26 March, 2006

La Repubblica interviews Abdul Rahman

The Italian daily La Repubblica somehow scored an interview with Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert to Christianity who's most likely going to die.

I believe that the following partial translation falls under "Fair Use". Since I haven't yet seen a translation in the English press, I'm going to dive in. This may be the only place you can read any of the interview in English; the original Italian available is at this webpage. If anyone finds a translation, let me know and I'll link to it.

Feel free to copy any part of the translation and send it to others.

1. His state of mind.

One of the more entertaining aspects of Western life is that many people consider religious devotion to be weird, or among the extremist anti-religious groups, even a mental disease. Some leftists even conduct "serious" statistical studies arguing that conservatives are mentally ill. I find it funny that many Muslims have now adopted this as an explanation for Abdul Rahman's conversion. Rahman himself seems to have taken the attitude of Matthew 14.27.

LR: They say that you are mentally ill.
AR: I am quite well. Above all, I am convinced of being a Christian.

LR: How do you feel right now?
AR: I am calm. I know that I am in the right. I've done nothing worthy of regret. I respect the Afghan law, just as I respect Islam. However, I have chosen to become a Christian, and my soul tells me that this is not a fault.

2. The accusation.

It's fairly well-known that the accusations came from Rahman's ex-wife, daughters, uncle and nephews (see Matthew 10.32-39). There's a lot of interesting details that I won't translate. Rahman denies his family's assertions that he tried to force his daughters to read the Bible.

LR: When [did they accuse you], and why?
AR: Three weeks ago. ...At one point, one [of the policemen] began to insult me. He said that I am a man without religion, that I don't deserve to live; I am the shame of Afghanistan of of all Muslims. At that point I understood.

LR: What did your wife say to the police?
AR: She says that I am an apostate. That I had abandoned her, that I had given her no further news, that I had done nothing for our two girls, that I had fled and that now I wanted to have them back. But above all, that I had become a Chrsitian.

LR: Is this true?
AR: I fled from Afghanistan 16 years ago. There was the war among the mujaheddin, and then the Taliban had arrived. It was impossible to live in our country. I went first to Pakistan, then to Germany. I tried to acquire a visa in Belgium. In Peshawar I worked for a humanitarian organization. They were Catholics. I began to speak with them about religion; I read the Bible; it opened my heart and my mind.

The last part of that answer reminds me of the claim that most who convert to Christianity do so not by intellectual argument, but by the holy example set by certain Christians; see for example 1 Corinthians 13.2. My own experience with becoming a Catholic was similar, although I didn't think so at the time. It would be interesting to know whether Rahman was received by the Catholic Church, or if some other church baptized him, or if he has experienced only the baptism of desire: that is, his encounter with those Catholics inspired him to take a Bible, read it, and follow Christ.

3. How others have treated him.

According to the newspaper, Rahman bears the bruises of beatings he has received from the guards. Reading what the Afghan prisoners said chills the veins.

LR: How do they treat you in jail?
AR: Better now. At first, I was placed in a provincial jail, in the center of Kabul. I shared a cell with 24 other detainees. Many were Nigerians being held for drug trafficking. They were polite, but aloof.

LR: And the others?
AR: Afghans. They insulted me continuously. I acted like it was nothing, but more than once, I thought they wanted to kill me.

LR: Why?
AR: Perhaps they wanted only to get my attention. But once I heard that they would go to the guards and propose, Kill him, so that we can drink his blood.

4. No servant is better than his master.

The following reminds one of Matthew 10.21-31, or of Luke 17.10, and contains a clear reference to Christ's death, reminding one of the attitude of early Christians.

LR: You may die a martyr.
AR: I'm no hero. I was born and raised in a very poor family, but my experience abroad has enriched me and taught me many things. I repeat: I am calm. I am fully aware of my choice. If I am to die, I will die. Someone, a long time ago, did so for us all.

4. Have the Taliban won?

Rahman's final remark is interesting.

LR: Are you willing to go abroad?
AR: Perhaps. But if I should flee again, it would mean that my country hasn't changed. It would mean that our enemies have won. If we lack human rights, and if we lack respect for all religions, the Taliban have won.

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