"When an adult male is taken captive, the caliph considers the interests ... (of Islam and the Muslims) and decides between the prisoner's death, slavery, release without paying anything, or ransoming himself in exchange for money or for a Muslim captive held by the enemy." -- 'Umdat al-Salik, o9.14
Of course, that refers to combatants, not to civilians. But these hostages are Christian missionaries, whose proselytizing is considered in Islamic law to be an act of aggression in itself. Thus the Taliban can reasonably respond to Karzai that the hostage are not "foreign guests," but enemies of Islam, and thus that the hostage-takers have acted in accord with Islamic law on this.
It would be refreshing if Karzai addressed and explained such matters, and perhaps thereby convinced some of the Taliban that their actions were contrary to Islam, rather than simply asserting that this hostage-taking was un-Islamic without explaining why.
By Emal Haidary and Laura King for the Los Angeles Times (thanks to all who sent this in):
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — President Hamid Karzai declared Sunday that the abduction of 23 South Korean church workers by Taliban militants was an un-Islamic act that brought disgrace on Afghanistan.
Karzai issued his statement, his first since the hostage crisis began, after meeting with Baek Jong-chun, a special envoy sent by South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.
Eighteen of the captives are women, and Karzai said their abduction was a particularly heinous act.
"Hostage taking and abuse of foreign guests, especially women, is against Islam and the Afghan culture," Karzai's office quoted him as telling the envoy. "The perpetration of this heinous act on our soil is in total contempt of our Islamic and Afghan values."
Similar sentiments were voiced Sunday by Afghanistan's national council of clerics.
Meanwhile, a purported Taliban spokesman set a new deadline of noon today for the freeing of 23 militants held by Afghan authorities, threatening to kill the hostages if the demand was not met.
"If the Kabul administration fails to meet our conditions by then, we will start killing the hostages," Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the kidnappers, said by telephone.
The Korean church workers were seized by militants July 19 as they traveled on a public bus along the Kabul-Kandahar highway. The group's leader, a pastor, was shot and killed by his captors Wednesday, setting off a wave of grief and dismay in South Korea.