Congressional Human Rights Caucus
invites you to a members’ briefing on
Anti-Conversion Laws and Religious Freedom in South Asia and the Middle East:
The Case of Abdul Rahman
Friday, April 7, 2006
Room: 2200 RHOB
Please join the Congressional Human Rights Caucus for a Members’ Briefing on anti-conversion laws and religious freedom in South Asia and the Middle East. This briefing will be held on Friday, April 7, 2006, in room 2200 RBOB. This briefing is open to the public and the media.
The international community reacted with outrage following the announcement two weeks ago that a Christian man in Afghanistan could be executed because of apostasy from the Muslim faith. Many Western leaders demanded that Abdul Rahman be released or evacuated from the predominantly Muslim country.
Mr. Rahman converted to Christianity fifteen years ago while working for a foreign aid organization in Pakistan, and only recently during a family dispute did his family accuse him of apostasy. An Afghan prosecutor charged him with apostasy and sought the death penalty. Because the Afghan constitution is ambiguous on the issue of religious freedom and, ultimately, defers to Islamic law, the punishment for apostasy under Afghanistan’s sharia is death. Indeed, many clerics have called for Mr. Rahman’s execution. Even the Chief Justice of the Afghan Supreme Court, Fazl Hadi Shinwari, stated in an interview with National Public Radio that it would be his duty as judge to “behead” those who do not conform to Islamic law.
Although the Afghan court dismissed the case last Sunday following intense international pressure, the court’s rational for the dismissal—that Mr. Rahman is insane or that there are some “legal gaps” in the case—sets no precedent for future cases and provides no long-term solution for religious pluralism in the Muslim world.
The Rahman case is unfortunately only one example of a larger trend of anti-conversion and anti-blasphemy laws throughout Asia and the Middle East. Religious minorities in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka, among others, are also in a precarious position because the laws of these countries do not provide adequate protection to converts and religious minorities. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
The United States and the international community should be at the forefront of protecting this fundamental human right. To that end, we invite you to join this important briefing about religious freedom and anti-conversion laws in South Asia and the Middle East.
To discuss this timely issue, we welcome as expert witnesses:
Panel I: Ambassador John Hanford, Office of International Religious Freedom, U.S. State Department (invited)
Panel II: Felice Gaer, a Vice-Chair, United States Commission on Religious Freedom
J Alexander Their, Senior Rule of Law Advisor, Rule of Law Program, U.S. Institute of Peace
Panel III: Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom, Freedom House
Angela Wu, Director of International Advocacy, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain, Georgetown University
We hope you will join us for this important briefing. If you have any questions, please call Evan Baehr (Rep. Wolf) at x5-5136 or Maryamu Aminu (Rep. Lantos) at x5-3531.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf Rep. Tom Lantos
Co-Chair, CHRC Co-Chair, CHRC
Sen. Sam Brownback Sen. Tom Harkin
Co-Chair, CHRC Co-Chair, CHRC