Monday, May 25, 2009

Burning bibles...

The truth can be difficult to find out and this story is a prime example of that. Earlier this month Al Jazeera took a video clip of American soldiers in Bagram stated to have been recorded almost a year ago by some sources, and used it to present what their viewpoint, which was that US troops urged to share faith in Afghanistan. Though if you watch the video clip it's clear that Sgt. James Watts states that the bibles were sent to him from his church back home.

Now this story is in the news again because it's been confirmed that the bibles were destroyed. A more recent article on Al Jazeera reports also that the Bibles were burned:

The US army in Afghanistan has burned Bibles printed in local languages, a US colonel in Afghanistan has said, amid concerns they could have been used to try to convert Afghans.

"My understanding is that the [military] leadership confiscated these Bibles so that they could not be distributed around Afghanistan," Colonel Greg Julian told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

"It was their best judgement at the time, that the best way to deal with it, was to destroy them and I understand that they were burnt."

It's also pointed out by a few media sources that this was not an official military action but was related to one soldier, Sgt. Watts, who was not aware that he could not hand out the Bibles. Fox news as one example.

The controversy doesn't end there though, now there some claiming Mikey Weinstein demanded the chaplain in the video be court-martialed (which I haven't found beyond him suggesting something similar 2006) and those who have created petitions claiming that the rights of the religious are being attacked by domestic enemies of religious liberty.

This isn't about our soldiers not having the right to worship God while they are in the military, it isn't about our country stopping them from having access to religious material. It's about respecting the laws in other countries, even if you don't agree with them, it is against the law in Afghanistan to try to convert Muslims to another faith. As pointed out during the case of Abdul Rahman:
Afghanistan's 2004 constitution states that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam" (Article 3) thus affirming that apostasy from Islam is punishable by death. On the other hand, the constitution's preamble affirms that the people of Afghanistan will respect the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in Article 18 guarantees the freedom to change one's religion.

Non-Muslim Afghans who have never been Muslims have a measure of freedom in that they are permitted to "exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of the law" (Article 2). This applies to Afghan Hindus, Sikhs and the one remaining member of Afghanistan's Jewish community. But it does not apply to Afghan Christians (or other non-Muslims) who have chosen to convert from Islam.

Making it appear that the US military sanctions these laws to be broken is wrong, but it's also just as wrong to use what happened as a way to further a personal agenda here in the US and there are some on both sides of this issue not acting very different when it comes to skewing what happened and a lack of honesty.

(cross posted at Liberal Common Sense)

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