Converts in the Muslim world 

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Converts in the Muslim world


Converts from Islam to Christianity are often hunted in the Muslim world, where virtually all religious authorities agree that such individuals deserve death. Muhammad himself commanded such a punishment: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.” This is still the position of all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, although there is some disagreement over whether the law applies only to men, or to women also.


At Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the most prestigious and influential institution in the Islamic world, an Islamic manual certified as a reliable guide to Sunni Muslim orthodoxy states: “When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatises from Islam, he deserves to be killed.” Although the right to kill an apostate is reserved in Muslim law to the leader of the community and other Muslims can theoretically be punished for taking this duty upon themselves, in practice a Muslim who kills an apostate needs to pay no indemnity and perform no expiatory acts (as he must in other kinds of murder cases under classic Islamic law). This accommodation is made because killing an apostate “is killing someone who deserves to die.”


IslamOnline, a website manned by a team of Islam scholars headed by the internationally influential Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, explains, “If a sane person who has reached puberty voluntarily apostatises from Islam, he deserves to be punished. In such a case, it is obligatory for the caliph (or his representative) to ask him to repent and return to Islam. If he does, it is accepted from him, but if he refuses, he is immediately killed.” And what if someone doesn’t wait for a caliph to appear and takes matters into his own hands? Although the killer is to be “disciplined” for “arrogating the caliph’s prerogative and encroaching upon his rights,” there is “no blood money for killing an apostate (or any expiation)” – in other words, no significant punishment for the killer.


An Afghan named Abdul Rahman knows all this well. In February 2006, he was arrested for the crime of leaving Islam for Christianity. The Afghan Constitution stipulates that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.” Even after his arrest, Western analysts seem to have had trouble grasping the import of this provision. A “human rights expert” quoted by the Times of London summed up confusion widespread in Western countries: “The constitution says Islam is the religion of Afghanistan, yet it also mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 18 specifically forbids this kind of recourse. It really highlights the problem the judiciary faces.”


But in fact there was contraction. The Constitution may declare its “respect” for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it also says that no law can contradict Islamic law. The Constitution’s definition of religious freedom is explicit: “The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam. Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law ” [ My emphasis ].


The Islamic death penalty for apostasy is deeply ingrained in Islamic culture -- which is one reason why it was Abdul Rahman’s own family that went to police to file a complaint about his conversion. Whatever triggered their action in 2006, they could be confident that the police would receive such a complaint with the utmost seriousness.


After an international outcry, Abdul Rahman was eventually spirited out of Afghanistan to relative safety in Italy. Despite the publicity, his case was hardly unique.





Text book Jihad in Egypt


By Andrew G. Bostom


A "mock beheading" video located at radical Sheikh Abu Hamza's website (, which featured three young Muslim boys who pretended to behead a fourth[1], has elicited the appropriate public revulsion. But little fanfare, let alone outrage, has accompanied the release of a detailed study of Egyptian children's textbooks, whose inculcation of anti-infidel hatred is potentially far more damaging[2]. For example, explicit sanctioning for jihad-related beheadings is provided in a seemingly pedestrian manner:



"Studies in Theology: Tradition and Morals, Grade 11, (2001) pp. 291-92


...This noble [Qur'anic] Surah [Surat Muhammad]... deals with questions of which the most important are as follows: 'Encouraging the faithful to perform jihad in God's cause, to behead the infidels, take them prisoner, break their power, and make their souls humble - all that in a style which contains the highest examples of urging to fight. You see that in His words: "When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads and, when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly. Then grant them their freedom or take a ransom from them, until war shall lay down its burdens.'"


"Commentary on the Surahs of Muhammad, Al-Fath, Al-Hujurat and Qaf, Grade 11, (2002) p. 9


When you meet them in order to fight [them], do not be seized by compassion [towards them] but strike the[ir] necks powerfully.... Striking the neck means fighting, because killing a person is often done by striking off his head. Thus, it has become an expression for killing even if the fighter strikes him elsewhere. This expression contains a harshness and emphasis that are not found in the word "kill", because it describes killing in the ugliest manner, i.e., cutting the neck and making the organ - the head of the body - fly off [the body].' "



Although chilling to our modern sensibilities, particularly when being taught to children, these are merely classical interpretations of the rules for jihad war, based on over a millennium of Muslim theology and jurisprudence[3]. And the context of these teachings is unambiguous, as the translator makes clear:



"[the] concept of jihad is interpreted in the Egyptian school curriculum almost exclusively as a military endeavor? it is war against God's enemies, i.e., the infidels? it is war against the homeland's enemies and a means to strengthening the Muslim states in the world. In both cases, jihad is encouraged, and those who refrain from participating in it are denounced."



Teaching Egyptian school children anti-infidel jihad hatred is clearly a long, ongoing, and ignoble tradition even within the modern era. As the scholar E. W. Lane reported after several years of residence in both Cairo and Luxor (initially in 1825-1828, then in 1833-1835):



"I am credibly informed that children in Egypt are often taught at school, a regular set of curses to denounce upon the persons and property of Christians, Jews, and all other unbelievers in the religion of Mohammad”[4].



Lane translated the prayer below from a contemporary 19th century text Arabic text, containing a typical curse on non-Muslims, recited daily by Muslim schoolchildren:



"I seek refuge with God from Satan the accursed. In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. O God, aid El-Islam, and exalt the word of truth, and the faith, by the preservation of thy servant and the son of thy servant, the Sultan of the two continents (Europe and Asia), and the Khakan (Emperor or monarch) of the two seas [the Mediterranean and Black Seas], the Sultan, son of the Sultan (Mahmood) Khan (the reigning Sultan when this prayer was composed). O God, assist him, and assist his armies, and all the forces of the Muslims: O Lord of the beings of the whole world. O God, destroy the infidels and polytheists, thine enemies, the enemies of the religion. O God, make their children orphans, and defile their abodes, and cause their feet to slip, and give them and their families, and their households and their women and their children and their relations by marriage and their brothers and their friends and their possessions and their race and their wealth and their lands as booty to the Muslims: O Lord of the beings of the whole world." [5]



The seminal modern scholar of Islamic civilisation, S.D. Goitein, warned more than a century later, in 1949, speaking of the Arab world generally, in particular Egypt:



"Islamic fanaticism” is now openly encouraged. Writers whose altogether Western style (was mentioned earlier) have been vying with each other for some time in compiling books on the heroes and virtues of Islam. What has now become possible in educated circles may be gathered from the following quotation from an issue of the ”New East”, an Arab monthly periodical describing itself as the organ of the academic youth of the East:


Let us fight fanatically for our religion; let us love a man-because he is a Muslim; let us honour a man- because he is a Muslim; let us prefer him to anyone else-because he is a Muslim; and never let us make friends with unbelievers, because they have nothing but evil for us[6].



And a decade later, in 1958, Lebanese Law Professor Antoine Fattal, perhaps the greatest scholar of the legal condition of non-Muslims living under the Shari'a, lamented:



"No social relationship, no fellowship is possible between Muslims and dhimmis... Even today, the study of the jihad is part of the curriculum of all the Islamic institutes. In the universities of Al-Azhar, Nagaf, and Zaitoune, students are still taught that the holy war is a binding prescriptive decree, pronounced against the Infidels, which will only be revoked with the end of the world..."



Sadly, almost fifty years after Fattal made his observations, the sacralised hatred of jihad is still being inculcated as part of the formal education of Muslim youth in Egypt, the most populous Arab country, and throughout the Arab Muslim, and larger non-Arab Muslim world. We in the West must press our political and religious leaders to demand that such bellicose, hate-mongering "educational" practices be abolished in Islamic nations, under threat of severe, broad ranging economic sanctions.





1. Muslim kids stage mock beheading

2. Jews, Christians, War and Peace in Egyptian School Textbooks

3. Bostom, Andrew. Treatment of POWs., March 28, 2003. Bostom, Andrew. The Sacred Muslim Practice of Beheading. FrontPage, May 13, 2004.

4. Lane, E.W. An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, New York, 1973, p. 276.

5. Lane, E.W. Modern Egyptians, p. 575.

6. Goitein, S.D. Commentary, January 1949, "Cross-Currents in Arab National Feeling", p. 161.

7. Fattal, Antoine. Let Statut Legal de Musulmans en Pays' d'Islam, Beirut, 1958; pp. 369, 372




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