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FREEDOM TO BELIEVE: Challenging Islam's Apostasy Law

FREEDOM TO BELIEVE: Challenging Islam's Apostasy Law
By converting to Christianity President Obama is an "apostate" in the eyes of Islam

By Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo
Foreword by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali

Reviewed by David W. Virtue
March 5, 2010

Islam is a one-way street. Non-Muslims can convert to Islam, but Muslims are not allowed to convert from Islam. All schools of Islamic law specify the death sentence for an adult male Muslim who chooses to leave his faith. Although this is rarely carried out, the law imposes many other penalties on apostates, and provokes powerful hostility towards them amongst Muslims.

President Barack Obama's late father and grandfather were Muslims, but the president himself is a professing Christian. According to Islamic shari'a law, the child of a Muslim parent is to be regarded as a Muslim, regardless of the other parent's faith. By embracing Christianity Obama has made himself an "apostate" in the eyes of of Islam, that is, he is someone who has abandoned Islam, and as such under Shari'a he deserves the death penalty

Islam, the second largest religion in the world with around 1.4 billion adherents stands alone among world religions in officially prescribing a range of severe punishments for any of its adherents who choose to leave their faith, punishments that include the death sentence, writes Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, and Director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity.

As Islam becomes increasingly conservative and its calls for the full implementation of shari'a become more insistent, the danger of a more consistent and widespread enforcing of the apostasy law increases considerably, says Sookhdeo.

The Islamic scholar who holds doctorates from London and the U.S. says the Qur'an emphasizes God's punishment of apostates in the next life. Apostasy is mentioned in 13 verses scattered across various chapters (suras). There is no clear and unambiguous mention of any punishment in this world, but it is clear that the apostate will suffer severe punishment in the next.

There are different schools in Islamic law, but their rulings on apostasy are all very similar, and they are unanimous in prescribing death for adult male apostates. While a charge of apostasy can be laid only against Muslims who leave Islam, a charge of blasphemy is applicable to non-Muslims as well. According to the law of blasphemy anyone, of no matter what background or religion, who disparages Muhammad in any way, however slight, is liable to the death penalty.

The law of apostasy in Islam stands in stark contrast to modern understandings of human rights and religious liberty According to Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes the freedom to change his religion or belief." This freedom to change one's religion is completely denied in Islam.

Muslims are well aware that the rest of the world finds their apostasy law outrageous, and they sense themselves to be under attack from the liberal West and accused of contravening universally accepted, individual human rights. But apostasy continues to be considered a shocking and repulsive crime by most Muslims.

But change is possible. Some Muslim scholars have argued that the apostasy law should be abandoned, so that people can leave Islam without fear of reprisals. Their voice will be strengthened by non-Muslims also calling for repeal of the law.

The only hope for real freedom of religion within Islam lies in the abolition of all penalties for apostasy and permission for those who want to leave Islam to do so.

But the Muslim voices calling for reform of the law represent only a small proportion of the world's Muslims, says Sookhdeo.

The orthodox Anglican scholar would like to see Islam's apostasy law and its punishments completely abolished.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section sets out the Muslim teaching on apostasy from the Islamic sources. The second looks at the debate amongst Muslims about the law, and the third reviews the treatment of converts from Islam in the world today.


In London recently at the Church of England's General Synod, Dr. Sookhdeo challenged Anglican leaders over the rise of Islam.

Dr Sookhdeo told told a "fringe" meeting that Christian communities throughout the Middle East are "increasingly vulnerable" and in danger of being wiped out.

Sookhdeo who acts as an advisor to policy makers, viewed with alarm developments in the Islamic world saying that we live in a day of growing nationalisms, massive revulsion of things western with people discovering their own identity. "Modern terrorism has a religious base to it. Christian communities in the Middle East bear the brunt of anti-Christian tactics. Who is going to protect religious minorities?"

Sookhdeo said he was unhappy with Shari'a gaining a foothold in the UK. If this happened it would allow for sharia complied pensions and changes in the taxation system. The British government has made considerable concessions as a result we are deeply unhappy.

"Under Islamic law a woman is worth half of the value of a man. I have always been passionate about women's rights and women's freedoms."

Sookhdeo said he could not accept the Archbishop of Canterbury who believes shari'a law could be applied to the UK. "Whoever is advising him advises him wrongly. I don't want to see any element of Shari'a law in our system based on the law of the land. Only one system guarantees the rights of all its citizens.

To buy this book click here: http://www.amazon.com/Freedom-Believe-challenging-Islams-apostasy/dp/0978714199/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267649540&sr=1-2


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