Religious Intolerance and Violence in Afghanistan
Editorial Opinion 4-3-2011
Recent violence in Afghanistan has killed many innocent lives as Afghans protest the March 22, 2011 burning of a copy of the Koran by a preacher in Florida who has more in common with shocks jocks Howard Stern and Don Imus than with Jesus.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called on the US Congress to condemn the Koran burning and prevent it from happening again.
Karzai’s call upon the US Congress to “prevent it from happening again” is symptomatic of the root of the problems persisting in Afghanistan. Freedom in Afghanistan from the violence, oppression, and tyranny of the Taliban was earned by the sacrifice of American soldiers. Unlike Afghanistan, freedom in the United States was earned by those who drafted its constitution. In Afghanistan, the essence of freedom has not been grasped. In contempt of the sacrifice of those fighting for Afghans’ freedom, the drafters of the Afghan Constitution stated, “Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary and indivisible state. The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam.” While paying lip service to freedom, stating “Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law” the Afghan Constitution states “In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.”
Freedom Works best where the government works least— particularly in matters of religion.
Due to the firmly established principle of freedom including the most central, religious freedom, in the United States, one Muslim stated “Let me tell you that I would rather live in America under Ashcroft and Bush at their worst, than in any “Islamic state” established by ignorant, intolerant and murderous punks like [Bin Laden] and Mullah Omar at their best.” That statement was by Muqtedar Khan, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware, in an article published in the Washington Post on 2/16/03, entitled “MEMO TO MR. BIN LADEN: GO TO HELL!”
Khan’s gratitude and commitment to America comes from the recognition that the United States “opened its doors to us and promised us equality and dignity even though we have a different faith.” But even professor Khan has more to learn about the foundations of this freedom. He stated following his naturalization as an American Citizen, “America is without doubt one of the greatest countries in the World. Because it assumes we are moral beings and capable of doing good — we are free. And because America assumes we are mature and capable of self governance — we have democracy.” He was closer to understanding freedom in his earlier statement “I would rather live in America under [politicians] at their worst”. The American Constitution is a restraint upon government recognizing the fact that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Freedom Works when government is restrained. The US Constitution is that restraint.
Democracy without an understanding of the basis for freedom is insecure. The lack of understanding of freedom is not limited to traditional third-world countries. The UN’s chief envoy to Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, reflecting that general lack of understanding, suggested religious speech should be repressed. “I don’t think we should be blaming any Afghan,” Mr de Mistura said. “We should be blaming the person who produced the news – the one who burned the Koran. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from offending culture, religion, traditions.” If the world including the UN understood that freedom does include offensive language, than the shock jock preacher would not have been news and the people of Afghanistan would not be protesting.
Khan acknowledges how people around the world recognize the benefits of that freedom even if not understanding its source, stating in his article “Before we rush to condemn America we must remember that even today millions of poor and miserable people all across the world are lining up outside US embassies eager to come to America, not just to live here but to become an American. No Muslim country today, can claim that people of other nations and other faiths see it as a promise of hope, equality, dignity and prosperity.”
Congress should reply to President Hamid Karzai’s request for government intrusion into religious matters by informing him and the people of Afghanistan that no person or group speaking on matters of religion speaks for the government of the United States.
Thomas Jefferson, on June 19, 1792, ended a letter to Thomas Paine with: “Go on then in doing with your pen what in other times was done with the sword: shew that reformation is more practicable by operating on the mind than on the body of man…” This truth that the pen is mightier than the sword, did not escape the Islamic prophet Muhammad who is quoted as saying “The ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr”
One wonders whether those directing US foreign policy have forgotten the principles upon which the liberty they enjoy rests. US foreign policy would be more successful if it spent a fraction of the money now spent on bombs and force to educate those who have been kept behind veils of ignorance on principles of freedom, and at its core, religious freedom.
Thomas H. Roberts, Esq.
Founder of Freedom Works Foundation
Virginia Civil Rights