2A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 20, 2006
Man could be
sentenced to death for
changing from Islam to
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - An
Afghan man is being prosecuted in a
Kabul court and could be sentenced
to death on a charge of converting
from Islam to Christianity, a crime
under this country's Islamic laws, a
judge said yesterday.
The trial is believed to be the
first of its kind in Afghanistan and
highlights a struggle between reli-
gious conservatives and reformists
over what shape Islam should take
here four years after the ouster of
the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban
years in Pakistan, Rahman moved
to Germany for nine years, his
father, Abdul Manan, said outside
his Kabul home.
Rahman returned to Afghanistan
in 2002 and tried to gain custody of
his two daughters, now aged 13 and
14, who had been living with their
grandparents their whole lives, the
father said. A custody battle ensued
and the matter was taken to the
During questioning, it emerged
that Rahman was a Christian and
was carrying a Bible. He was imme-
diately arrested and charged, the
Afghanistan is a conservative
Islamic country. Some 99 percent
of its 28 million people are Mus-
lim, and the remainder are mainly
was arrested last
month after his
him of becom-
ing a Christian,
Press in an inter-
was charged with
and his trial start-
"We are not against
religion in the world.
But in Afghanistan,
this sort of thing is
against the law. It is
an attack on Islam."
- Ansarullah Mawlavezada
aid worker in
spoke on condi-
tion of anonym-
ity because of
the sensitivity of
the matter, said
there was no
for the number
though it was
believed to be
only in the doz-
ens or low hun-
dreds. He said
few admit their
faith because of
n and there are no
NEWS IN BRIEF
HEADLINES FRO AROUND THE WORLD
Activists, students protest jobs law
Police loosed water cannons and tear gas on rioting students and activists rampaged
through a McDonald's and attacked store fronts in the capital Saturday as demonstra-
tions against a plan to relax job protections spread in a widening arc across France.
The protests, which drew 500,000 people in some 160 cities across the country, were
the biggest show yet of escalating anger that is testing the strength of the conservative
government before elections next year.
At the close of a march in Paris that drew a crowd of tens of thousands, seven officers
and 17 protesters were injured during two melees, at the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris
and the Sorbonne University. Police said they arrested 156 people in the French capital.
Four cars were set afire, police said, and a McDonald's restaurant was attacked along
with store fronts at the close of the march.
Tensions escalated later Saturday as about 500 youths moved on to the Sorbonne,
trying to break through tall metal blockades erected after police stormed the Paris
landmark a week ago to dislodge occupying students.
The university has become a symbol of the protest.
Incumbent opens lead in Belarus race
Iron-fisted incumbent Alexander Lukashenko was headed to an overwhelming
win in yesterday's presidential vote in the former Soviet republic of Belarus, the
elections chief said. Thousands of opposition supporters protested the results in the
city's main square.
The protesters chanted "Long Live Belarus!" and the name of the main opposi-
tion candidate, Alexander Milinkevich. Some waved a national flag that Lukash-
enko banned in favor of a Soviet-style replacement, while others waved European
Union flags. Milinkevich arrived later.
The crowd in Oktyabrskaya square hooted when a large video screen broadcast
a live statement from the Central Election Commission chief, who hailed the vote
as a success with minimal violations.
Lidia Yermoshina said Lukashenko won 92.2 percent of the vote in hospitals and
military units, where about 1.2 percent of the nation's eligible voters cast ballots.
States look to legislation to reduce dropouts
Pressured to boost graduation rates under the federal No Child Left Behind law,
school districts nationwide are looking for ways to keep students in the classroom.
Many are turning to lawmakers for answers.
Indiana this month passed a bill that would allow students under 18 to drop out
only for health, financial or legal reasons. New Hampshire's Senate gave prelimi-
nary approval to a measure that would raise the age at which students can drop out
from 16 to 18.
Educators, lawmakers and social service agencies say finding a solution is cru-
cial. Studies have found that dropouts are more likely to wind up in prison or on
public assistance than those with diplomas. And schools can face sanctions under
No Child Left Behind if their graduation rates fall short.
RAFAH, Gaza Strip
No agreement reached on Gaza border crossing
Israel, Palestinian and U.S. negotiators failed yesterday to resolve a border cross-
ing crisis that has caused shortages of vital food products in Gaza, but Palestinians
were hopeful the main cargo crossings could open after more meetings Monday.
Palestinian economic misery was likely to deepen as Hamas militants sworn to
Israel's destruction presented their new Cabinet to Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas. The Islamic group's failure to bring moderate forces into its government is
likely to strengthen Western resolve to cut off desperately needed aid.
American officials called an emergency meeting Sunday with the Palestin-
ians and Israelis to try to resolve the border crossing standoff, saying Palestinian
humanitarian needs rpust be addressed.
- Compiled from Daily wire reports
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A ship passes the New York skyline on Friday. Republicans blocked a Demo-
cratic effort last Wednesday to force House votes on expanding government
scrutiny of foreign investments, the latest fallout of the failed Dubal ports deal.
the defendant confessed that he con-
verted from Islam to Christianity 16
years ago while working as a medi-
cal aid worker for an international
Christian group helping Afghan ref-
ugees in the Pakistani city of Pesha-
war, Mawlavezada said.
"We are not against any particu-
lar religion in the world. But in
Afghanistan, this sort of thing is
against the law," the judge said. "It
is an attack on Islam."
Mawlavezada said he would rule
on the case within two months.
Afghanistan's constitution is
based on Shariah law, which is inter-
preted by many Muslims to require
that any Muslim who rejects Islam
be sentenced to death, said Ahmad
FahimHakim, deputy chairman of
the state-sponsored Afghanistan
Independent Human Rights Com-
Repeated attempts to interview
Rahman in detention were barred.
The prosecutor, Abdul Wasi, said
he had offered to drop the charges
if Rahman converted back to Islam,
but he refused.
"He would have been forgiven
if he changed back. But he said he
was a Christian and would always
remain one," Wasi told AP. "We are
Muslims and becoming a Christian
is against our laws. He must get the
After being an aid worker for four
fear of retr
known Afghan churches.
An old house in a war-wrecked
suburb of Kabul serves as a Chris-
tian place of worship for expatriates.
From the muddy street, the build-
ing looks like any other. Its guard,
Abdul Wahid, said no Afghans go
The only other churches are
believed to be inside foreign embas-
sies or on bases belonging to the
U.S.-led coalition or a NATO peace-
Hakim, the human rights advo-
cate, said the case would attract
widespread attention in Afghanistan
and could be exploited by Muslim
conservatives to rally opposition to
reformists who are trying to mod-
erate how the religion is practiced
"The reformists are trying to
bring about positive changes," he
said. "This case could be fertile
ground for extremists to manipulate
Muslim clerics still hold consider-
able power in Afghanistan, especial-
ly in rural areas where most women
wear all-encompassing burqas and
are dominated by men.
Hakim said that if Rahman was
acquitted, it would be a propaganda
win for the Taliban rebels, who have
stepped up their insurgency in the
Fight over control of
U.S. ports spurs debate
about foreign ownership
WASHINGTON (AP) - The furor
over efforts by an Arab company to
buy U.S. port operations has focused
attention on a little noticed economic
fact of life: America increasingly is
From the ritzy Essex House hotel in
Manhattan, owned by the Dubai Invest-
ment Group, to the nationwide chains of
Caribou Coffee and Church's Chicken,
owned by another company serving Arab
investors, foreigners are buying bigger
and bigger chunks of the country.
The U.S. must borrow more than
$2 billion per day from foreigners to
finance its huge trade deficits. In 2005,
for example, there was a record deficit
of $805 billion in the current account,
the broadest measure of trade.
Foreigners sell their televisions, cars
and oil to Americans and hold dollars
in return. Those dollars are invested in
stocks, bonds and other assets, includ-
ing real estate and factories.
Foreigners already own half of the
U.S. government's publicly traded
debt. As of January, some $2.19 tril-
lion in Treasury securities were in
the hands of central banks, includ-
ing China and Japan, and private
At the end of 2004, the total foreign
direct investment in this country -
actual factories, office buildings and
other tangible assets as opposed to
stocks and bonds _ came to $1.53 tril-
lion, 8.2 percent more than in 2003.
That investment shows up in all of
the 50 states.
In Oakland, Maine, it's a customer ser-
vice center for T-Mobile USA Inc., which
is a subsidiary of German-based Deutsche
Telekom. In Glendale, Calif., it's the U.S.
headquarters for Nestle, the Swiss-based
food and beverage company.
Arab investment has gotten the
most scrutiny of late because of the
now-withdrawn bid by a Dubai-based
company to buy operations at six
major U.S. ports. But statistics show
that Arab investments represent only a
fraction of the total direct investment
in the U.S. by foreigners.
European nations accounted for
$977 billion, or two-thirds, of the
$1.53 trillion of foreign direct invest-
ment, according to figures compiled
by the Commerce Department.
By contrast, Arab countries in the
Middle East accounted for $9.3 bil-
lion, led by $4.7 billion in investment
from Saudi Arabia. The United Arab
Emirates was second among Middle
East Arab countries with $1.8 billion
in investments, according to the data.
DP World of Dubai said last week
it intends to sell its U.S. operations
to an American-owned company. But
that has not stopped some members
of Congress from seeking to overhaul
the way such deals are reviewed by a
secretive government panel.
DoNN M. FREsARD
Editor in Chief
Sun.-Thurs. 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Continued from page 1
settlement in Palestinian territory.
"We should support an inquiry on
moral principle. The occupation is
wrong, and efforts promoting its end are
morally right actions," Philosophy Prof.
David Skrbina of UM-Dearborn wrote in
the University Record last October.
Issue divides student gov'ts
When a resolution for a divestment
committee came before the Michigan
Student Assembly last March, hundreds
of students and community members
attended the meeting. It had to be moved
to a larger ballroom, and then-MSA
president Jason Mironov barely man-
aged to control the raucous crowd.
Mironov gave a passionate anti-divest-
ment speech just before the vote. Some
present at the meeting believed the speech
had a strong impact on the voting.
The resolution was voted down.
Out of the 40 MSA representatives, 25
voted against the resolution, II voted in
favor of it and 4 abstained.
One of those abstentions was Michi-
gan Progressive Party presidential candi-
date Rese Fox.
Following the letter to the regents,
some pro-Israel students have high-
lighted Fox's abstention in expressing
concern about another divestment vote if
Jen Gonik, a member of the American
Movement for Israel, wrote an e-mail to
members of the pro-Israel community
Saturday urging them to vote for Stu-
dents 4 Michigan because the party sup-
"Students 4 Michigan has been pro-
active in promoting the interests of Pro-
Israel students," she wrote.
She discouraged students from vot-
ing for MPP, citing Fox's abstention and
MPP's alleged endorsement of the pro-
divestment Defend Affirmative Action
But MPP leaders said they have never
supported DAAP as a party.
"MPP has never endorsed any candi-
dates in other parties," MPP chair Jon
Koller said in a statement yesterday. "At
no time did the party endorse any DAAP
Gonik said she found the endoresements
on a blog of MPP representative candidate
Travis Radina. MPP said the blog did not
represent the party's official endorsements.
The post has since been removed.
Fox said she abstained last spring not
because she supports divestment from
Israel, but because she was not educated
enough on the topic and her constituency
Neither Fox nor S4M presidential can-
didate Nicole Stallings now support MSA
taking up the discussion of divestment.
"MSA doesn't exist to create rifts at
U of M, it exists to support students and
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