This morning I read disturbing news about an Afghan that converted to Christianity and now might be facing the death penalty for choosing a religion different from Islam.

A man could be sentenced to death after being charged with converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under Afghanistan’s shariah laws, a judge said yesterday. The trial is thought to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam will take four years after the fall of the Taliban.

Abdul Rahman, 41, was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada told Associated Press. The accused was charged with rejecting Islam. During the one-day hearing on Thursday, the defendant allegedly confessed to converting to Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, Judge Mawlavezada said. Source: [The Guardian]

What’s really disturbing about all this, in my opinion, is that this is happening in the supposedly post-Taliban era. It is no secret that those that covert to Christianity in the Arab and the Muslim world get harassed, but to be threatened with death is really horrendous.

Sadly enough, Jordan is another country where converts to Christianity will not only be ostracized, but will be also harassed by the authorities. To be fair, anyone changing religion in Jordan, whether from Islam to Christianity or vise versa, faces social ostracization. The difference, though, is that in the case of converting to Christianity one can expect to spend some time behind bars as was the case with a Jordanian couple I blogged about last year.

Ask Samer and Abeer. Last September Jordanian security police connected to the country’s Mukhabarat, or intelligence agency, showed up at the couple’s home unannounced. They arrested Samer and detained him overnight. Samer’s crime: coming to faith in Jesus Christ 14 years ago. Originally a Muslim, Samer over the years since his conversion has been questioned several times by security police but never detained. This time, the police turned him over to the Islamic courts. The judges convicted Samer of apostasy. In a Nov. 23 decision the court decreed that his identification papers must be changed from "Muslim" to "no religion;" that he had forfeited any inheritance; that his marriage to Abeer is now illegal and therefore he is not entitled to custody of his son.

The US State Department 2005 report on religious freedom in Jordan also mentions this issue :

Members of unrecognized religious groups and converts from Islam face legal discrimination and bureaucratic difficulties in personal status cases. Converts from Islam additionally risk the loss of civil rights. There is no statute that expressly forbids proselytizing Muslims. However, Shari’a courts have the authority to prosecute proselytizers.

I’m fully aware that this topic is very controversial so I’m not going to say much besides reiterating what I said last year: In my humble, unbiased opinion I think that if Jordan intends to tread on a truly democratic path, then its citizens should be given the basic right of practicing a religion of their own choosing.