Back in September of 2009 I posted a story on my frethink.com blog regarding the pending deportation of an individual to his home country, a country that still lives by social codes common to the 1st century. Had he been deported he faced execution for apostasy. Laws against apostasy (renouncing the state religion) and heresy (speaking out against the state religion) are still common in middle-Eastern countries. I wanted to highlight this story because the injustice embodied in his story needed to be exposed.
Several days ago I received an email from the gentleman who was the subject of that post. The following is a portion of that email, with references to the specific country removed so as not to risk further violence against him.
"I am writing to you to ask you very urgently to remove this story from your website. I was very grateful for the publicity a few months ago because it helped in my campaign against deportation back to ****, where the law says I would be stoned to death for having left the Muslim faith. But now the presence of this material on the internet is putting my family’s lives in danger, as they have had reports of Islamic extremists in **** using my name and photograph to try to find them, and threatening to kill them because of their connection to me. Please believe me when I say that I have every reason to believe that these men really do intend to do what they say, and that I am in constant terror that they will actually do it. I could never forgive myself if my family were killed because of me. I am therefore begging you to remove all information about me from your website, as soon as you possibly can, and to be especially careful to make sure that all photographs are removed.
I know it is hard for anyone in a Western country to imagine that a whole family could be murdered because one person stops being a Muslim, but in ****, where there are many extremist Muslims who really believe that they will go to heaven for murdering an apostate or anyone connected with him, it really is something that could happen…Please please please help me and my family by doing these things urgently. It really is a matter of life and death.
Thank you very much for helping to save my family."
This request put me in an awkward position and presents a moral dilemma.
I certainly have no respect for any religion or philosophy that would threaten the life of a person or his family over a difference in opinion. In fact I think threats like this need further exposure in order to show the true character of these oppressive and inhumane theocracies. Normally I would gladly name names and be as specific as possible so that no one could question the reality of this personal terrorism. Radical Islam in the 21st century has adopted the attitude and methods of the Catholics during the Spanish Inquisition. They attempt to have heresy declared an international crime and terrorize those who openly challenge their violent tactics. They win every skirmish in which we are too fearful to speak out against them. Al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists have caused us to go about our everyday lives in fear, fear of the next airplane bombing, fear of reprisals against our troops, fear of our own freedoms.
Yet I am also aware of the fact that no matter how righteous I may feel my position is in opposition to Islamic extremism, I have no right to put this man and his family in harm’s way. I cannot in good conscience risk his family being killed just so that I can be specific in the examples I provide of theocratic inhumanity.
I’m also aware that this could be a scam, a way for the theocracy that this man fears to make sure this story disappears from world view and scrutiny. By sending out this appeal in his name they could ensure that we would willingly censure ourselves and save them the effort of defacing our sites or creating a denial of service attack. After all, a DDoS attack is far more complicated than exploding underwear.
So as not to be hoodwinked, I checked the other sites referenced elsewhere in his email and found that those sites have removed all references to his earlier story. Even their cached pages return a 404 page. This leads me to accept the veracity of his claims.
So I’m following a path that allows me to speak out against state-sponsored terrorism against its critics while preserving this man’s anonymity. My post about him has been removed from public view and all references to his name and nationality in this post have been expunged. All that I’ve left intact is the story of a man who by speaking his mind and holding unpopular beliefs has been subjected to intimidation and death threats by a religion so insecure in its own validity that it can only maintain its authority through such practices.
Perhaps keeping the identity of this individual hidden achieves an important purpose; it allows us to understand that this issue is larger than one man against one intolerant regime. Thousands of people in totalitarian theocracies suffer every day by being different, by being non-believers or believers in other religions, by being gay and being women.