Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of April 10, 2006)

All Quiet on the Celebrity Front

  By John Martin

All though the story had a happy ending, it’s worth noting that the voices of Hollywood, television, rock and roll and other entertainment mediums were nowhere to be heard with respect to Abdul Rahman.  He’s the man who was facing death in Afghanistan for the crime of converting to Christianity.  Despite the emergence of something resembling a democratic government in Afghanistan, it would appear even the most basic of human rights continue to be denied.  In the end, international pressure from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, President Bush and other principled western leaders resulted in charges being dropped and Rahman allowed to leave the country.

For embracing the Bible, justice officials were salivating at the opportunity to “cut him into little pieces” and the country’s Attorney General promised to hang Rahman, after a trial of course.

But what was equally disturbing was the roaring silence on this side of the planet.

Whereas entertainers and movie stars seem to take up the cause of every death row inmate at home, neither Susan Sarandon nor anyone else came to Rahman’s defense.

Steve Earle penned a song sympathetic to John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, and used to dedicate tunes at his shows to the memory of Ted Bundy.  Nothing on Steve’s website about rallying support for Rahman.

Hollywood has been throwing annual fundraisers on behalf of convicted cop killer and death row inmate, Mumia Abu-Jamal for over two decades.  Tim Robbins, Ed Asner, and Alec Baldwin have organized marches and demonstrations on four different continents.

An “A” list of Hollywood stars spent the last half of 2005 pleading with California Governor Schwarzenegger to commute the death sentence of Crips founder, Stanley “Tookie” Williams.  Despite killing four people in cold blood, Tookie became the new darling of the jet set.

We’ve got a movie about the life and times of Tookie, starring Jamie Fox that brought a tear filled standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival.  Robert Redford made a documentary sympathetic to convicted cop killer and death row inmate, Leonard Peltier.  But the Rahman story just didn’t seem to resonate among those with star power.

Ted Danson, Harry Belafonte and Snoop Dog fought the good fight on behalf of Tookie.    Ditto for Elliot Gould and Jackson Browne.  It seems these folks have plenty of time to rally around someone facing death for killing police and convenience store workers.

But speaking out on behalf of someone who was going to swing for the high crime of having a Bible just didn’t seem to fit into their day timers.

Sean Penn, Michael Moore and a host of other blowhards make a lot of noise about rights and freedom. 

Why so timid on religious freedom?

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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