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Islamophobia · Attitudes towards terrorism


Apostasy in Islam
Islamic terrorism
Homosexuality and Islam
The Satanic Verses controversy
Islam and domestic violence
Islam and antisemitism
Islam and slavery
Namus · Honor killings
Death by stoning

Notable modern critics

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Ayaan Hirsi Ali · Irshad Manji
Daniel Pipes · Philippe de Villiers
Alexandre del Valle · Ibn Warraq
Geert Wilders · Oriana Fallaci
Robert Spencer · Theo van Gogh
Afshin Ellian · Salman Rushdie
Ahmad Kasravi · Taha Hussein
Turan Dursun · Wafa Sultan
Lord Pearson

Extremist related events since 2001

Apostasy in Islam (Arabic: ارتداد, irtidād or ridda‎) is commonly defined as the rejection in word or deed of their former religion (apostasy) by a person who was previously a follower of Islam.

The four major Sunni Madh'hab (schools of Islamic jurisprudence) all agree that apostasy is a sin as long as the individual does not do so in ignorance or under duress[1][2]. They also differentiate between harmful apostasy and harmless apostasy[3] (also known as major and minor apostasy)[4]. According to Wael Hallaq nothing of the apostasy law are derived from the Qur'an,[5] although the jurist al-Shafi'i interpreted the Qu'ranic verse 2:217 as providing the main evidence for apostasy being a capital crime in Islam.[6]

Some Islamic jurists, such as Hanafi jurist Sarakhsi,[7] Maliki jurist Abu al-Walid al-Baji, and Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyyah,[8] and some contemporary Islamic jurists, such as Shafi`i Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa[9][10] and Shi'a Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri,[11] argued or issued fatwas that either the changing of religion is not punishable or is only punishable under restricted circumstances[12][13][14][15] Some groups within Islam such as the Shi'a Ismaili reject death for apostasy altogether.

Some prominent contemporary examples of death sentences threatened or issued for apostasy include Salman Rushdie, who was condemned to death in 1989 by Ayatollah Khomeini,[16] (ruler of Iran at the time) for his book The Satanic Verses; and Abdul Rahman, an Afghan convert to Christianity who was arrested and jailed on the charge of rejecting Islam in 2006 but later released as mentally incompetent.[17]

Qur'anic reference

The Qur'an states that God (in Arabic, Allah) despises apostasy. See verses [Qur'an 3:72], [Qur'an 3:90],[Qur'an 16:106],[Qur'an 4:137] and [Qur'an 5:54] which deal with apostasy directly and which state that Allah will punish and reject apostates in the afterlife. Except 16:106-109, the verses that discuss apostasy all appear in surahs identified as Madinan and belong to the period when the Islamic state had been established.

W. Heffening states that in Qur'an "the apostate is threatened with punishment in the next world only," adding that Shafi'is interpret verse [Qur'an 2:217] as adducing the main evidence for the death penalty in the Qur'an. Wael Hallaq holds that "nothing in the law governing apostate and apostasy derives from the letter of the holy text."[5]

The dissenting Shia jurist Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, a significant Shi'a religious authority, states that the above verses do not prescribe an earthly penalty for apostasy.[11]

Sunni Hadith references

Heffening holds that contrary to the Qur'an, "in traditions, there is little echo of these punishments in the next world ... and instead, we have in many traditions a new element, the death penalty."[6] Examples of such passages include 9:83:17, 4:52:260, 9:84:57, 9:84:58, 9:89:271, etc.

Wael Hallaq states the death penalty was a new element added later and "reflects a later reality and does not stand in accord with the deeds of the Prophet."[5] Montazeri believes that it is probable that the punishment was prescribed by Muhammad during early Islam - due to political conspiracies against Islam and Muslims, and not only because of changing the belief or expressing it. Montazeri defines different types of apostasy. He does not hold that a reversion of belief because of investigation and research is punishable by death, but prescribes capital punishment for a desertion of Islam out of malice and enmity towards the Muslim community.[11]

According to Tafsir

More recently, Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, a noted 20th century Islamic Scholar argued that verses [Qur'an 9:11] of the Qur'an sanction death for apostasy. The argument given by Mawdudi[18] for these verses is:

"The following is the occasion for the revelation of this verse: During the pilgrimage (hajj) in A.H. 9 God Most High ordered a proclamation of an immunity. By virtue of this proclamation all those who, up to that time, were fighting against God and His Apostle and were attempting to obstruct the way of God's religion through all kinds of excesses and false covenants, were granted from that time a maximum respite of four months. During this period they were to ponder their own situation. If they wanted to accept Islam, they could accept it and they would be forgiven. If they wanted to leave the country, they could leave. Within this fixed period nothing would hinder them from leaving. Thereafter those remaining, who would neither accept Islam nor leave the country, would be dealt with by the sword." In this connection it was said: "If they repent and uphold the practice of prayer and almsgiving, then they are your brothers in religion. If after this, however, they break their covenant, then war should be waged against the leaders of kufr (infidelity). Here "covenant breaking" in no way can be construed to mean "breaking of political covenants". Rather, the context clearly determines its meaning to be "confessing Islam and then renouncing it". Thereafter the meaning of "fight the heads of disbelief" ([Qur'an 9:11]) can only mean that war should be waged against the leaders instigating apostasy."

Mawdudi's interpretation is supported by other Muslim writers. For example, Afzal ur-Rahman in Muhammad, Blessing for Mankind, Seerah Foundation, London, Revised Second Edition, 1988, p. 218 under "Apostasy" states:

"People who turn away from Islam and do not repent but wage war and create mischief in the land are also considered as murderers. "But if they break their oaths after making compacts and taunt you for your faith, you should fight with these ringleaders of disbelief because their oaths are not trustworthy: it may be that the sword alone will restrain them" ([Qur'an 9:12]). And in Surah Al-Nahl, "But whosoever accepts disbelief willingly, he incurs God's Wrath, and there is severe torment for all such people"([Qur'an 16:106])

However, there are also some scholars that reject Mawdudi's interpretation. S. A. Rahman (in Punishment of Apostasy in Islam, Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore, 1972, pp. 10–13) concluded "that not only is there no punishment for apostasy provided in the Book but that the Word of God clearly envisages the natural death of the apostate. He will be punished only in the Hereafter...." (p. 54)

He continues and says that there is no reference to the death penalty in any of the 20 instances of apostasy mentioned in the Qur'an.

In his book on Punishment of Apostasy in Islam, Rahman declares the verse [Qur'an 2:256] to be "one of the most important verses of the Qur'an, containing a charter of freedom of conscience unparalleled in the religious annals of mankind . . .". He goes on to criticize the attempts by Muslim scholars over the ages to narrow its broad humanistic meaning and impose limits on its scope in their attempts to reconcile it with their interpretations of Muhammad's Sunna. However, Maqaalaat li'l-Shaykh Ibn Baaz [1] rejects the idea that 2:256 deals with apostasy, and claims that it only applied to non-Muslim dhimmis who were paying their jizya, and that it was subsequently abrogated.

What constitutes apostasy in Islam

Attributes of apostasy according to some Muslims include:[who?]

Regarding monotheism and polytheism

  • A public declaration or conduct that denies Islam, its beliefs, symbols or its principal actors such as statements as "I believe in gods other than Allah", or "God has a material form."
  • Worshiping an idol
  • Denying the existence of God
  • Saying the world has always existed from eternity, in such a way that it denies the existence of God as a creator
  • Saying that the world is everlasting and without end, in such a way that it could be interpreted as a denial of resurrection

Regarding prophethood of Muhammad

  • Rejecting Muhammad's claim to be a prophet, or denying the concept of prophethood.
  • Implying that one can become a prophet through spiritual exercise, since that would imply the possibility of a prophet after Muhammad.
  • Saying that there were prophets after Muhammad.

Regarding beliefs

  • Any clearly blasphemous action, such as burning the Qur'an out of contempt, and every manner of soiling it out of contempt or hatred. The same may also apply to the Hadiths books.
  • Contradicting the positions that are upheld by a consensus (ijma) of Muslim scholars (ulema), such as saying that prayers or fasting are not obligatory, or that the prohibition of adultery does not have to be followed. Not following these doctrines does not make one an apostate, but saying they need not be followed does.
  • Denying that the books before Islam (i.e. Christian and Jewish Scriptures) come from Allah (God) or denying their existence - it's part of the 10 tenets of Faith in Islam to respect those Scriptures, as they also came from God.

In Islamic society apostasy must be determined by the testimony of two adult Muslim witnesses, in respectable standing, whose accounts agree. Also, any death penalty case has to be determined by the testimony of four adult Muslim witnesses, in respectable standing, whose accounts agree, for the execution to occur.

Punishment for apostasy


Legal opinion on apostasy by a Fatwa committee concerning the case of a man who converted to Christianity: "Since he left the Islam, he will be invited to express his regret. If he does not regret, he will be killed pertaining to rights and obligations of the Islamic law."

In Islamic law (sharia), the consensus view is that a male apostate must be put to death unless he suffers from a mental disorder or converted under duress, for example, due to an imminent danger of being killed. A female apostate must be either executed, according to Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), or imprisoned until she reverts to Islam as advocated by the Sunni Hanafi school and by Shi'a scholars.[19]

A minority of medieval Islamic jurists, notably the Hanafi jurist Sarakhsi (d. 1090),[7] Maliki jurist Ibn al-Walid al-Baji (d. 494 AH) and Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328), held that apostasy carries no legal punishment.[8] Some contemporary Islamic Shafi`i jurists, such as the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa,[9][10] some Shi'a jurists such as Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri,[11] and some jurists, scholars and writers of other Islamic sects, have argued or issued fatwas that either the changing of religion is not punishable or is only punishable under restricted circumstances, but these minority opinions have not found broad acceptance among the majority of Islamic scholars.[20][21][22][23]

Preferred form of execution

Most Islamic scholars agree that the appropriate punishment for apostasy is beheading. Mamluk Sultan Baybars II also practiced torture of apostates. A case is recorded when a woman who had apostatised was led through the streets of Cairo dragged on her bottom, then strangled in a boat in the middle of the Nile and thrown into the river. In modern times, followers of the Ahmadiyya sect in Afghanistan were stoned to death. The execution for apostasy was abolished in most Muslim lands in the 19th century either through European pressure or through the direct European rule; however, cases of imprisonment and deportation of apostates still occurred. Nevertheless, even nowadays apostates are not sure of their lives, as their Muslim relatives frequently try to kill them.[19]

Ideally, the one performing the execution of an apostate must be an imam.[19] At the same time, all schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that any Muslim can kill an apostate without punishment.[24]

Applying law in the Muslim world

Most countries of the Middle East and North Africa maintain a dual system of secular courts and religious courts, in which the religious courts mainly regulate marriage and inheritance. Saudi Arabia and Iran maintain religious courts for all aspects of jurisprudence, and religious police assert social compliance. Sharia is also used in Sudan, Libya and Afghanistan. Some states in northern Nigeria have reintroduced Sharia courts. In practice the new Sharia courts in Nigeria have most often meant the reintroduction of relatively harsh punishments without respecting the much tougher rules of evidence and testimony. The punishments include amputation of one/both hand(s) for theft, stoning for adultery, and execution for apostasy. In 1980, Pakistan, under the leadership of President Zia-ul-Haq, the Federal Shariat Court was created and given jurisdiction to examine any existing law to ensure it was not repugnant to Islam[6] and in its early acts it passed ordinances that included five that explicitly targeted religious minorities: a law against blasphemy; a law punishing the defiling of the Qur'an; a prohibition against insulting the wives, family, or companions of the Prophet of Islam; and two laws specifically restricting the activities of Ahmadis, who were declared non-Muslims.

Under traditional Islamic law[25] an apostate may be given up to three days while in incarceration to repent and accept Islam again and if not the apostate is to be killed without any reservations. There are difference between the four schools in the various details on how to deal with the various aspects of imposing the penalties with respect to the material property and holdings of the apostate and in the status and rights of the family of the apostate. A distinction is also made between "Murtad Fitri", an apostate who was born of Muslim parents, and "Murtad Milli", an apostate who had converted into Islam initially. Some additional penalties and considerations that are mentioned are that a divorce is automatic if either spouse apostatize, an under age apostate is imprisoned till he reaches maturity and then he is killed, and the recommended execution is beheading with a sword. The examples of Apostasy given below show that these punishments are rarely carried out in toto at present, and also underline the problem in harmonizing the constitutional law and Islamic law in the various countries.

In the period of the early Islamic Caliphate, apostasy was considered treason, and was accordingly treated as a capital offense; death penalties were carried out under the authority of the Caliph, the most famous such incidents being the Martyrs of Cordoba. Today apostasy is punishable by death in the countries of Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Qatar, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan and Mauritania. In Pakistan blasphemy is also punishable by death. Other punishments prescribed by Islamic law include the annulment of marriage with a Muslim spouse, the removal of children and the loss of all property and inheritance rights.

Opposition to execution

According to Cyril Glasse, writing for an encyclopedia published in 2001, death for apostasy was "not in practice enforced" in later times in the Muslim world, and was "completely abolished" by "a decree of the Ottoman government in 1260AH/1844AD."[26]

Some modern Islamic writers, especially those belonging to the Ahmadiyya sect, the followers of which are deemed to be non-Muslims in many Muslim countries, have attempted to prove that the death penalty for an apostate is not mandatory in Islam.[19] S. A. Rahman, a former Chief Justice of Pakistan, argues that there is no indication of the death penalty in the Qur'an.[27] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed argue that the law of apostasy and its punishment by death in Islamic law conflicts with a variety of fundamentals of Islam. They contend that the early development of the law of apostasy was essentially a religio-political tool, and that there was a large diversity of opinion among early Muslims on the punishment.[28] Such views, however, are rejected by mainstream Muslim scholars.[19] Other prominent Islamic scholars like the Grand Mufti of Cairo Sheikh Ali Gomaa have said apostasy should be legal, but stating that God will punish apostates in the afterlife. [29]

Medieval Muslim scholars (eg Sufyan al-Thawri) and modern (eg Hasan at-Turabi), have argued that the hadith used to justify execution of apostates should be taken to apply only to political betrayal of the Muslim community, rather than to apostasy in general.[30] These scholars argue for the freedom to convert to and from Islam without legal penalty, and consider the aforementioned Hadith quote as insufficient confirmation of harsh punishment; they regard apostasy as a serious crime, but undeserving of the death penalty.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, an Islamic scholar, writes that punishment for apostasy was part of Divine punishment for only those who denied the truth even after clarification in its ultimate form by Muhammad (see Itmaam-i-hujjat), hence, he considers it a time-bound command and no longer punishable.[31]

Opposition to the execution based on the Qur'an and Hadith

[And say [O Muhammad]: 'The truth [has now come] you're your Sustainer: let, then, him or her who wills, believe in it, and let him or her who wills, reject it.] (Al-Kahf 18:29)

[There shall be no coercion in matters of faith.] (Al-Baqarah 2:256)

[And so, [O Prophet,] exhort them; your task is only to exhort. You can not compel them [to believe].] (Al-Ghashiyah 88:21-22)

[Thus, [O Prophet,] if they argue with you, say, "I have surrendered my whole being unto God, and [so have] all who follow me' – and ask those who have been vouchsafed revelation aforetime, as well as the unlettered people, 'Have you [too] surrendered yourselves unto Him?' And if they surrender themselves unto Him, they are on the right path; but if they turn away – behold, your duty is no more than to deliver the message: for God sees all that is in [the hearts of] His creatures.] (Aal `Imran 3:20)

[Behold, as for those who come to believe, and then deny the truth, and again come to believe, and again deny the truth, and thereafter grow stubborn in their denial of truth — God will not forgive them, nor will guide them in any way.] (An-Nisaa' 4:137)

Jabir ibn `Abdullah narrated that a Bedouin pledged allegiance to the Apostle of Allah for Islam (i.e. accepted Islam) and then the Bedouin got fever whereupon he said to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) "cancel my pledge." But the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) refused. He (the Bedouin) came to him (again) saying, "Cancel my pledge." But the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) refused. Then he (the Bedouin) left (Medina). Allah's Apostle said, "Madinah is like a pair of bellows (furnace): it expels its impurities and brightens and clear its good." (Sahih Al-Bukhari., Vol.9, hadith 316) [32]

The statement above suggest that apostasy from Islam is not a worldly punishment, but rather that coming from God in Judgment Day in Islam, and give possible reasons behind the Muslims who reject the killing of apostates, seeing it contradicting to the concept of freedom of religion in Islam.

Justifications for the death penalty


In the 20th Century, Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi defended traditional views on apostasy against the idea of freedom of religion in Islam.[33] He summarized what he saw as the most likely objections by critics:

  • This idea is against the freedom of conscience. How can it be right to offer an apostate the gallows when he has decided to leave Islam?
  • A faith which people maintain because of the fear of death cannot be genuine faith. This faith will be manifestly hypocritically chosen to deceive in order to save one's life. (Religious hypocrisy is the ultimate sin in Islam)
  • If all religions approve of execution for apostasy, it will be difficult not only for Muslims to embrace another religion but also for non-Muslims to embrace Islam.
  • It is contradictory to say on one hand "There is no compulsion in religion (Qur'an [Qur'an 2:256])" and "Whosoever will, let him believe and whosoever will, let him disbelieve ([Qur'an 18:29])", and on the other to threaten to punish by death who renounces Islam and moves to reject Islam.

Maududi claims that the misunderstanding and criticism arises because of a "fundamental misconception" about Islam:

If Islam is truly a "religion" in the sense that religion is understood at present, surely it would be absurd to prescribe the penalty of execution for those people who wish to leave it because of their dissatisfaction with its principles. It is not only a "religion" in the modern technical sense of that term but a complete order of life. It relates not only to the metaphysical but also to nature and everything in nature. It discourses not only on the salvation of life after death but also on the questions of prosperity, improvement and the true ordering of life before death.

Maududi also declares:

Whatever objections the critics pose regarding the punishment of the apostate, they make them bearing in mind only a single "religion" (madhhab). In contrast, when we present our arguments to demonstrate the validity of this punishment, we have in view no mere "religion" but a state which is constructed on a religion (din) and the authority of its principles rather than on the authority of a family, clan or people.

And since it is a state, Maududi declares it "has the right to protect its own existence by declaring those acts wrong which undermine its order", and proceeds to equate apostasy to treason. He then discusses the difference between a kafir, a dhimmi, and the appropriateness of death for them if they apostatize after conversion, and for those born of Muslim parents he states:

In any case the heart of the matter is that children born of Muslim lineage will be considered Muslims and according to Islamic law the door of apostasy will never be opened to them. If anyone of them renounces Islam, he will be as deserving of execution as the person who has renounced kufr to become a Muslim and again has chosen the way of kufr. All the jurists of Islam agree with this decision. On this topic absolutely no difference exists among the experts of shari'ah.

Maududi considers the threat of execution as not forcing someone to stay within the fold of Islam, but as a way of keeping those who are not truly committed out of the community of Islam. Maududi rejects the third criticism because unlike other religions which are free to exchange believers, Islam is "on whose ideas and actions society and state are constructed" cannot allow "to keep open its door that would spell its own ruin, the scattering of its own structure's parts, the stripping away of the bonds of its own existence", and he compares this to the treason penalty on the books of the U.S. and Britain. Maududi also rejects the charge of contradiction. In his words:

"There is no compulsion in religion" (la ikraha fi'd din: Qur'an [Qur'an 2:256]) means that we do not compel anyone to come into our religion. And this is truly our practice. But we initially warn whoever would come and go back that this door is not open to come and go. Therefore anyone who comes should decide before coming that there is no going back.


Essentially the same arguments are sketched by the Shi'i Islamic author Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi in the brief article Apostacy (Irtidad) in Islam,[34] relying upon the opinions of some of the earlier scholars of Islam.

However, Ibn Warraq, in his article Apostasy and Human Rights, points out some earlier scholars of Islam who found support in the Qur'an for the death penalty for apostasy. He quotes al-Shafi (died 820 C.E.), the founder of one of the four orthodox schools of law of Sunni Islam that verse [Qur'an 2:217] meant that the death penalty should be prescribed for apostates, and Al-Thalabi and Al-Khazan concurred, and states that Al-Razi in his commentary on 2:217 says an apostate should be killed. Ibn Warraq also quotes commentaries by Baydawi (died c. 1315-1316) on [Qur'an 4:89] as "Whosoever turns back from his belief (irtada), openly or secretly, take him and kill him wheresoever ye find him, like any other infidel". Verse ([Qur'an 4:88]) reads:

Why should ye be divided into two parties about the Hypocrites? ... They wish if you disbelieve as they disbelieved so that you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate in the way of Allah. But if they turn back, seize them and kill them wherever you find them. And do not take from among them any ally or helper, Except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty or those who come to you with hearts restraining them from fighting you or fighting their people. And if Allah had willed, surely He would have given them power over you, so that they would have taken arms against you. Therefore, if they keep away from you and cease their hostility and offer you peace, God bids you not to harm them.

Apostasy in the recent past


The violence or threats of violence against apostates in the Muslim world usually derives not from government authorities but from individuals or groups operating with impunity from the government.[35] An example is the stabbing of a Bangladeshi Murtad Fitri Christian evangelist while returning home from a film version of the Gospel of Luke.[36] Bangladesh does not have a law against apostasy, but some Imams encourage the killing of converts from Islam. Many ex-Muslims in Great Britain have faced abuse, violence, and even murder at the hands of Muslims;[37]. There are similar reports of violent intimidation of those electing to reject Islam in other Western countries.[38]

Other examples of persecution of apostates converting to Christianity have been given by the Barnabas Fund from Kuwait, Sudan, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, Egypt, and Bangladesh. Barnabas Fund report concludes:

"The field of apostasy and blasphemy and related “crimes” is thus obviously a complex syndrome within all Muslim societies which touches a raw nerve and always arouses great emotional outbursts against the perceived acts of treason, betrayal and attacks on Islam and its honour. While there are a few brave dissenting voices within Muslim societies, the threat of the application of the apostasy and blasphemy laws against any who criticize its application is an efficient weapon used to intimidate opponents, silence criticism, punish rivals, reject innovations and reform, and keep non-Muslim communities in their place.

Similar views are expressed by the 'non-religious' International Humanist and Ethical Union.[39]

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

In March 2006, an Afghan citizen Abdul Rahman was charged with apostasy and could have faced the death penalty for converting to Christianity. His case attracted much international attention with Western countries condemning Afghanistan for persecuting a convert. Charges against Abdul Rahman were dismissed on technical grounds by the Afghan court after intervention by the president Hamid Karzai. He was released and left the country to find refuge in Italy. [40]

Two other Afghan converts to Christianity were arrested in March and their fate is unknown. In February, yet other converts had their homes raided by police.[41]

Islamic Republic of Iran

Probably the most prominent contemporary figure accused of apostasy was Salman Rushdie. In 1989 the killing of that author was urged in a fatwa by the Ayatollah Khomeini, the ruler of Iran at the time, for the blaspheme of authoring the book The Satanic Verses.

According to US thinktank Freedom House, since the 1990s the Islamic Republic of Iran has sometimes used death squads against converts, including major Protestant leaders. Under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the regime has engaged in a systematic campaign to track down and reconvert or kill those who have changed their religion from Islam.[42]

15 Ex-Muslim Christians[43] were incarcerated on May 15, 2008 under charges of apostasy. They may face the death penalty if convicted. A new penal code is being proposed in Iran that would require the death penalty in cases of Apostasy on the Internet. [44]

At least two Iranians - Hashem Aghajari and Hassan Youssefi Eshkevari - have been arrested and charged with apostasy in the Islamic Republic (though not executed), not for self-professed conversion to another faith, but for statements and/or activities deemed by courts of the Islamic Republic to be in violation of Islam, and that appear to outsiders to be Islamic reformist political expression.[45] Hashem Aghajari, was found guilty of apostasy for a speech urging Iranians to "not blindly follow" Islamic clerics;[46] Hassan Youssefi Eshkevari was charged with apostacy for attending the 'Iran After the Elections' Conference in Berlin Germany which was disrupted by anti-regime demonstrators.[47]


Bahá'ís in Iran, the nation of origin of the Bahá'í Faith and Iran's largest religious minority, are considered apostates by the Shi'a clergy because of their claim to a valid religious revelation subsequent to that of Muhammad. Iranian law therefore treats Bahá'ís as heretics rather than members of an independent religion, as they describe themselves. Bahá'ís have therefore been subjected to much persecution (documented by various third party entities such as the United Nations, Amnesty International, and the European Union) including beatings, torture, unjustified executions, false imprisonment, confiscation and destruction of property owned by individuals and the Bahá'í community, denial of employment, denial of government benefits, denial of civil rights and liberties, and denial of access to higher education.[48]

In April 2006, after a court case in Egypt recognized the Bahá'í Faith, members of the clergy convinced the government to appeal the court decision. One member of parliament, Gamal Akl of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, said the Bahá'ís were infidels who should be killed on the grounds that they had changed their religion.[49]


Ahmadis, whom many Muslims regard as heretics, suffer a similar fate throughout the Muslim world. The victims also include many Muslims who question restrictive interpretations of Islam. In traditionally moderate Indonesia, Yusman Roy is now serving two years in prison for leading prayers in Indonesian and Arabic instead of only in Arabic. [50]


On March 21, 2006, the Algerian parliament approved a new law requiring imprisonment for two to five years and a fine between five and ten thousand euros for anyone "trying to call on a Muslim to embrace another religion." The same penalty applies to anyone who "stores or circulates publications or audio-visual or other means aiming at destabilizing attachment to Islam."[51]


Turkey, being a secular state, does not implement Islamic Law (Sharia), thus there is no judgement in Turkish legislation for apostasy. Moreover execution , which is the penalty for apostasy in Sharia, is not implemented in Turkey.

More recently, on January 21, 2007, the Central Council of Ex-Muslims was founded in Germany, an association led by Iranian exile Mina Ahadi and Turkish-German immigrant Arzu Toker. The association stands up for former Muslims who chose to abandon Islam. Shortly after going public on February 28, 2007, the group received death threats by radical islamists.[52]

On April 18, 2007, two Turkish converts to Christianity, Necati Aydin and Uğur Yüksel, were killed in the Malatya bible publishing firm murders. Having tortured them for several hours, the attackers then slit their throats. The attackers stated that they did it in order to defend the state and their religion. The government and other officials in Turkey had in the past criticized Christian missionary work, while the European Union -- which Turkey hopes to join -- has called for more freedom for the Christian minority.[53]


The Mohammed Hegazy case, shows the huge problems in that country for those wishing to leave Islam and be recognised as a member of another religion - where Hegazy has suffered death threats from family and prominent Islamic figures alike. A Judge ruled "He (Hegazy) can believe whatever he wants in his heart, but on paper he can’t convert." He is the first Egyptian Muslim convert to Christianity to seek official recognition of his conversion from the Egyptian Government.

In February 2009, a second case came to court, of convert to Christianity Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary, whose effort to officially convert to Christianity, faced opposing lawyers who advocated he be convicted of “apostasy,” or leaving Islam, and sentenced to death.

“Our rights in Egypt, as Christians or converts, are less than the rights of animals,” El-Gohary said. “We are deprived of social and civil rights, deprived of our inheritance and left to the fundamentalists to be killed. Nobody bothers to investigate or care about us.”

El-Gohary, 56, has been attacked in the street, spat at and knocked down in his effort to win the right to officially convert. He said he and his 14-year-old daughter continue to receive death threats by text message and phone call. [54]

Other countries

Vigilantes have killed, beaten, and threatened converts in Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Turkey, Nigeria, Indonesia, Somalia, and Kenya. In November 2005, Iranian convert Ghorban Tourani was stabbed to death by a group of fanatical Muslims. In December 2005, Nigerian pastor Zacheous Habu Bu Ngwenche was attacked for allegedly hiding a convert. In January 2006, in Turkey, Kamil Kiroglu was beaten unconscious and threatened with death if he refused to deny his Christian faith and return to Islam.[55]

In Malaysia, although there has not been violence visited upon apostates, cases such as the Lina Joy episode confirm that Muslim apostasy is illegal and unaccepted by the state.

See also

  • Apostasy in Christianity
  • Apostasy in Judaism
  • List of former Muslims
  • Takfir
  • Apostasy in Malaysia


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  2. "Should an Apostate Be Put to Death?", 27 March, 2006
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  9. 9.0 9.1 Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, Gomaa's Statement on Apostasy, The Washington Post, July 25, 2007.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Nashwa Abdel-Tawab, 'Whosoever will, let him disbelieve', Al-Ahram Weekly, Issue No. 857, 9-15 August 2007.
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  24. Adbul Qadir Oudah (1999). Kitab Bhavan. New Delhi. ISBN 81-7151-273-9. , Volume II. pp. 258-262; Volume IV. pp. 19-21
  25. according to Abdurrahmani'l-Djaziri's Kitabul'l-fiqh 'ala'l-madhahibi'l-'arba'a i.e. Apostasy in Islam according to the Four Schools of Islamic Law (Vol. 5, pp. 422-440) First English Edition (Villach): 1997
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  33. The Punishment of the Apostate According to Islamic Law, chpt. III
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  41. Apostates from Islam: The Case of the Afghan Convert is Not Unique
  42. Apostates from Islam: The Case of the Afghan Convert is Not Unique
  43. Apostasy
  44. Gulf News, Iran considering death penalty for web-related crimes July 02, 2008
  45. 7 November, 2002. Iranian academic sentenced to death
  46., November 9, 2002 Iran: Academic’s Death Sentence Condemned
  47. Iran: Trial for Conference Attendees
  48. Friedrich W. Affolter. The Specter of Ideological Genocide: The Bahá'ís of Iran. War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, 1(1):59– 89, 2005.
  49. State to appeal ruling that favours Egypt's Bahá'ís
  50. Apostates from Islam: The Case of the Afghan Convert is Not Unique
  51. Apostates from Islam: The Case of the Afghan Convert is Not Unique
  52. Spiegel article, website
  53. BBC, Three killed at Turkish publisher , BBC, Ten arrested over Turkey murders , Spiegel Online, After the Missionary Massacre: Christian Converts Live In Fear in Intolerant Turkey
  55. Apostates from Islam: The Case of the Afghan Convert is Not Unique

Further reading

  • Mirza Tahir Ahmad. Murder in the Name of Allah Lutterworth Press. 1989. (Written by the late 4th Khalifa of the Worldwide Ahmadi Muslim Community) (This is not a Muslim perspective in the strictest sense according to detractors, due to the fact that the author is of the Ahmadi sect, whom detractors consider as non-Muslim).
  • Rudolph Peters, Gert J. J. De Vries. "Apostasy in Islam". Die Welt des Islams, New Ser., Vol. 17, Issue 1/4. (1976 - 1977), pp. 1–25.

External links