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Does Abdul Rahman Foreshadow a Bigger Problem?

Yesterday Michelle Malkin brought to our attention the plight of Abdul Rahman, the Afghani currently facing execution for converting to Christianity 16 years ago. Both the Washington Times and New York Times have editorials out today decrying this affront to civilized society. The Washington Times asks: "What have American soldiers achieved if they have not eliminated this barbaric medieval legacy?"

Afghanistan looks to be moving towards declaring Rahman "mentally unfit," allowing for a face-saving way to diffuse this diplomatically explosive situation. I don't think it is an overstatement to say that had Rahman been executed, U.S.-Afghanistan relations would have been destroyed. So, while Rahman looks likely to be spared the barbarism of Shari'a law, the case exposes a gaping problem with the President's democracy initiative.

Is democracy compatible with Islamic law?

Administration officials have said over and over that we shouldn't expect democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan to look like democracy in England or the U.S. That's fine - up to a point. But reasonable people have to wonder how the new Afghanistan, with a government we essentially installed, can legally allow executions based solely on one's religion.

Andy McCarthy points out our complicity in the drafting of these laws we are now decrying.

You reap what you sow. What is happening in Afghanistan (and in Iraq) is precisely what we bought on to when we actively participated in the drafting of constitutions which -- in a manner antithetical to the development of true democracy -- ignored the imperative to insulate the civil authority from the religious authority, installed Islam as the state religion, made sharia a dominant force in law, and expressly required that judges be trained in Islamic jurisprudence. To have done all those things makes outrage at today's natural consequences ring hollow.

We can pull our heads up from the sand now and say, "No, no, no! We're nice people. We didn't mean it that way. That's too uncivilized to contemplate." But the inescapable truth is: the United States made a calculated decision that it wasn't worth our while to fight over Islamic law (indeed, we encouraged it as part of the political solution). People who objected (like moi) were told that we just didn't grasp the cultural dynamic at work. I beg to differ -- we understood it only too well.

Islamic law does not consider conviction, imprisonment, or death for apostasy to be an affront to civilization. That's the way it is.

And that is a big problem for President Bush, the United States and the entire free world.

At some point this is an issue that cannot continue to be papered over with diplomatic niceties. There are certain minimum standards of acceptable conduct for nations that expect be allies of the United States in 2006. The sooner we start telling our "friends" that these types of laws are simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated any more than we would tolerate laws that allowed slavery, the better.

MORE: Special Report with Brit Hume - Roundtable Discusses the Rahman Case