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Thursday, August 14, 2003
Meanwhile, in Forgottenstan
Death fatwa threatens free speech in Afghanistan: " The fatwa department of Afghanistan's supreme court has recommended that two journalists from a weekly newspaper that published articles some people consider blasphemous be put to death.

After protests by religious students in Kabul targeting the Aftab paper, the highest court in the land ordered its fatwa department - which employs Sharia religious law and deals with important religious issues - to look into the case. Its members overwhelmingly backed the proposed death penalty for Aftab chief editor Mirhassan Mahdawi and his colleague Ali Raza Payam.

The 10-page recommendation to the judiciary, seen by IWPR, gives detailed citations from the Koran and hadiths to support its ruling, and quotes from portions of the two articles that criticized Islamic practice. The decision also cites a cartoon illustration to one of the articles, which shows a monkey evolving into a man slumped over a computer, accompanied by the words, 'Government plus religion equals cruelty.'

Showing humans as evolving from apes is against the Koran, the ruling said. The proposal ends with the declaration, 'The Islamic Transitional Government of Afghanistan is obliged to give the death penalty to the people who have abused or made fun of Islam, and also to the ones who cause public disruption.' "

Currently, the Afghan government is operating under the 1964 Afghan constitution, regarded at the time as being one of the most advanced of any Muslim nation, but the loya jirga is debating a new one. One of the key issues is whether religious or secular law will take precedence, and this appears to be a strong effort by the fatwa department to stake a claim in that dispute.
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