Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Got Yer Freedom of Religion Right Here! Part II

Police in Afghanistan-- you know, the country we saved from an Islamist dictatorship-- have just arrested a man for publishing a translation of the Koran.
Afghan police have arrested a man accused of publishing an unofficial translation of the Koran that has sparked protests in parts of the country, newspapers said on Monday.

The translation into Dari, one of Afghanistan's main languages, sparked an emergency debate in parliament and protests in at least two parts of the country as key passages were changed.

Ghaus Zalmai, the publisher of the translation, was arrested on Sunday trying to cross the border into neighbouring Pakistan. Zalmai was also a spokesman for Afghanistan's attorney general.

"This is a plot against the religion of Islam, and no one will ever accept the book as the holy Koran," daily Armaan newspaper quoted judge Abdul Salam Azimi as saying.

"The Supreme court has ordered an investigation into this matter and to bring the culprits before the court," he said.

Perceived insults to Islam, such as the cartoons of the prophet Mohammad or alleged violations of the Koran have sparked angry protests in Afghanistan.
I'll give a bit of background on why this is supposed to be such a big deal in Islam. According to Islam, the prophet Muhammad, inspired by the angel Gabriel, recited the word of God to the people of Mecca. Muhammad's inspired words, as transcribed by his followers, became what is known today as the Koran, the holy, infallible word of God. Trouble is, that particular word is in Classical Arabic, and is so infallible that any translation of the book into other languages is considered invalid and, in this case at least, unholy.

Now that I've elucidated at least some historical and theological baggage, I'll close with a rant.

I don't like the war in Afghanistan. But in spite of myself, I still do buy the moral argument that Canadian troops should stay in Afghanistan to help fend off the Taliban. Unfortunately, the trouble with that argument is the government that U.S. coalition installed to replace the Taliban-- the one that Canadian troops are fighting and dying to protect-- is now, slowly but surely, beginning to resemble the religious dictatorship it was meant to replace by eroding one of the fundamental principles necessary for democracy, the separation of church and state. I don't mean to say that, based on this, the government of Afghanistan is as bad as the Taliban, not by a long shot. It's still possible that the case may dismissed in the courts, though based on the quote by judge Azimi, that's not likely. It's also still possible that coalition governments could exert enough pressure on the Afghan government to get them to dismiss the case. . . though that certainly won't quell future protests.

For some reason, the phrase "the lesser of two evils" seems decreasingly relevant here.

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