About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Christianity and the insanity defense
But what makes this case particularly interesting, I think, is one of the few routes of escape now available to Mr. Rahman. You see, according to Islamic law – which is the accepted law of the land in “liberated” Afghanistan – apostasy should be punished with death, and there is little more apostatic than actually repudiating one's own religion. The problem, of course, is that Afghanistan is also supposed to legally function according to a Western-inspired Constitution, and its Western-backed government has pledged to respect the United Nations declarations of human rights, which includes freedom of religion (and, presumably, of changing one's religion – not to mention of not being religious at all).
The way out of the conundrum might be offered by the characterization of Mr. Rahman made by the prosecutor in the case: he is insane! You see, the only reason someone would willingly change religious affiliation away from Islam (and in a country where such decision is punishable by death) is because that person is insane. No one in his right mind would seriously entertain the notion! Well, I must admit that the prosecutor does have a point... The sadly ironic thing, of course, is that the very notion of punishing (by death or otherwise) someone for his beliefs is the real insanity. But such is the world in which we live, and we have always lived.