Afghan Muslim Cleric Hate

Arrested Afghan cleric defends marriage to six-year-old girl, saying she was a 'religious offering'

Agence France-Presse
30 JULY 2016

An elderly Afghan cleric has been arrested after he married a six-year-old girl, officials said on Friday, in the latest case highlighting the scourge of child marriages in the war-battered country.

Mohammad Karim, said to be aged around 60, was held in central Ghor province as he claimed her parents gave him the girl as a "religious offering", officials said.

But they cited the family of the girl, believed to be in shock, as saying that she was abducted from western Herat province, bordering Iran.

"This girl does not speak, but repeats only one thing: 'I am afraid of this man'," said Masoom Anwari, head of the women affairs department in Ghor.

The girl is currently in a women's shelter in Ghor and her parents are on their way to the province to collect her, the local governor's office said.

"Karim has been jailed and our investigation is ongoing," said Abdul Hai Khatibi, the governor's spokesman.

The arrest comes just days after a 14-year-old pregnant girl was burned to death in Ghor, in a case that sparked shock waves in Afghanistan.

The family of that girl, Zahra, said she was tortured and set alight by her husband's family. But relatives of the teenager's husband insisted her death was by self-immolation.

The incidents underscore rising incidents of child marriages in Afghanistan.

"In some regions because of insecurity and poverty the families marry off their daughters at a very early age to get rid of them," Sima Samar, head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said this month.

Afghan civil law sets the legal age of marriage at 16 for girls, yet 15 percent of Afghan women under 50 were married before their 15th birthday and almost half were married before the age of 18, according to Save the Children.

"So many children who are married off at a young age are deprived of their right to education, safety and the ability to make choices about their future," the international charity said this month.

"This is such a fundamental breach of a child's basic rights."

The latest case comes after a young woman was stoned to death in Ghor last November after being accused of adultery.

And in March last year a woman named Farkhunda was savagely beaten and set ablaze in central Kabul after being falsely accused of burning a Koran.

The mob killing triggered angry nationwide protests and drew global attention to the endemic violence facing Afghan women.

Afghan Mullah Leading Stoning Inquiry Condones Practice

NOV. 7, 2015
The New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — After men believed to be Taliban fighters forced a 19-year-old named Rukhshana into a freshly dug pit and methodically stoned her to death for adultery, a video of the killing surfaced on the Internet and incited outrage.

Western embassies and human-rights groups denounced the attack as another example of abusive treatment of women by the Taliban. President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan called it a “heinous act” and ordered an investigation, sending a delegation to the central province of Ghor, where the attack took place.

One of the leaders of that presidential delegation, however, is a prominent, pro-government mullah who believes the stoning and flogging of adulterers is perfectly justified — as he made clear both in a sermon on the Ghor killing at Friday Prayer and in a subsequent interview on Friday.

“If you’re married and you commit adultery, you have to be stoned,” said the mullah, Maulavi Inayatullah Baleegh, during his sermon at Pul-e Khishti mosque, Kabul’s biggest, on Friday. “The only question was whether this was done according to Shariah law, with witnesses or confessions as required,” he said. “It is necessary to protect and safeguard the honor of women in society, as it was done in the past during the time of the prophet.”

In the interview later, Maulavi Baleegh also declined to criticize the Taliban over the Ghor stoning or to give an opinion on whether a Shariah trial held by the insurgents would be considered religiously valid. “Do you want me to have a fight with the Taliban?” he said, when a reporter asked about the Taliban role in the killing, and he declined to say anything further about the insurgents’ actions.

Maulavi Baleegh, who is a prominent member of the National Ulema Council, the country’s highest religious authority, and is an adviser to Mr. Ghani on religious affairs, said he was told he would lead the presidential investigating commission when it goes to Ghor this week.

His theological support for the sort of stoning he is being sent to investigate is emblematic of the national conundrum over the role of Shariah law, particularly when it comes to punishment for so-called moral crimes. The Afghan Constitution recognizes Shariah as well as civil law, but a presidential decree known as the Elimination of Violence Against Women Act, issued in 2009 but never ratified by Parliament, outlawed the stoning and flogging of adulterers.

The anti-violence law is simply ignored in many parts of the country, and by some of its highest authorities — including Maulavi Baleegh, who considers it invalid. The act also outlaws polygamy, for instance, but many Afghan men have more than one wife, and new plural marriages are still legally recognized.

The stoning in Ghor took place on Oct. 25, in a Taliban-controlled area in Chaghcharan District, where the provincial capital is, according to Abdul Hadi Chelghori, head of the provincial police department’s criminal investigation division. He said the stoning of Rukhshana, as well as the flogging of a young man named Mohammad Gul, 22, whom she had tried to run away with, were ordered by three well-known Taliban mullahs from the area, two of whom are also insurgent military commanders, Afghan officials said.

 “There was no court to decide this,” said a member of Parliament from Ghor, Sayed Nader Shah Bahr. “They simply brutally stoned the girl to death and lashed the boy.”

The governor of Ghor Province, Seema Joyenda, one of only two female governors in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, said that Rukhshana had left her husband, but only because she had been illegally forced to marry him.

As a child, she had been engaged to a different, much older man. But when she reached marriageable age, she refused the union and ran away with Mr. Gul instead.

“Rukhshana was a pretty girl and had studied until Grade 6,” Governor Joyenda said. “She was literate and pretty, that was why everyone wanted to marry her, but she would not allow herself to be married to anyone against her will.”

Afghan clerics warn US on Karzai demands

March 17, 2013

Escalating the rift in U.S.-Afghan relations, Afghan clerics warned Saturday that Americans will be treated as invaders unless Washington heeds President Hamid Karzai's latest demands.

‫"‬Allah has never allowed Muslims to accept the sovereignty and rule of the infidels," the National Ulema Council said in a statement.‬

Karzai clashed with the U.S. in recent weeks over several issues that he views as disrespect for Afghan sovereignty, such as the American failure to comply with his deadlines to withdraw Special Operations Forces from the province of Wardak and to hand over Afghan detainees at the U.S.-run Bagram detention facility.

The relationship suffered a blow last Sunday, when Karzai said that the Taliban were "in the service of America," working to prolong foreign military presence. The top coalition commander, U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, in response put his forces on heightened alert, warning in an advisory that Karzai's "inflammatory" rhetoric could spur attacks on American troops, officials said.

Karzai's demands on Bagram, Wardak, and other issues "needed to protect the sovereignty and independence of our own country are the voice of the Muslim Afghan nation," the statement added.

Failure to heed these demands, the Ulema Council warned, will be interpreted as "the occupation" of Afghanistan and Americans will be responsible for the consequences. WSJ
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Afghan Clerics Deem US Quran Burning Unforgivable

March 02, 2012

Senior Afghan clerics have condemned the United States for the burning of Qurans at a NATO base last month, in a move that threatens to spark a new wave of outrage and violence.

The Ullema Council called the burning of the Muslim holy books at Bagram Air Base a "crime" and "inhumane."  It also said apologies by senior U.S. military officials and President Barack Obama would not be accepted and called for those responsible to be "publicly tried and punished."

The statement by the council was quoted Friday by the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who met with the clerics earlier this week.  Their comments follow days of violent protests that left at least 30 people dead.

Word that U.S. troops at Bagram had incinerated Qurans also sparked a series of deadly attacks on American service members.

Following the incident, the commander of the U.S.-led international coalition, U.S. General John Allen, in Afghanistan issued an apology and ordered an investigation. 

However, just last week, thousands of Afghans poured onto the streets to protest following Friday prayers, many chanting "Death to America."

The incident also sparked protests in neighboring Pakistan.  

President Karzai appealed for calm following the initial wave of protests, saying citizens have the right to demonstrate but should not resort to violence.  

The Associated Press reports that the statement from the Ullema Council also called on the U.S. to end night raids and hand over its prisons in Afghanistan to Afghan control.

Afghan Clerics Outraged at Desecration

October 20, 2005
Associated Press Writer

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Islamic clerics expressed outrage Thursday at television footage that purportedly shows U.S. soldiers burning the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters to taunt other militants and warned of a possible violent anti-American backlash.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the alleged desecration and ordered an inquiry. The operational commander of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, which launched its own criminal probe, said the alleged act, if true, was ``repugnant.''

Worried about the potential for anti-American feelings over the incident, the State Department said it instructed U.S. embassies around the globe to tell local governments that the reported abuse did not reflect American values.

Cremating bodies is banned under Islam (adherence to 7th century Muslim ignorance could not foresee fiery airplane crashes), and one Muslim leader in Afghanistan compared the video to photographs of U.S. troops abusing prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

``Abu Ghraib ruined the reputation of the Americans in Iraq and to me this is even worse,'' said Faiz Mohammed, a top cleric in northern Kunduz province. ``This is against Islam. Afghans will be shocked by this news. It is so humiliating. There will be very, very dangerous consequences from this.''

Anger also was evident in the streets.

``If they continue to carry out such actions against us, our people will change their policy and react with the same policy against them,'' said Mehrajuddin, a resident of Kabul, who like many Afghans uses only one name.

Another man in the capital, Zahidullah, said the reported abuse was like atrocities committed by Soviet troops, who were driven out of Afghanistan in 1989 after a decade of occupation. He warned that the same could happen to American forces.

``Their future will be like the Russians,'' Zahidullah said.

In Washington, the U.S. government also condemned the alleged incident.

The allegation was ``very serious'' and ``very troubling,'' State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. His comment came after the department said U.S. embassies had been told to inform foreigners that abuse of remains ``is not reflective of our values.''

The move suggested U.S. worries about an anti-American uproar like Afghan riots in May that erupted after Newsweek said U.S. soldiers at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility desecrated Islam's holy book, the Quran. Newsweek later retracted the story.

The alleged body burning comes as the U.S. military is struggling to bolster its image in Afghanistan amid charges by Karzai of heavy-handed tactics in fighting the Taliban.

Australia's SBS television network broadcast the video purportedly showing soldiers burning the bodies of two suspected Taliban fighters in hills outside Gonbaz village in the southern Shah Wali Kot district - an area plagued by Taliban activity and considered by the local security forces as too dangerous to venture into unless accompanied by U.S. troops.

The network said the video was taken by a freelance journalist, Stephen Dupont. Dupont, who told The Associated Press that he was embedded with the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade, said the burnings happened Oct. 1.

He told SBS that soldiers in a U.S. Army psychological operations unit later broadcast taunting messages targeting the village, which was believed to be harboring Taliban fighters.

``They deliberately wanted to incite that much anger from the Taliban so the Taliban could attack them. ... That's the only way they can find them,'' Dupont said.

The video did not show those messages being broadcast, although it showed some military vehicles fitted with speakers and playing loud music.

According to a transcript released by SBS, the messages called the Taliban ``cowardly dogs.''

``You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies,'' said one message, according to the transcript.

Dupont told the AP the messages were broadcast in the local dialect but were translated into English for him by members of the Army unit. He declined to provide further information.

The U.S. military said the Army Criminal Investigation Command was looking into the matter.

``This alleged action is repugnant to our common values,'' Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya said from the U.S. base at Bagram. ``This command takes all allegations of misconduct or inappropriate behavior seriously and has directed an investigation into circumstances surrounding this allegation.''

A U.S. military spokeswoman, Sgt. Marina Evans, said investigators would check whether the purported act violated the Geneva Convention, which says the dead must be ``honorably interred, if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged.''

The Afghan Defense Ministry launched its own investigation, Karzai's spokesman, Karim Rahimi, said.

``We strongly condemn any disrespect to human bodies regardless of whether they are those of enemies or friends,'' he told the AP.

US Troops Burned Bodies In Afghanistan Because 'They Stank'; Clerics Warn of Backlash
Oct 24, 2005
By Ahmad Al-Marid, JUS Afghan Correspondent

US soldiers burned the bodies of two Taliban fighters in Afghanistan because villagers had not claimed them a day after they were killed and the bodies "were bloated and they stank," a US magazine reported, citing soldiers who were present at the incident. According to the article published on Time magazine's website, a US army platoon was sharing a rocky hilltop above Gonbaz village in southern Afghanistan with the bodies of the two fighters.

"The Taliban men had been killed in a firefight 24 hours earlier and in the 90 degree (Fahrenheit, 32 degrees Celsius) heat, their bodies had become an unbearable presence," Time reported, citing soldiers who were present. "We decided to burn the bodies ... because they were bloated and they stank," Time reported, citing a soldier. Under the Geneva Convention, the disposal of war dead "should be honorable, and, if possible, according to the rites of the religion the deceased belonged."

The United States has gone to great lengths to win over Afghans, sending billions in aid and using its troops for humanitarian work. But TV footage purportedly showing US soldiers burning the bodies of Taliban rebels threatens to fray that goodwill. With Islamic clerics warning of a violent anti-American backlash, the alleged desecration of dead Muslims has American commanders scrambling to contain a public relations calamity that comes as they struggle to bolster support for their war against a stubborn insurgency.

Cremating bodies, even those of animals, is banned in Islam. One Muslim cleric in the Afghan capital, Kabul, said, "Bodies should only be burned in hell. The burnings of these bodies is an offense to Muslims everywhere. ... It makes no difference that they were Taliban," the cleric, Said Mohammed Omar, told The Associated Press outside his mosque.

Some students called for street demonstrations. "We must protest this. If we don't, U.S. soldiers will do the same thing again," said Zabiola, a student leader at Kabul University, who like many Afghans uses only one name. Another student, Jamshid Agha, speaking after Friday prayers, said that when he heard the news, he was "so angry with America, I felt like taking a weapon and fighting."

The last anti-American protests in Afghanistan that turned violent were in May over a report by Newsweek, later retracted, that U.S. soldiers at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility abused Islam's holy book, the Quran. Australia's SBS television network this week broadcast a video purportedly showing American soldiers burning the bodies of two suspected Taliban fighters in hills outside southern Gonbaz village, which is in a region plagued by Taliban activity. The footage shows about five soldiers in light-colored military fatigues, which did not have any distinguishing marks, standing near a bonfire in which two bodies were laid side by side.

The network said the video was taken by a freelance journalist, Stephen Dupont. He told AP it was taken Oct. 1 while he was embedded with the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade. For some Afghans, the damage was already done. "During the past quarter-century of war, I have never heard of anyone burning dead bodies," said a senior cleric in Kandahar, Abdul Qayum. "The Americans claim to be here to bring peace, but what are we supposed to think about this?"

Clerics Call for Christian Convert's Death Despite Western Outrage

Associated Press

Thursday , March 23, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan — Senior Muslim clerics said Thursday that an Afghan man who converted from Islam to Christianity must be executed and if the government caves into Western pressure and frees him they will incite people to "pull him into pieces."

The trial of Abdul Rahman has fired passions in this conservative Muslim nation and highlighted a conflict of values between Afghanistan and its Western backers.

"Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die," said cleric Abdul Raoulf, who is considered a moderate and was jailed three times for opposing the Taliban before the hardline regime was ousted in 2001.

Rahman, a 41-year old former medical aid worker, faces the death penalty under Afghanistan's Islamic laws for becoming a Christian. His trial, which began last week, has caused an international outcry. U.S. President George W. Bush has said he is "deeply troubled" by the case and expects the country to "honor the universal principle of freedom."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that she received assurances from Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a telephone call that Rahman would not be sentenced to death.

"I have the impression that he (Karzai) has a firm willingness" to abide by the human rights requirements and "I hope we will be able to resolve this," Merkel said going into pre-EU summit talks.

Diplomats have said the Afghan government was searching for a way to drop the case, and on Wednesday authorities said Rahman is suspected of being mentally ill and would undergo psychological examinations to see whether he is fit to stand trial.

But three Sunni preachers and a Shiite one interviewed by The Associated Press in four of Kabul's most popular mosques said they don't believe Rahman is insane.

"He is not crazy. He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian," said Hamidullah, chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque.

"The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed."

Raoulf, who is a member of the country's main Islamic organization, the Afghan Ulama Council, agreed, saying, "The government are playing games. The people will not be fooled."

"Cut off his head!" he exclaimed, sitting in a courtyard outside Herati Mosque. "We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there's nothing left."

He said the only way for Rahman to survive would be for him to go into exile outside Afghanistan.

But Said Mirhossain Nasri, the top cleric at Hossainia Mosque, one of the largest Shiite places of worship in Kabul, said Rahman must not be allowed to leave the country.

"If he is allowed to live in the West then others will claim to be Christian so they can too," he said. "We must set an example. ... He must be hanged."

The clerics said they were angry with the United States and other countries for pushing for Rahman's freedom.

"We are a small country and we welcome the help the outside world is giving us, but please don't interfere in this issue," Nasri said. "We are Muslims and these are our beliefs. This is much more important to us than all the aid the world has given us."

Afghanistan's constitution is based on Shariah law, which is interpreted by many Muslims to require that any Muslim who rejects Islam be sentenced to death.

Hamidullah warned that if the government frees Rahman, "There will be an uprising" like one against Soviet occupying forces in the 1980s.

"The government will lose the support of the people," he said. "What sort of democracy would it be if the government ignored the will of all the people."

Meanwhile, human rights group Amnesty International issued a statement, saying that if Rahman has been detained solely for his religious beliefs, he would be a "prisoner of conscience."

"The charges against him should be dropped and if necessary he should be protected against any abuses within the community," the London-based group said.

Rahman is believed to have lived in Germany for nine years after converting to Christianity while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan. He returned to Kabul in 2002.

It was not immediately clear when Rahman's trial will resume. Authorities have barred attempts by the AP to see him and he is not believed to have a lawyer.