Death Sentence for Translating the Koran

Is there a difference between the current government of Afghanistan and the Taliban? 2 face death over Quran translation.

The book appeared among gifts left for the cleric at a major Kabul mosque after Friday prayers in September 2007. It was a translation of the Quran into one of Afghanistan’s languages, with a note giving permission to reprint the text as long as it was distributed for free.

Some of the men of the mosque said the book would be useful to Afghans who didn’t know Arabic, so they took up a collection for printing. The mosque’s cleric asked Ahmad Ghaws Zalmai, a longtime friend, to get the books printed.

But as some of the 1,000 copies made their way to conservative Muslim clerics in Kabul, whispers began, then an outcry. The clerics said Zalmai, a stocky 54-year-old spokesman for the attorney general, was trying to anoint himself as a prophet. They said his book was trying to replace the Quran, not offer a simple translation. Translated editions of the Quran abound in Kabul markets, but they include Arabic verses.

The country’s powerful Islamic council issued an edict condemning the book. “In all the mosques in Afghanistan, all the mullahs said, ‘Zalmai is an infidel. He should be killed,’” Zalmai recounted as he sat outside the chief judge’s chambers waiting for a recent hearing.

Zalmai lost friends quickly. He was condemned by colleagues and even by others involved in the book’s printing. A mob stoned his house one night, said his brother, Mahmood Ghaws.

Police arrested Zalmai as he was fleeing to Pakistan, along with three other men the government says were trying to help him escape. The publisher and the mosque’s cleric, who signed a letter endorsing the book, were also jailed.

(Hat tip: Lawhawk.)

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