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Afghanistan: Christians Face Escalating Threat

April 7, 2006
Date: Friday 7 April 2006
Subj: Afghanistan: Christians face escalating threat
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

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AFGHANISTAN: CHRISTIANS FACE ESCALATING THREAT
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In light of the apostasy case against Abdul Rahman, German
publication Der Spiegel published an excellent article on
Christianity in Afghanistan. Written by Matthias Gebauer in Kabul,
this article entitled, "A Community of Faith and Fear", dissolves
the fantasy and exposes the reality of life for Christians in
Afghanistan. Gebauer interviews Afghan Christian Hashim Kabar (not
his real name) who says, "We must recognize that freedom of
religion, as promised by the Afghan constitution, does not exist.
But maybe it\'s good that the international community is now aware of
that."

Der Spiegel notes that when the Taliban came to power in the
mid-1990s, its "Supreme Leader Mullah Omar ordered his men to raze
churches to the ground, to lynch Afghan Christians and to kill or
drive out foreigners who followed Jesus Christ". This posting
contends that the recent apostasy debacle and a resurgent Taliban
are about to make the situation for Afghan Christians much worse.

As the Der Spiegel article concludes: "Even though Afghanistan has
dismissed its case against Abdul Rahman, this is a cold comfort for
Kabar. He and his friends fear that anger among Islamists over
Rahman\'s release could spur them to take matters into their hands
and act even more brutally toward converts. \'Abdul Rahman\'s release
is a good thing,\' he says. \'But the international community needs to
keep its eyes open.\'

"According to Kabar, the worst thing would be if the resolution of
the case leaves the impression that everything is now OK for
converts living in Afghanistan. If that happens, he says, the case
would have done more harm than good. \'We are going to stand by our
faith,\' he adds on parting. \'Any kind of support would help us a
lot.\'" (Link 1)

APOSTASY DEBACLE INFLAMES PASSIONS AND DISSENSION

For many Afghanis, the apostasy case against Abdul Rahman became a
debacle. On Wednesday 29 March, Afghanistan\'s Wolesi Jirga (lower
chamber of parliament) had a two-hour debate concerning Abdul
Rahman’s release from Kabul\'s high security Pul-e-Charki prison. The
MPs voted unanimously that the Supreme Court\'s decision to release
Rahman was "contrary to the laws in place in Afghanistan". They not
only demanded that the Court provide an explanation, but they
insisted that Abdul Rahman not be permitted to leave the country.
The MPs sent a letter to Afghanistan\'s Interior Minister to that
effect. However, Abdul Rahman was already on his way to refuge in
Italy. (Link 2)

While President Karzai defended the release of Abdul Rahman, Chief
Justice Fazl Hadi Shinwari complained that Islamic laws were being
ignored in Afghanistan and some government officials were not
upholding Islamic values. The Taliban issued a statement that
claimed the release of Rahman was a conspiracy masterminded by
foreign forces. The statement called on the mullahs and judges to
admit that they have sold themselves as servants of infidels. It
claimed the conspiracy aimed to "assure other recalcitrants that
they are no longer in danger and no one in Islam can punish them.

"The Afghan nation will not be deceived with such schemes and
inshallah (God willing) such plots will be neutralized."

"We condemn this crime of the puppet administration. We ask our
Muslim brothers to take their position against this offence by the
enemies of Islam and to act, based on their responsibility to their
religion and God, and to start jihad against Karzai\'s
administration." (Link 3)

APOSTASY DEBACLE EFFECTS TWO BATTLES

While Abdul Rahman has found refuge in Italy, the apostasy case, or
in particular the way in which the case was resolved (or
circumvented), has lit a fuse in Afghanistan at a time when all the
ingredients are present to fuel a massive explosion.

Most significantly, the Rahman apostasy debacle has inflamed Islamic
passions and anti-West, anti-government anger at the same time as
the Taliban, after several years of training in Iraq, is launching
its Spring offensive against the Allied "enemy invaders" in
Afghanistan and their "puppets": the US-backed administration of
President Karzai and the Afghan police that serve that administration.

Secondly, the Rahman apostasy debacle has inflamed Islamic passions
and anti-West, anti-government anger just ahead of a battle for
control of Afghanistan\'s Supreme Court. This battle between
reformists and Islamic hardliners is being waged in Afghanistan\'s
parliament. The parliamentary debate on President Karzai\'s new
cabinet began on Monday 3 April and will continue for another week
yet before a secret ballot. Significant opposition to President
Karzai\'s nominations would greatly undermine his authority.

After that the parliament will debate President Karzai\'s nine
nominations for the Supreme Court bench. As the Financial Times
reports, "Western governments have pushed Mr Karzai to change the
line-up of the Supreme Court, which functions not only as the court
of final appeal but also interprets the constitution and appoints
all judges." As one Western diplomat noted, "\'...if we don\'t get a
professional and clean court passed by parliament, it will imperil
reform at every level\'. It is unclear when MPs will vote on the
issue, but diplomats say the controversy over Mr Rahman\'s case has
clearly raised the stakes of the debate." (Link 4)

FOR AFGHANIS, THE ISSUE IS SOVEREIGNTY

Most Afghanis do not accept the concept of religious liberty as a
fundamental human right. They feel humiliated and outraged that
Western interference in the Rahman case has, in their eyes, caused
Afghanistan’s sovereignty to be violated. Resentful Afghanis will
doubtless be keen to demonstrate that they do not wish to be
dictated to by the West on any issue, especially issues pertaining
to their religion.

For many Afghanis, Afghanistan\'s sovereignty is now intrinsically
linked to Afghanistan\'s "right" as a sovereign Islamic nation to
implement Sharia and deal with apostates and infidels as Afghanis
see fit: to execute them in accordance with Sharia. For many
Afghanis the apostasy debacle will also confirm the Taliban charge
that President Karzai\'s administration is un-Islamic and a mere
"puppet" of Western "foreign enemy forces". This heightening of
Islamic nationalist zeal will aid both Taliban recruitment and
anti-Karzai Islamist political forces.

A worst-case scenario could see angry Afghanis, provoked by
Islamist, Taliban or al Qaeda forces, zealously acting to purge
Afghanistan of Christians as a defiant exercise of sovereignty.
Afghan Christians could be facing extremely dangerous times ahead.

RESURGENT TALIBAN

Stratfor Intelligence commented on 5 January 2006 that the increase
in suicide bombings in Afghanistan during 2005 (a method not
normally favoured by Pashtuns) and the use of improvised explosive
devices (IEDs: a weapon not previously used in Afghanistan)
indicated that Afghanistan was receiving an influx of foreign,
predominantly Arab, jihadists. According to Stratfor, deputy al
Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had said the jihad in Afghanistan
should not be neglected for the benefit of the jihad in Iraq.
Stratfor reports, "since summer [June/July] 2005, an increasing
number of foreign fighters have been brought into Afghanistan from
safe locations along the Pakistani border."

Not only is al Qaeda facilitating the entry of Arab jihadis into
Afghanistan, but according to a report written by Syed Saleem
Shahzad for Adnkronos International (AKI), the Taliban are sending
Afghan jihadis to Iraq for training with al Qaeda affiliated groups.

According to AKI, at the end of 2003 Taliban leader and founder,
Mullah Muhammed Omar, sent another Taliban leader, Mullah Mehmood
Allah Haq Yar, to Iraq where he spent several months learning the
techniques of urban guerrilla warfare. In 2004 Haq Yar started
training groups within the Taliban to employ the techniques that
have been successful in creating Allied casualties in Iraq. This
resulted in fewer Taliban casualties and more Taliban success. Then
from 2004 through 2005 around 500 Taliban fighters were sent to Iraq
for training with the Islamic Army of Iraq as well as Ansar
al-Sunna. Particular attention has been given to the latest
techniques for use against the US-led forces\' high-tech deterrence
capabilities.

So the Taliban is launching its 2006 Spring offensive with new
strength and confidence. They have been trained in guerrilla
warfare, in strategy, and in how to build IEDs, lay mines, and spy
on targets. According to AKI, "...up to 100 \'death squads\' are ready
to launch targeted attacks in the Taliban\'s spring offence." (Link 5)

According to reports, the past month has seen a profound Taliban
resurgence. During 2005 the Taliban staged 17 suicide attacks. There
have 12 such attacks so far this year.

Following the strategy of terrorists in Iraq, the Taliban are
targeting Afghan police. (Link 6)

Security for Christians in Afghanistan has always been difficult and
tentative. But it is feared that 2006 could see the situation
deteriorate markedly as the humiliating, infuriating apostasy
debacle – coming as it does hot on the heels of the Guantanamo Bay
Qur\'an desecration myth riots of May 2005, and the recent Cartoon
Intifada riots of February 2006 – ignites a passionate and defiant
resurgence of political Islam in the presence of a resurgent Taliban.

Elizabeth Kendal
rl-research@crossnet.org.au

Links

1) A Community of Faith and Fear
By Matthias Gebauer in Kabul 30 March 2006
http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,408781,00.html

2) Convert must not flee country: Wolesi Jirga
KABUL, Mar 29 (Pajhwok Afghan News)
http://www.pajhwok.com/viewstory.asp?lng=eng&id=15737

3) Taliban condemns release of Christian convert, calls for jihad
AFP. Thursday, 30 March 2006
http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1021007
ALSO
Taliban condemn convert\'s release, urge people to strongly react.
30 March 2006, IRNA
http://www.irna.ir/en/news/view/line-16/0603302142194635.htm

4) Convert case threatens Afghan reforms
by Rachel Morarjee in Kabul. 6 April 2006
http://news.ft.com/cms/s/4b2f1296-c4ff-11da-b7c1-0000779e2340.html

5) Taliban trained in Iraq ahead of Spring offensive.
Karachi 13 March 2006 (AKI) - by Syed Saleem Shahzad
http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level_English.php?cat=Security&loid=8.0.275042512&par=0

6) Karzai puppet policemen were killed
Kavkaz Centre (Islamist) 4 April 2006
http://kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2006/04/04/4570.shtml
ALSO
Nine cops killed in Taliban attack. 3 April 2006
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2006%5C04%5C03%5Cstory_3-4-2006_pg7_5

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