The big news today is that the al-Qaida thug who has been leading the terrorists in Iraq has been killed by a U.S. air strike. Go Air Force! The body of Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been identified by fingerprints and distinguishing body marks. And in even better news, this air strike was a two-fer as it killed Sheik Abdul Rahman at the same time.

I view the death of people with sadness, even the death killers like al-Zarqawi and Saddam’s sons, Odai and Qusai Hussein. The chance to turn their lives around is now gone, but so is the opportunity for additional murders and mayhem. And I can accept that. Michelle Malkin has a good round-up of the current news, and I fully expect this to be top news on all the talk and news shows today.

So, who will spot the first “Yeah, but where’s Osama?” sentence in any of the main stream media’s reporting today?

UPDATE (6/8/2006 9:46:25 AM): Little Green Footballs has the air strike video and my favorite post title for the day.

The case against Abdul Rahman was dropped. He was accused of apostasy for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity, and for that, many Muslim clerics called for his death. Michelle Malkin reports that Rahman has left Afghanistan and has arrived in Italy. The question remains whether a worldwide fatwa will be issued calling for his death.

But maybe I’m just being pessimistic.

I read an AP news story today linked from the Drudge Report. The Afghan court has dropped the case against Abdul Rahman for his crime of becoming a Christian for lack of evidence. It is expected that he will be released soon. This is good news, but he’s not completely out of the woods yet.

An official closely involved with the case told The Associated Press that it had been returned to the prosecutors for more investigation, but that in the meantime, Rahman would be released.

Unless he leaves the country quickly, he will live under the threat of the case being reopened. It is also worth noting the many Muslim clerics who have threatened to have him killed even if he is released. As one cleric said, “We must set an example… He must be hanged.” Or others might think it’s OK to leave Islam.

When I realized that leaving Islam is an act punishable by death, it reminded me of the Iron Curtain thrown up by the Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe countries. They claimed that the wall was to keep the West out, but the truth is it was created to keep their people in. And people who were willing to challenge their edict that they couldn’t leave were sometimes killed as they attempted the crossing. I remember visiting the museum at Checkpoint Charlie in West Berlin in the mid-80s. In the museum was a large map showing the wall around West Berlin, and hundreds of little black crosses circled the city, showing where people had died trying to leave the East.

I don’t want to see Abdul Rahman become a little black cross showing that he died trying to leave Islam.

It appears that Afghan President Karzai is intervening into the case of Abdul Rahman. Afghani clerics are demanding that Rahman be killed for the horrible crime of converting to Christianity. All together now, “Ooo! The horror!” Nicely done.

While still vowing to incite the people to kill Rahman if he is set free, the Afghani clerics also reacted to President Karzai, and one is wanting to get down to the root cause of all this:

Another cleric, Ayatullah Asife Muhseni, told a gathering of preachers and intellectuals at a Kabul hotel that the Afghan president had no right to overturn the punishment of an apostate.

He also demanded that clerics be able to question Rahman in jail to discover why he had converted to Christianity. He suggested it could have been the result of a conspiracy by Western nations or Jews.

Hat tip to Little Green Footballs.

I wrote already about Abdul Rahman, but he is hitting the news more. Michelle Malkin has done a great job covering this story. She pointed today to an AP story by Daniel Cooney. Let me quote it in full here with comments bolded by me:

Convert must die, Afghan clerics declare

DANIEL COONEY, Kabul March 24 2006

An Afghan man who converted from Islam to Christianity must be executed, clerics in Afghanistan claimed, adding they would incite people to “pull him into pieces” if the government caved into Western pressure and freed him.

The trial of Abdul Rahman has highlighted a conflict of values between Afghanistan and its Western backers.

“Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die,” said Abdul Raoulf, considered a moderate cleric.

Rahman, 41, faces the death penalty under Afghanistan’s Islamic laws. His trial, which began last week, has caused an international outcry. George W Bush has said he is “deeply troubled” by the case.

Condoleezza Rice, his secretary of state, yesterday telephoned Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, seeking a “favourable resolution”.

Rice told Abdullah Abdullah, the Afghan foreign minister who was visiting Washington, that the prosecution was “contrary to universal democratic values” for which the United States fought in Afghanistan.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said she had received assurances from Karzai that Rahman would not be sentenced to death, as did Stephen Harper, the Canadian premier. Canada has 2300 troops in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar and commands a Nato mission there.

Diplomats say the Afghan government is seeking for a way to drop the case, and authorities had said Rahman was suspected of being mentally ill and would have tests to see whether he was fit for trial.

However, preachers in four Kabul mosques said they did not believe Rahman was insane. “He is not crazy. He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian,” said Hamidullah, chief cleric at Haji Yacob mosque.

“The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed.

Raoulf, a member of the Afghan Ulama Council, the country’s main Islamic organisation, agreed. “The government are playing games. The people will not be fooled.

“Cut off his head!” he exclaimed at Herati mosque. “We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there’s nothing left.”

He said the only way for Rahman to survive would be for him to go into exile.

However, Said Mirhossain Nasri, the top cleric at Hossainia mosque, said Rahman must not be allowed to leave.

“If he is allowed to live in the West then others will claim to be Christian so they can too,” he said. “We must set an example… He must be hanged.

The clerics said they were angry with other countries for pushing for Rahman’s freedom.

“We are a small country and we welcome the help the outside world is giving us, but please don’t interfere in this issue,” Nasri said. “We are Muslims and these are our beliefs. This is much more important to us than all the aid the world has given us.”

Hamidullah warned of a popular uprising if the government freed Rahman.

Rahman is believed to have lived in Germany for nine years after converting to Christianity while working as an aid worker for a group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan. He returned to Kabul in 2002.–AP

So what we see here is Abdul Raoulf, a Muslim cleric, calling for Rahman’s death and promising to instigate the people to tear this apostate to bits. And Raoulf is considered by some to be a moderate Muslim cleric. Another cleric, Mirhossain Nasri, is saying that exile is too good for him. Rahman needs to be killed to keep others from leaving Islam. Nice people.

I don’t think this is going to be resolved without Rahman being killed, either by the Afghani government or by the Afghani people. And other than writing here and calling the government in Washington D.C., there’s not a thing I can do for Rahman.

But I’ll tell you what I will do: I’m going to laugh in the face of the next person who tells me that Islam is the “Religion of Peace.”

UPDATE (3/24/2006 5:19 PM): OK, so I might have spoken too soon. According to this news report, Rahman is likely to be released “soon” from jail. So will he die at the hands of the people if he is released?

UPDATE (3/24/2006 9:40 PM): Michelle Malkin has a great round-up of information of all the latest developments. Apparently, an Afghani cleric said the following: “The prophet says when somebody changes religion, he must be killed.” She also lists the reactions of other bloggers. Well worth reading.

Once again we are seeing a call for death in the name of religion. No, I’m not talking about someone strapping a bomb to himself so he can explode in a crowded shopping area. I’m talking about Muslim-born Abdul Rahman, who converted to Christianity. For this act of heresy, his family turned him over to the Afghani leaders, who have put him on trial for the crime of leaving the Muslim faith. If Rahman is found guilty of apostasy, he will die.

I’ll write it again: the punishment for leaving Islam, the Religion of Peace ™, is death. I’ll give you a moment to ponder the irony of this idea.

As a church-going Christian, I have seen people choose to leave my faith. While I am sad to see them go, I’m not going to kill them for leaving. It is a basic tenet of my faith that everyone has the privilege to “worship how, where, or what they may.” (Article of Faith 11) But in Afghanistan, Rahman does not have that privilege because the government has determined that he may not leave his Muslim faith. Doing so is apostasy, a crime worthy of death.

It is particularly painful for me to watch this unfold. Years ago, a friend of my family left his Muslim faith to become a Christian. When he returned to his native Pakistan in the late 1980s, he was brutally killed for his “crime” of apostatizing from Islam.

Michelle Malkin has been busy writing about Abdul Rahman and this life-threatening crisis. If the Afghanis in charge have their way, Rahman will become a modern Christian martyr.

If Rahman is killed, I can envision the ACLU using his death as an example of what the U.S. would look like under the auspices of the Christian Right. If you worry about the Christian Right telling you what to do, I’d like to give you a challenge: list all the laws that have been passed in the United States because of Christianity. I’ll match you 2-for-1 with laws that have been passed thanks to pressure by environmentalists.