House may try to require. I just think that Mahony is right about higher obligations and the Afghan clerics are wrong. It's hard to justify this claim, though, except to say that we should allow claims to higher authorities only when such claims are not more punitive than claims to lower ones.
But now I have to go work out and mull these issues over with the help of my mp3 player and my desire to get huge.

Tyler Hower said...

Presumably, those who believe that there is a Higher Law do believe it is God, or they might just believe that it is the moral law, which precedes notions of civil law.
While it's certainly true that many conceptions of such a higher law have been confused. I'm not sure why they would have to be necessarily inconsistent. Why do you think they would have to be?

Tyler Hower said...

Well, presumably, if there is a higher power, that higher power created us with the natures we have. Thus, the morality we read off of the natural law would be the morality that is designed for us by that higher power. In fact, this is the traditional Catholic position, viz., that we can know the truths of morality through an examination of our natures and that merely looking at the Old and New Testaments is insufficient for moral guidance since not all situations are considered therein and the world in which we live is different than that of either Testament.
However, I talked only of a higher law not of a higher power. You assumed I meant God, but that wasn't what I said. If it is God then it must be a reasonable God who decrees a morality that we can grasp with our reason (i.e., through a consideration of the natural law) or else His morality could not be of any concern to us.