Now that the surge in Iraq has brought the country relative calm, many eyes are turning to the increasing chaos gripping Afghanistan. While the country's Western backed president, Hamid Karzai
, has stated a commitment to combatting religious extremism and the Taliban, much of the country is witnessing a revival of fundamentalism, even within the official Afghan judicial system.
Sayed Pervez Kambaksh
is a young man who has suffered greatly at the hands of Afghanistan's resurgent Islamic Courts. Accused of blasphemy, for allegedly downloading literature promoting women's rights from the internet, Kambaksh was sentenced to death after only five minutes in the courtroom. His lawyer was not present, and Kambaksh has already served nearly 9 months in Afghan prisons. The international community has seized upon the case, demanding the release of Kambaksh, but a number of widely respected Islamic scholars in the country are defending the court's decision. Enayatullah Baleegh, an imam at one of Kabul's largest mosques, has declared:
"Kambaksh has deviated from religion, and Islam orders that he must be executed. The courts of Afghanistan, as per the constitution, have sentenced him to death and we certify this 100%."
In order for the execution to go forward, President Karzai must provide his approval, which he has yet to give. The sentence gives particular insight into the juggling act Karzai must perform between the West, to whom he owes his position, and the Afghan people. Eager to prove his independence, Karzai recently opposed the appointment of prominent British diplomat Paddy Ashdown as the U.N.'s Special Envoy to Afghanistan, a move some say was motivated by anti-British sentiment and Karzai's fear of appearing too weak. It remains to be seen how he will handle this incendiary, and tragic, court ruling.