Once again, we find ourselves in the parallel universe of alternative, advocacy, alternative, "conservative news." The only problem is that the story in question is worthy of actual mainstream news. There is nothing "conservative" about it, for old-fashioned liberals who are committed to religious liberty and human rights, as defined by the United Nations. Your GetReligionistas would argue that the public would be better served by mainstream coverage of this case.
So what's the story? Here is an update from a "conservative" website, Independent Catholic News:
An Iranian pastor could be executed if he refuses to give up his faith. Rev Yousef Nadarkhani has twice refused to recant his Christian faith during two court hearings held in Rasht, Gilan Province on 25 and 26 September. Sources close to Christian Solidarity Worldwide indicate that recanting will again be demanded at sessions scheduled for 27 and 28 September, and that if he continues to refuse, he will be executed thereafter.
Pastor Nadarkhani was tried and found guilty of apostasy (abandoning Islam) in September 2010 by the court of appeals in Rasht. The verdict was delivered verbally in court, while written confirmation of the death sentence was received nearly two months later. At the appeal in June 2011, the Supreme Court of Iran upheld Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s sentence, but asked the court in Rasht, which issued the initial sentence, to re-examine whether or not he had been a practicing Muslim adult prior to converting to Christianity. The written verdict of the Supreme Court’s decision included provision for annulment of the death sentence if Pastor Nadarkhani recanted his faith.
Following investigation, the court in Rasht has ruled that Pastor Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim adult before becoming a Christian. However, the court has decided that he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry.
Meanwhile, over at the "Religious Right Now" blog at the On Faith site at the Washington Post, we have this crisp piece of dialogue from one of the court proceedings in Iran:
When asked to “repent” by the judges, Youcef stated, “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”
The judges replied , “To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.”
To which he replied, “I cannot.”
Sadly, this piece of hard news is found in the midst of a blog post that, while backed by numerous links to hard documentation, is written in a rather typical advocacy journalism style. That's normal, at a conservative weblog -- even one hosted by the Post.
My point, once again, is simple: Where is the actual news coverage by the mainstream press? This is a life-or-death issue in a land that is of great concern, these days, to the U.S. government.
The mainstream press is, obviously, highly sensitive about some human-rights issues in Iran. This is what happens -- go ahead and click -- if you run a Google News search right now for the terms "Iran," "hikers" and "release." You remember this story? Here's a Los Angeles Times update:
In a no-holds-barred statement, two Americans who spent 781 days in an Iranian prison on spying charges called themselves hostages of sour U.S.-Iranian relations and described the screams of prisoners being beaten, the mental manipulation of their jailers, and how they lived in "a world of lies and false hope" until their sudden release last week.
Gone was the diplomacy and the words of gratitude to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that marked the statements from their fellow prisoner Sarah Shourd one year ago, when she was freed after 410 days in prison ahead of companions Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.
Now, I realize that Americans being jailed in Iran is automatically more newsworthy to American readers than the looming death of a Protestant pastor who dared to leave Islam (even if he had never practiced the faith) and wanted to teach his Christian faith to his own children.
Some human-rights cases are more important than others, these days. I get that, sort of. However, this subject is vitally important for millions of Americans -- secular and religious, liberal and conservative -- who care about fundamental human rights. It also represents a major turn for the worse IN IRAN. According to the U.S. State Department, this would be the first execution for apostasy there since 1990.
I guess, although this is a painful metaphor, the mainstream press will simply cover Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani when he is dead.
If only he was an American who was hiking, not a blasphemer in Iran.