One of the things I have noticed about the blogosphere, as well as the media in general, is the outrage du jour. We read about something or see something on the television that outrages us at that particular moment, and then after the brief passage of time, it gets forgotten, to be replaced by a new outrage du jour.
One case that received a lot of attention in the atheist blogosphere at the beginning of the year was Pervez Kambaksh, a journalism student in Afghanistan who was charged with the crime of blasphemy for disseminating articles that were deemed insulting to Islam. (As an aside, I think I insult Islam just by waking up and getting out of bed every morning!)
I did a couple of posts about Pervez Kambaksh (by the way, his name has different spellings, but I will stick with the one I have been using) here and here. Since then, his name seems to have faded from the public consciousness. Wondering what had happened to him, I did some searching on Google.
From a May 18, 2008 article from the UK publication The Independent Online:
Pervez Kambaksh, the Afghan student sentenced to death after being accused of downloading internet reports on women's rights, yesterday pleaded innocent to charges of blasphemy. He told an appeal court in Kabul that he had been tortured into confessing.
Mr Kambaksh, 24, vehemently denied that he had been responsible for producing anti-Islamic literature. He insisted the prosecution had been motivated by personal malice of two members of staff and their student supporters at the university in Balkh, where he was studying journalism.
The head of the panel of three judges at Kabul, Abdul Salaam Qazizada, adjourned the trial until next Sunday to allow Mr Kambaksh further attempts to find a lawyer. As of last night they had not succeeded. The original trial took place in January. Mr Kambaksh's appeal was moved to Kabul at his own request, amid fears for his safety in Mazar after international outrage at the sentence. A petition by The Independent to secure justice for him has attracted more than 100,000 signatures.
In an open letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai dated June 11, 2008 by the organization Reporters Without Borders, the case of Pervez Kambaksh was raised:
"You must of course be aware, Mr. President, of the case of the young journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, which has shocked the entire world. The death sentence passed on him by a court in Mazar-i-Sharif triggered a wave of legitimate outrage. More than a million people have already signed a petition launched by the British newspaper The Independent calling for his release. The recent revelation that he was tortured by members of the security services casts doubt on your government’s ability to respect the relevant international standards.
How, Mr. President, can you ask for greater support from western countries when, at the same time, judges, prosecutors, political leaders and some clerics are targeting Afghan journalists with such virulence in your country?
Kambakhsh’s release and the quashing of his death sentence would be a positive signal in an otherwise sombre panorama."
I urge everyone who reads this post to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in their respective countries and demand that the charges against Pervez Kambaksh be dropped and his life spared. Of course, be forceful but also respectful. The idea here is to persuade, not to condemn.
The website for the Embassy of Afghanistan in the United States is here. A man's life hangs in the balance here, and if the Afghan government catches enough heat from this, they might find some face saving way of letting Pervez Kambaksh go free.