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Newly-elected Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper continues to impress in his first few weeks on the job. Not only has he declared himself committed to Canada's participation in securing Afghanistan, but he also has shown that he doesn't fear using his leverage to press the Karzai government on fundamental human rights. Harper called Hamid Karzai today to express his "concerns" about Abdul Rahman, the Christian convert facing the death penalty for his abandonment of Islam (via Michelle Malkin):
Prime Minister Stephen Harper phoned Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai Wednesday to express his concerns about an Afghan man facing a death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity.
"President Karzai listened to my concerns and we had a productive and informative exchange of views," Harper said in a written statement.
"Upon the conclusion of the call, he assured me that respect for human and religious rights will be fully upheld in this case."
Meanwhile, The United Church of Canada is suggesting Ottawa use its position in Afghanistan -- with 2,200 troops in the country's south as part of a Canadian-led multinational brigade -- to promote human rights.
These rights include "the rights of Afghans to choose and change religion without fear of losing their lives,'' the letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said.
Harper has proven himself more nimble at international politics than the White House this week. This case provides a clear example of the difficulties in bringing democracy as a guarantor of human rights to the ummah, and it puts the US in the position of criticizing the government it desperately wants to support. Understandably, Washington does not want to give the impression that Karzai lacks our support. It could undermine Karzai and the democratic government we have worked hard to build if we start issuing ultimatums.
However, the same is equally true for Harper, and added to that is Harper's tenuous political position as the largely untested leader of a minority government in a parliamentary system. Harper has taken on considerable risk in deploying the large contingent of Canadian troops to Afghanistan in support of the Coalition effort, especially given the unease north of the 49th about America's military efforts there and in Iraq. However, Harper hasn't let that get in the way of defending the values that matter most to people in the West -- freedom of conscience and freedom of faith. If we are not willing to take a stand and defend those, then we have conceded critical territory.
Too bad the White House could not have done the same thing. Instead, it sent a quiet message via an undersecretary, giving the impression that the US has few concerns about freedom in the region. This follows on the heels of the incoherent response to the Prophet Cartoon riots. Again, the US has given a strange, mixed message about the very values we have set out to defend in this war.Sphere It View blog reactions
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