by Mark Angelides
The act of leaving a religion, Apostasy, is one that is ignored almost entirely by our governments. Not only are apostates from Islam abused and murdered by other followers, but our leaders seem to be blocking out their voices when it comes to talking about the much needed reformation of the Islamic faith.
Until Western governments follow the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which says:
“The Committee observes that the freedom to ‘have or to adopt’ a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one’s current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views … Article 18.2 bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.”
then we will continue to have a fundamentalist view of Islam at the forefront of debates and negotiations.
There are currently 16 countries that have punishments for Apostasy around the world:
- Afghanistan – illegal (death penalty, though the U.S. and other coalition members have put pressure that has prevented recent executions)
- Brunei – per recently enacted Sharia law, Section 112(1) of the Brunei Penal Code states that a Muslim who declares himself non-Muslim commits a crime that is punishable with death, or with up to 30 year imprisonment, depending on the type of evidence. However, if the accused has recanted his conversion, he may be acquitted of the crime of apostasy.
- Iran – not in the Penal Code.
- Jordan – possibly illegal (fine, child custody loss, marriage annulment) although officials claim otherwise, convictions are recorded for apostasy
- Kuwait – Apostasy is not illegal in Kuwait, although apostasy is penalized in family courts for Muslims. For Muslims, apostasy in family court can result in loss of child custody, inheritance rights and normally annulment if married to a Muslim.
- Malaysia – illegal in five of thirteen states (fines) if they do not get conversion permission from Sharia court.
- Maldives– illegal for Muslim nationals (loss of citizenship). Illegal to proselytise for religions other than Islam.
- Mauritania – illegal (death penalty if still apostate after 3 days)
- Morocco – not illegal, but official Islamic council decreed apostates should be put to death. Illegal to proselytise for religions other than Islam (six months to three years imprisonment)
- Oman – illegal (prison) according to Article 209 of Oman penal code, and denies child custody rights under Article 32 of Personal Status Law
- Qatar – illegal (death penalty)
- Saudi Arabia – illegal (flogging, imprisonment and death penalty, although there have been no recently reported executions)
- Somalia – illegal (death penalty)
- Sudan – illegal (death penalty)
- United Arab Emirates – illegal (3 years’ imprisonment, death penalty)
- Yemen – illegal (death penalty)
In all of these countries it IS NOT illegal to convert TO Islam. And whilst recorded figures show that in reality, very few people are actually executed, this is unlikely to reflect the true levels of apostasy. If you were living in one of these countries and decided to give up your beliefs, you would be unlikely to go public.
Our leaders need these countries to know that they have to give up these punishments. We are well within our legal rights to cut off diplomatic ties and especially Foreign Aid to countries that continue to punish people for their religious convictions (or lack of).
Not only do we need to encourage apostate voices in any dialogue that takes place regarding Muslim majority nations, but we also need to be providing support to the very real refugees that have renounced Islam and are facing persecution, imprisonment and in many cases death.
This is the 500th Anniversary of the Christian Reformation, it’s about time that other ideologies caught up.