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Tanveer Jafri: Death Sentence For Change Of Faith

Tanveer Jafri: Death Sentence For Change Of Faith

Death Sentence For Change Of Faith: A Violation Of Human Rights

By Tanveer Jafri

Change of faith by an Afghan citizen, Abdul Rahman who has been released recently by Afghan government on ground of mental disability had become a burning issue in the world. Forty one years Abdul Rahman, remained out of Afghanistan for 16 years during his work with a Christian Missionary Agency. It is taken that during this period, he was so deeply impressed with Christianity that he accepted this religion during his inhabitancy in Germany. Instead of keeping the Quran Sharif with him, Rahman keeps The Holy Bible with him & accepting it as his sacred book, he studies it. Rahman’s conversion from a Mohammedan to a Christian had raised a great hue & cry in many countries, including Afghanistan. The hard line religionists in Afghanistan think that Rahman deserves death sentence for it. Although, President Hamid Karzai & his government in Afghanistan, being liberal on this sensitive issue, was in a try for his acquitted, but as hard line religionist are still more powerful than judiciary, in judicial system of Afghanistan so it was very challengeable job for the Karzai government to save him from the gallows.

Now there was international pressure on Afghanistan government for the release of Rahman. In this regard, the Karzai government had tried for satisfactory solution of this problem by discussions in special meetings. Catholic Christian religious leader Pope Benedict 16th, in his letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, had requested him to be lenient to Abdul Rahman. American President George Bush along with three NATO member countries had expressed his concern over the death sentence of Rahman. Whereas America had cleared that it doesn’t want to interfere on this issue. America said that Rahman should be allowed to believe any faith. On the other side, fundamentalists & clergy in Afghanistan said to the other countries of the world to stop to interfere in the internal matters of Afghanistan. Only the way to forgive Rahman might be that he should again accept the Muslim religion & stop to have faith in Christianity. But Rahman said that he is a devotee & believes in God. He had clearly refused to change his faith again. It was the first ever since case of change of religion in Afghanistan where there was open differences between the liberal leaders & religionists. Although Talibani government was dethroned four years ago, yet bigoted elements are more powerful in the judiciary of Afghanistan.

Although the Afghan Government has released Abdul Rahman on the basis of the mental disability yet the question is, if a person changes his religion willingly, can or should the religious leaders decide for his death sentence? Sometimes back, a Cricket Player, Yousuf Youhana in Pakistan changed his faith from Christianity to Islam. Although this incident was reacted sorrowful in America, yet Christian leaders neither talked about death sentence against this decision of Yousuf’s change of religion nor the Christians raised any cry against this issue of personal human right. Pakistan cricket player, who has become Mohammad Yousuf form Yousuf Youhana is respectfully playing cricket for Pakistan even today. In India too, change of religion often gets a brawling turn. Here too, bigoted powers doubt the Christian Missionaries. In India, there has been a horrible incident of burning Graham Stans & his two sons, who were from Australian Christian Missionary & were in the car, by workers of extremist Hindu organizations. Mother Teresa, who was a recipient of Noble Prize, & who glorified the name of India by her message of love & peace, was also always seen doubtfully by extremist Hindu organizations. The traditionalists, who take change of religion as their insult, are seen expressing their woes after change of religion but don’t want to look into the basic reasons for this change.

History of change of religion is not new in a secular country like India. The founder of Indian Constitution, Baba Saheb Dr. Bheem Rao Ambedkar, along with his millions of followers pained because of inequality found there, withdrew from Hinduism & accepted Buddhism. Dr. Ambedkar was a great educationist & constitution expert. Why a literate like Ambedkar was compelled to change his religion? Obviously, dishonor, humiliation & pained by the inequality present in Hinduism made him to do so. Who is responsible for these circumstances? Is every member of the society not a partner to it? I have a long list of persons in which the Hindus adopted the Islam or the Christianity. A Christian became a Mohammedan or a Hindu. Any person from Shia sect became a Sunni or a Hindu or a person of Sunni sect became a Shia or Christian. The cases that came to my knowledge were deeply studied & I found that generally these are cases of educated persons. They were compelled to take such a sensitive step. In every case of change of religion I saw nothing but hatred, cruelty, boycott, being ignored, insult or poverty. However some cases were there, where people changed their religion because of personal family brawl & mutual distrust.

Mother Teresa, winner of the Noble Prize was also accused of helping in change of religion. But people who accuse, ignore the fact that how a person of other religion was compelled to reach ‘Mother Home’. Before reaching ‘Home’ & before stepping in Christianity, why was that affected person not given attention for his problems & why were his problems not solved by the so said his religion, sect, society, group or family members? It is far away matter by the co-religion people to ask about the worries of the concerned person & to remove those worries. Generally, it is seen that the main reason of change of religion is cruelty & indifference shown by his ‘own people’ of the affected person, or it may be a disgrace from his society. Sometimes because of poverty, some people prefer to change their religion than to commit suicide. The orthodox class calls it ‘a change of religion’ because of greed.

The issue of Abdul Rahman should have been seen in this context. As Yousuf Youhana got more attracted towards Islam than Christianity in the same way, why has Abdul Rahman no right to change his faith, willingly? No religious leader should be given right to control the freedom of thought & religious freedom of a person. It is extreme personal affair, to have a faith in a religion or a sector to accept a religion or not. If any religious leader or a religionist thinks it as an insult to him, then he must think about the basic reasons for this change of religion of the person. The religious leaders must try to solve the problems responsible behind the curtain that compel a person to leave his religion & be attracted by the other religion. It is more important than to declare a death sentence or to burn alive.

It would have been better if Afghan citizen Abdul Rahman would have been acquitted on the basis of human rights & not on the basis of mental disability, giving regard to human rights, he should have been allowed to follow any religion whichever he liked. It would be better to abolish death sentence, immediately, for a change in the religion announced by the religious body (Sharia) in Afghanistan.


(Author's Introduction)
- Writer Tanveer Jafri is a columnist in india related with more than 100 most popular daily news papers/portals in india and abroad.Almost, he writes in the field of communal harmony, world peace, anti communalism, anti terrorism, national integration, national & international politics etc.He is a devoted social activist for world peace, unity, integrity & brotherhood. He is also a member of Haryana Sahitya Academy & Haryana Urdu Academy (a state govt. bodies in India). More than 1000 articles of the author have been published in different newspapers, websites & newsportals throughout the world. He is also a recipient of so many awards in the field of Communal Harmony & other social activities.

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