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McClellans Myth: Freedom of Religion Is A Bedrock Principle Of The Afghan Constitution

By Judd Legum  

"McClellans Myth: Freedom of Religion Is A Bedrock Principle Of The Afghan Constitution"

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At today’s White House press briefing, Scott McClellan – parroting President Bush – claimed that Afghan constitution protected freedom of religion:

McCLELLAN: Well, I think you should look at the Afghan constitution. It was a constitution that was widely praised for how forward-looking it was and the values that are enshrined in that constitution. And it’s important for the government of Afghanistan to reaffirm the bedrock principles in that constitution, one of which is freedom of religion.

McClellan added that the prosecution of Abdul Rahman for converting to Christianity “clearly violates the Afghan constitution.” It’s not true. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an government entity, explained in a letter it sent to President Bush yesterday:

On several previous occasions, the Commission has raised concern that the Afghan constitution’s failure to include adequate guarantees of freedom of religion and expression for members of the country’s majority Muslim community could lead to unjust criminal accusations of apostasy and blasphemy. With no guarantee of the right to religious freedom for all individuals, together with a judicial system instructed to enforce Islamic principles and Islamic law, the door is open for a harsh, unfair, or even abusive interpretation of religious orthodoxy to be officially imposed…

This is an extremely important distinction. If the Afghan constitution protected freedom of religion, the entire issue could be resolved by convincing the Afghan government to drop the case against Rahman. Actually, it’s a systemic problem, rooted in the constitution, that requires the United States to pressure the Afghan government to make fundamental reforms.

The USCIRF has been encouraging the Bush administration to do just that for years, to no avail.

‹ Bush Ignored Concerns About Afghan Constitution, Praised It For Protecting “Freedom of Religion”

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