On December 10, 1948, with memories of the Holocaust still fresh, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The udhr states that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world." In the nearly six decades since, the udhr has stood as a recognized moral barrier—or at least a speed bump—to mankind's natural proclivity to abuse and enslave fellow human beings.

Article 18 states, "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." But this principle is under threat in the case of Abdul Rahman, 41, a former Muslim who faced a death sentence for apostasy because he converted to Christianity 16 years ago—doubly so because Afghanistan's constitution explicitly recognizes the udhr.

The Afghan constitution also states that Islam is the law of the land, however. This allows Islamists to pay lip service to the udhr while following an extreme interpretation of Shari'ah that prescribes capital punishment for apostasy. Facing an international outcry, Afghanistan's democratic government dismissed proceedings against Rahman on grounds that the government's evidence was insufficient (it wasn't, since Rahman openly proclaimed his allegiance to Christ) or that the defendant was insane and thus not responsible for his "crime" (only if turning to Christ is inherently a sign of mental instability). But releasing Rahman ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.