Summary: We shouldn't be surprised that very few in Afghanistan or Iraq spoke out against the treatment of Christian Abdul Rahman. They didn't for the same reason that any group of people doesn't speak out about any important issue--fear of the violent, vocal minority. Many in Iraq, which is 5% non-Muslim, fear to make themselves a target by speaking out in the Sunni/Muqtada al Sadr-created atmosphere of violence, but there are some who are speaking out. Afghanistan is less than 1% non-Muslim, which recently had to endure first the northern Alliance and then the Taliban causing untold destruction against anyone who didn't subscribe to their narrow-minded views of Islam. Besides, the United States itself endures some forms of oppression against which many dare not speak out, so we should be able to understand why the Afghanis and Iraqis don't speak out either.
Richard Cohen expresses his surprise in the March 28th Washington Post that so few Muslims are speaking out against the treatment of Christian Afghani citizen Abdul Rahman. There are some Muslims speaking out, but it does not surprise me in the least that so few are--they don't dare to. And at this point I don't blame them.
Only 1% of Afghanistan is not Muslim. For centuries they have lived in fear of one dominating tribe or the other. Most recently the Northern Alliance (NA) swept through the country causing all kinds of havoc with those who didn't live according to their very narrow interpretation of Islam. Not long thereafter, the Taliban sent the NA packing and imposed a much more deadly form of terrorism on the Afghan people. It takes a lot of time for such an attitude to erase itself from a society dominated in such a way, not to mention how much longer it might take for someone in that society to feel comfortable that the evil taskmasters are really gone.
Iraq is 5% non-Muslim, and not many people are speaking out about the Abdul Rahman affair. Many of them, like the Afghanis, are so busy just trying to make sure they get by in life that they probably don't even know about the Rahman affair, much less have time to care about it. Even if they cared, would they want to draw attention to themselves in a Sunni-terrorist infested atmosphere? And currently, to make matters less comfortable, the vitriolic Muqtada al Sadr is trying to one-up the Sunni insurgency with his vehement brand of violence.
Yet some here in Iraq are speaking out. Sunni Muslims generally espouse a 'violence-is-okay' interpretation of the Quran, yet the 60% of the Iraqi population who are Shia' believe the diametric opposite when it comes to promulgating religion. That portion of the Iraqi Shia', such as Muqtada al Sadr, who are heavily influenced by Iran, are an aberration to Shia' Islam, which is most accurately represented by the Ayatollah Ali Hussaini Sistani. Sistani advocates non-violence as a solution to Iraq's problems, much as Muhammad felt that violence was not appropriate in the furtherance of Islam. An example of what Muhammad taught, according to an Iraqi, can be found by clicking here.
I have two very dear Iraqi friends that I have met since I came to Iraq. I have not spoken with them about the Abdul Rahman affair, but I have spoken with them in great detail about Christianity and learned much from them about Islam. I and my friends have a mutual love and respect for each other and our equally great religions. They are not offended by Christianity and agree that anyone is free to choose which religion they belong to. But I don't think they would dare express that view very loudly, out of fear of retribution from the vocal, violent minority.
To say that all Muslims hate and want to forcefully convert all others to their faith is pure polemic. It is untrue. Such demands are being perpetrated by a violent and vocal minority. Besides, we in America should be used to it. After all, how many blacks dare speak out when their children are accused of acting white when they try to do well in school? How many people dare say what they really think about public display of homosexuality and other perversions in the United States? How many people dare speak up while getting extorted by the likes of Jesse Jackson or the ACLU?
It's not hard to see how the silent Afghan and Iraqi majorities wouldn't speak out on an issue that for them could be a matter of life and death. After all, a majority of Americans fail to speak out under similar oppression in America, even though the stakes for us are much lower.