The Taliban is no longer in power, but the U.S.-supported government in Afghanistan has a long way to go towards supporting freedom of conscience for its people.
Take the plight of one Said Musa, who faces a death sentence for daring to be an ex-Muslim. The convert to Christianity most likely will suffer the death penalty for the capital crime of "apostasy." Paul Marshall at National Review Online last week noted that:
He was forced to appear before a judge without any legal counsel and without knowledge of the charges against him. “Nobody [wanted to be my] defender before the court. When I said ‘I am a Christian man,’ he [a potential lawyer] immediately spat on me and abused me and mocked me. . . . I am alone between 400 [people with] terrible values in the jail, like a sheep.” He has been beaten, mocked, and subjected to sleep deprivation and sexual abuse while in prison. No Afghan lawyer will defend him and authorities denied him access to a foreign lawyer.
Not only is Musa facing death for what amounts to a thought crime, he's being denied due process of law by a government we've taken great pains to set up and defend, yet the American news media has failed to report the story:
Newspapers in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe have reported the story, but with, the exception of the Wall Street Journal and, of course, NRO, American outlets have not found it worthy of attention. The Journal reports that “Afghan officials have been unapologetic: ‘The sentence for a convert is death and there is no exception,’ said Jamal Khan, chief of staff at the Ministry of Justice. ‘They must be sentenced to death to serve as a lesson for others.’”
To be fair, the New York Times also reported on Musa's plight in their February 6 paper -- they spelled his name slightly differently as Sayed Mussa.
But Marshall's larger point is correct. Searches of the Nexis database for "Said Musa", "Sayeed Mussa" or even "Afghanistan" and "convert" show no coverage by network television or major newspapers thus far in 2011.
And while in his three years in office Barack Obama has seen fit to make public statements about everything from a hasty arrest of a black Harvard professor to the public sector labor union protests in Madison, Wisconsin, the president has yet to publicly press the Afghan government for Musa's release.
As Marshall argued:
The U.S. government — reportedly including Secretary of State Clinton — and other governments have pushed for his release, but to no avail.
But the president has been silent, even as we fight a war that has among its goals the creation of a government that conforms to international human-rights standards.
An American president certainly needs to guard and shepherd his political capital, and should not speak out about every prisoner. But Musa himself has appealed to “President Brother Obama” to rescue him from his current jail. And when an obscure and aberrant Florida pastor, Terry Jones, threatened to burn a Koran, not only President Obama but much of his cabinet, as well as General Petraeus, weighed in on the matter.
Criticism of Obama's silence would be a salient political hook for an American media that often neglects international news but obsesses over domestic political stories. Yet thus far it appears even Fox News has spent little if any time on the story.
Given the cost of the Afghan war in American lives and taxpayer resources, doesn't it behoove the American news media to pay at least some attention to the plight of a man who's facing death for something that should have ceased being illegal in Afghanistan when we toppled the Taliban from power?