Tuesday, July 01, 2008

CFI-UN Hamid Karzai Letter

by Center for Inquiry

The Center for Inquiry urges the Afghan government to release Sayed Pervez Kambakhsh, a 23-year-old journalism student at Balkh University and reporter for the local daily Jahan-e-Naw (The New World), sentenced to death for insulting Islam.

Mr. Kambakhsh was arrested on October 27, 2007, in Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh province, for allegedly downloading and distributing material from a Farsi website which suggested that the Qur'an and Prophet Muhammad legitimize the oppression of women.

On January 22, 2008, Kambakhsh was brought before a Islamic court, without a lawyer or public oversight. Accused of un-Islamic speech and activity, socialism, rebelliousness, and improper instigation of religious debate, he was convicted of blasphemy by the court and sentenced to death.

To sign the petition go to:

What's At Stake:

While Kambakhsh may appeal the decision to the Afghan supreme court, many senior officials and leading clerics oppose any challenge to the ruling. Maulavi Muhammad Asif, a senior cleric, stated, "This decision is for disrespecting the holy Qu'ran and the government should enforce the decision before it [comes] under more pressure from foreigners." The Afghan senate has passed a motion confirming Kambakhsh's sentence.

"This case presents a foundational question forAfghanistan," said Austin Dacey, United Nations representative for the Center for Inquiry. "Will it be a closed society, or an open society?"

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan contains a so-called "repugnancy clause" stating that no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.

Even as its leaders fail to protect dissenting voices,Afghanistan's constitution provides strong protection for free speech. Article 34 states that "Freedom of expression shall be inviolable. Every Afghan shall have the right to express thoughts through speech, writing, illustrations as well as other means in accordance with provisions of this constitution." Article 7 commits the state to the United Nations charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"Blasphemy is a human right," commented Ibn Warraq, senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry. "Independence of mind is a virtue. Mr.Kambakhsh merely acted as any promising student should act, questioning authority and sparking debate. His actions should make Afghans proud.Instead, the narrow thinking of a religious court has brought shame on the country."

The Center for Inquiry condemns this gross injustice, and urges the Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai to pardon Kambakhsh and secure his immediate and unconditional release.

Campaign Expiration Date:
July 31, 2008

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