The New York Times, among others, is reporting that Afghan Clerics, in Friday Prayers, Call for Convert’s Execution. It is against Afghanistan’s Islamic Sharia law to convert from Islam to another religion, such as Christianity. The punishment for breaking this law is execution. This case, which was brought against the defendant by family members and not the government, has already created an international furor. Of course, when religious leaders call for execution of citizens, there is much to be concerned about.
That’s why we should be worried right here in the U.S. Pat Robertson supports the death penalty. The nation’s Baptists do, as well. Conservative Christians generally support the states’ right to execute those who break the law: “On the whole, Scripture favors the retention of capital punishment for premeditated murder.”
I, too, am disturbed that religious leaders in Afghanistan would call for execution of a man because he rejected Islam. It saddens me that Islamic religious leaders use the Q’uran to justify the killing of an individual, and that they would urge this action in Mosques and in prayers. It doesn’t surprise me, however. The Q’uran sanctions the killing of infidels—that is, anyone who does not believe in Islam. Before the United States and the rest of the West gets holier than thou, however, we shouldn’t forget that Afghanistan’s leaders, if they proceed with execution, are simply following their theocratic law. U.S. leaders support religious-sanctioned executions as well. Take this quote from Justice Scalia:
“Indeed, it seems to me that the more Christian a country is, the less likely it is to regard the death penalty as immoral. Abolition has taken its firmest hold in post-Christian Europe and has least support in the church-going United States. I attribute that to the fact that for the believing Christian, death is no big deal.”
In this case, the Afghani leaders may not be behaving much differently than leaders in the U.S., religious or otherwise. Our founding fathers recognized that trying to govern using the dogma of religion was dangerous to the freedom of all of our citizens. Regardless of your view on capital punishment, using scripture, the Bible, the Q’uran, or otherwise, to defend execution is dangerous. Before we condemn the actions of the religious and political leaders in Afghanistan and elsewhere, let’s be sure we’re not doing the same thing. After all, let the country without sin cast the first stone.