Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Islam in the Information Age: Afghan Journalist Charged with Blasphemy

It's not easy, maintaining the assumption that Islam is a "peaceful religion." Sure, President Bush said so, several times ("Backgrounder: The President's Quotes on Islam" (The White House)). So has the Dali Lama.

It helps, knowing that Muslims who live in the Information Age are trying to drag Islam into the eighteenth century. You'll find some of their groups in the blogroll.

Today's news from Afghanistan, however, doesn't help.

"Afghan Journalist Jailed for Blasphemy Faces Death If Convicted, Danger If Acquitted"
FOXNews (July 30, 2008)

"An Afghan journalist who printed a translation of the Koran in a Persian dialect is on trial for blasphemy and could face the death penalty if convicted. But with threats from various powerful groups, he could face the same fate even if acquitted...."

The target du jure is Ghaws Zalmay. He's been a spokesman for the Afghan Attorney General and the Afghanistan's Journalists' Union head.

Part of the charge is true: Zalmay did have a translation of the Quran printed. It's in one of Afghanistan's official languages, Dari.

His third hearing is coming up. I'm not clear on how official any of the three are.

Apparently, about 1 in 5 cases in Afghanistan go to official courts. The rest get thrashed out in tribal councils or by village elders.

Finding a lawyer to represent him, in kangaroo court or something a trifle more official, has been tricky. The lawyer would be seen as supporting Ghaws Zalmay's position - and would likely be killed around the same time that Zalmay is.

Zalmay didn't write the new Quran. An Iranian-born Shiite cleric, Ghodratolla Bakhtiyarinejad, did. He seems to be living in America, and so is temporarily safe from Islamic law. That's good for Zalmay: he may be able to dodge the charge that he's calling himself a prophet.

The biggest problem with the new and improved Quran seems to be Bakhtiyarinejad's views on sensitive subjects like homosexuality, alcohol and begging. Bakhtiyarinejad thinks he's got it right, quite a few Afghan bigwigs don't agree.

The old-fashioned Afghans may have a point. I remember, about four decades back, reading some downright imaginative 'New Gospels:' very groovy, very hip, that were accurate expressions of the translators' preferences: but not very accurate translations.

But, being what I am, I wouldn't try to kill anyone over the things. I may even have a copy or two around. (I'd check, but the family library is being re-organized right now.)

Afghanistan's government, on the other hand, has to deal with local and regional leaders. Some of them are in the habit of killing people they don't agree with.

That puts at least some of Afghanistan's religious leaders in about the same category as Jim Adkisson, who shot up a Tennessee church last Sunday. According to the police chief, Mr. Adkisson killed a couple of people and injured more because "he hated the liberal movement." ("Church Mourns as Cops Say Shooting Suspect Targeted Liberals" FOXNews (July 29, 2008))

(From FOXNews/Knoxville News Sentinel, used without permission)
This is America: He's charged with first-degree murder.

In America, Jim Adkisson is one angry man, and now a criminal.

In Afghanistan, it looks like the Jim Adkissons are in charge.

That's not good for Afghanistan, and it's not good for Islam. Many of Indonesia's Muslims get by without killing people they don't entirely agree with, showing it's possible for Islam to exist in an Information Age culture. Islam's defenders in Afghanistan, on the other hand, seem determined to demonstrate that Islam really is an antique death cult.

Previous posts: Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.