Group Decries Afghan Lawmaker's Call for Christian Executions

A Christian human rights group is sounding off against an Afghan lawmaker's call for the public execution of Muslim-to-Christian converts.

"It is absolutely appalling that the execution of Christians would be promoted on the floor of the Afghan parliament," commented Aidan Clay, Middle East Regional Manager for International Christian Concern (ICC).

"Khawasi's statement sounded a whole lot like the tyrannical manifesto of the Taliban, not that of a U.S. ally," he added.

Last week, as tensions flared over the alleged proselytization of Muslims by two Christian humanitarian organizations, Afghan lawmaker Abdul Sattar Khawasi was reported by the press as having called for the arrest and execution of the ex-Muslim Afghans who appeared on the TV program that fueled angry protests.

The converts, taped by little-known Afghan channel Noorin TV, were shown reciting Christian prayers in Farsi and being baptized.

"Those Afghans that appeared in this video film should be executed in public," said Khawasi, the deputy of the lower house in parliament, according to Agence France-Presse. "[T]he house should order the attorney general and the NDS (intelligence agency) to arrest these Afghans and execute them."

Adding to that, Qazi Nazir Ahmad, a lawmaker from the western province of Herat, said killing a converted Muslim was "not a crime."

Notably, however, apostasy is not a crime under Afghan Criminal Code, and the constitution forbids punishment for any crime not defined in the criminal code, according to the U.S. State Department.

Furthermore, in recent years, neither the national nor local authorities have imposed criminal penalties on converts from Islam, the State Department noted in its most recent report on international religious freedom.

But blasphemy is a capital crime under some interpretations of Shari'a, and according to such interpretations, an Islamic judge could punish blasphemy with death, if committed by a male over age 18 or a female over age 16, who is of sound mind.

As a result, most local Christians do not publicly state their beliefs or gather openly to worship despite the ratification of a constitution in 2004 that said followers of other religions are "free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of the law."

ICC, which is dedicated to assisting and sustaining persecuted Christians, says its Afghan sources have reported that many national Christians are in hiding, fearful of execution.

Under government pressure during investigations, some Afghans have reportedly revealed names and locations of Christian converts, the group added. Those accused of blasphemy are given three days to recant their actions or face death by hanging.

"American lives are being lost fighting terrorism and defending freedom in Afghanistan – yet Christians are being oppressed within Afghan borders," decried ICC's Clay, who pointed to the billions of U.S. dollars that have been invested in the war effort, and millions more that have been given in aid.

"The U.S. government must intervene to protect the religious freedoms and human rights of all Afghans. The U.S. is not a mere outside bystander – but, is closely intertwined within Afghan policy," he continued.

Clay concluded by saying intervention is not a choice, but a responsibility.

"Afghan policies reflect the U.S. government's ability and commitment to secure a stable government in Afghanistan," he added.

According to the CIA World Factbook, Afghanistan's estimated population of 29.1 million breaks down to about 80 percent Sunni Muslim, 19 percent Shia Muslim, and 1 percent "other."

In 2005, the United States and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement committing both nations to a long-term relationship.