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January 30, 2008

Afghan MPs support blasphemy death sentence for journalist

A 23-year-old journalist in Northern Afghanistan was sentenced to death in municipal court last week for downloading and distributing allegedly blasphemous material.

Today, members of Afghanistan's upper house of parliament issued a statement affirming the legality of the sentence:

Now the Afghan Senate has issued a statement on the case - it was not voted on but was signed by its leader, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, an ally of President Hamid Karzai.

It said the upper house approved the death sentence conferred on Mr Kambaksh by a city court in Mazar-e-Sharif. [BBC]

The statement also criticized the various governments and organizations that have denounced the sentence. The Senators resent the input of the international community for attempting to pressure Afghan judges as they crack down on blasphemy. 

The journalist was charged and sentenced to death for downloading and distributing information about the status of women in Islamic societies. He never got a lawyer.

At least he still has two rounds of appeals left. According to AP, president Karzai will have the final say over the execution.

So, this is the wonderful democratic government we're propping up in Afghanistan?

Ironically, Karzai appointed Mojaddedi to lead the Afghan National Commission for Peace in Afghanistan in 2005.


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Muslim Democracy; the oxymoron of the new millenium. Turkey stands as the lone exception, but even they are pressured by extremists.

This demonstrates how Muslim extremism does not tolerate anything resembling public debate. Anybody who disagrees with them dies. And to think that people on the left believe that Palestinians can run a state peacefully and control their terrorists. Right. Sure.

The OT is not a canonical text of Islam. They view it as a historical background, at best.

And Israel has never issued a death sentence against its own citizens for downloading religiously challenging materials. To even suggest a slight parallel is offensive and hateful.

In fact, every time Muslims engage in this type of sub-civilized activity, it only further justifies the thesis that political subjugation of Islam is the only solution to this problem.

parse -

The people don't really rule if they have some power at the polls (majority rule), but lack power when it comes to the government arresting/imprisoning them for things which should be legal (example: free speech) and no due process when they're accused of things which should be illegal (example: terrorism).

The US in the early days can be described as on the path towards democracy, but we weren't a true democracy when slavery was legal.

So Eric, what about a case when a large majority of the people want the government to arrest/imprison people for "things which should be legal"? And who decides which things should be legal? The principle of a democracy, as I understand it, is that the majority is entitled to make those decisions. That's why I'm not a fan of democracy per se. As Lindsay put it, "not every democratically elected government is worth defending."

political subjugation of Islam is the only solution to this problem.

Shall we go with a Swiftian modest proposal or a Wannsee conference style solution to the muslim question?

And people wonder why I always go on and on about Church/State issues.

Afghanistan is still nearly a stone age culture society where many young women set themselves on fire to protest arranged marriages and "honor" killings flourish. Women's rights have virtually no traction in this awful regressive culture. Another George Bush success story?

parse -

In the US, we have the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, which means that some rights can't be taken away by the majority.

I've seen polls saying the majority of Americans believe blasphemy should be illegal.

However, we don't have laws against blasphemy because of the Bill of Rights. Regarding "who decides which things should be legal?," the Bill of Righs places limits on making things illegal.

The majority isn't entitled to make all decisions, such as to imprison someone for blasphemy.

Eric, with a large enough majority, the constitution can be amended. In fact, the Bill of Rights itself is a set of amendments. A large enough majority in America could certainly decide to make blasphemy a crime punishable by imprisonment.

By the way, Eric, according to Wikipedia, "Chapter 272 of the Massachusetts General Laws states. . .Section 36. Whoever willfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, His creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior."

It's likely any prosecution under this law would be deemed unconstitutional, although there's no guarantee of that. But the existence of the Bill of Rights didn't prevent the passage of such laws, and there have been Americans found guilty of blasphemy.

parse -

The Constitution could be amended in ways which undermine the Bill of Rights. The US would be less democratic if that happened.

I stand corrected regarding: The Bill of Rights prevents enforcement of laws against blasphemy, though as you point out, not their passage.

Eric, the Bill of Rights was in effect, and laws against blasphemy were enforced.

The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech. But child pornography is illegal. This is because the vast majority of people approve of this exception to untrammeled freedom of expression. Do you think the United States is "less democratic" because it takes notice of this overwhelming popular support for a limit on freedom of expression. And that it would be "more democratic" if it ignored what the majority wanted in favor of recognizing an absolute right to free speech?

What if 99% of the people in the United States supported an amendment to overturn the Second Amendment. Do you think the results of allowing such action demonstrate that the U.S. was "less democratic" than it would be if it allowed a right to bear arms that a huge majority of its citizens opposed?

If you do, I don't understand the definition of "democratic" that you are working from.

>The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech. But child pornography is illegal. This is because the vast majority of people approve of this exception to untrammeled freedom of expression.

Oh, come on -- it's not that mechanical. Just because you can't shout "fire" in a crowded theater doesn't mean laws against blasphemy are equally likely to be passed sometime. Our system allows for assessments of costs and benefits and the risks of runaway majority rule. Civil Rights legislation, for example, was not enacted though a majority popular vote because the laws were considered too important for the country to wait until the majority agreed with them.

Applying the First Amendment to the states began with Gitlow v. New York (1925).

Dock Miles, I don't think I've anywhere suggested that there's any likelihood of laws against blasphemy being passed in the United States. I have made the point that there is nothing in the democratic structure of the United States that would prevent such laws from being passed. Eric Jaffa's definition of "democracy" makes it impossible for such laws to exist under a democratic government--I can't understand why he thinks that.

This is a decent quick 'n' dirty overview, I think.

Your statement I objected to was this:

>And who decides which things should be legal? The principle of a democracy, as I understand it, is that the majority is entitled to make those decisions.

The answer to which is, "not necessarily at all."

well from my illiterate viewpoint the point I was trying to make was that we can't even extend civil rights to our OWN citizens never mind Afghanistan.

george: what R a civil right? and why on earth would they need them in afghanistan we don't even have them here ... (or need them)

The Phantom: (just noticed while rereading before posting that you seem to be picking at me ... hmmm well, that's a matter for another venue)

When did 'less bad' become a choice?

And, from my recent view of the 'govmint' we've given afghanistans, the women and the children are in WORSE situations than when we went and 'saved' them.
My best friend's brother just did two cycles there.
The Americans pulled out so the Canadians had to replace them so we could all be fooled by the troop downsizing.

Stone age is right.

Is there no human rights org or any American org. protesting this??

Trying to do something about it?

wow, the phantom .... why are you working so hard to get my attention??

Sticks and stones and such ..

Now, back to afghanistan ....

voxy -

Amnesty International USA has an email form for contacting Hamid Karzai about the case of Pervez Kambakhsh.

Dock Miles, thanks for the useful link: "No universally accepted definition of 'democracy' exists, especially with regard to the elements in a society which are required for it.[1] Many people use the term "democracy" as shorthand for liberal democracy, which may include additional elements such as political pluralism, equality before the law, the right to petition elected officials for redress of grievances, due process, civil liberties, human rights, and elements of civil society outside the government."

So the point of confusion between Eric Jaffa and I may well be that he is using the term democracy as shorthand for liberal democracy, which the Wikipedia entry points out is a common usage. I was more familiar with a definition of democracy that didn't necessarily include those elments.

Similarly, my comment supports the first half of this bit from Wikipedia, and your reply supports the second: "Majority rule is a major principle of democracy, though many democratic systems do not adhere to this strictly"

Thank you, Eric Jaffa.

parse, your commentary and exchange was extremely interesting and a reminder.
Because lots of folks don't seem to realize that good and decent folks aren't necessarily in the majority anymore.
I happen to believe they are; they just can't get their vote counted. Here or in Afghanistan and the numerous other 'democracies' that this regime (bush) had a hand in creating.
23 years old.

--When did 'less bad' become a choice?--

In many parts of the world, "less bad" is usually the choice.

As in the lesser of two evils. But then you knew that and your question is just rhetorical.

That is my entire point.

Afghanistan is never going to turn into a Jeffersonian democracy. A hundred years from now, it'll still be a lot more like Pakistan than it will be to Geneva.

Its a lot better than it was seven years ago. Many of its people enjoy a better life, and the country is no longer the threat to the outside world that it was.

That is a serious accomplishment, in a US Foreign policy that does not have enough of them.

Does this mean that we should not pressure the government on behalf of the (innocent) journalist? No, of course not.

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