Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Human Rights and Human Nature

I don’t know if you’ve been following the story, but I’ve been very interested in the story of Mr. Abdul Rahman in Afganistan. Well it’s been on my heart for a while so I’m going to take the time to say something. My interest was peaked the other day when Janie and I caught Rex Murphy’s report on the National. You can follow that link and read it for yourself, but here are the first two lines:

Here's a pop quiz: Name the democracy in which changing your religion is a criminal offence and that offence carries the death penalty.

A simple follow-up question: If there were such a democracy, would it be worth fighting and dying for?

Rex’s basic point was that a democratic nation cannot enforce a restriction on religion, and that Canadian troops are fighting – and dying – to set up a democracy which has then threatened to execute Mr. Rahman for converting from Islam to Christianity. It’s been a very interesting journey.

Now Abdul Rahman has been released from prison (under what terms, I do not know) and has apparently fled the country. Reports were saying that his life was in danger even if he did avoid the death penalty, and that there was a public outcry for his blood.

Then came a very interesting article today, and this is where my point lies.

Time magazine released this article today, looking at Mr. Rahman’s “family values”. It reports that he was a deadbeat father, unemployed and prone to violence towards his family. The interesting thing was (and you can correct me here if you disagree) that the article seems to suggest that since he was such a indecent human being, perhaps we should not have been so quick to cry for his release. Perhaps, it seemed to suggest, organizations and governments should be more careful in whom they choose to rally behind, and how that person’s track record might reflect on them.

But I say otherwise. I think people/governments were correct in coming to his aid, because his right to freedom of religion was being violated and someone needed to step in. Simple as that. Now, I can see that it may have been very convenient for the Bush administration to have a Christian face that needed defending against a corrupt government right in the heart of Afghanistan. And I can see now why they would be embarrassed if he turns out to be violent and slothful, perhaps not quite so worthy of the Poster Child position he had attained. But I think that it makes a better case when the violated individual shows flaws. If a perfect person is wronged, everyone comes to her/his side. But what about an imperfect, even deplorable person? Who will stand for them? Who will be their advocate, even when they abuse their freedom?

I am reminded of a passage in Matthew where Christ says that we are to love all people, not just our brothers and sisters, but also our enemies. Regardless of his personal attributes, we must defend him because he is human. Now, wouldn't it have been interesting to see what the case would have looked like if a Christian nation was threatening to kill a convert to Islam? Perhaps that would have brought some of our motives for defending Mr. Rahman’s plight under closer examination. My question is this: would we stand so strongly united with someone seeking his right to defect from our side?



Sarah said...

This was a flippin' great post. I completely agree that he should be free whether or not he's a total jerk. The UN's declaration of human rights isn't contingent upon character.

I can't remember who said it, or even the exact words in which it was said, but someone important once said something like the following: "I may not agree with what he has to say but i will fight to the death to defend his right to say it."

or something like that.

JAnie & DAve said...

I believe it was Twain. And thank you.