Apostasy and Freedom of Faith in Islam -  updated 5/15/14

compiled by Sheila Musaji

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Apostasy and Freedom of Faith in Islam

by Sheila Musaji

updates at bottom of page

Hisham Hellyer published an important article on apostasy in Islam - “Apostasy:  Tradition and Truths”.  Dr. Hisham A. Hellyer is Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford. As founder-director of the Visionary Consultants Group, a Muslim world-West relations consultancy, his advice and commentary has been sought by the Home Office & Foreign Office (UK) as well as the Brookings Institution (US) and the Washington Post (US).  He is also one of the initiating signatories to the Common Word Letter.  This article clearly lays out the historical precedents and current issues involved in the debate on apostasy.

I was particularly struck by one sentence in which he said:  “When it comes to interpreting between Islamic teachings regarding apostasy and historical practice, change, if it is to be sustainable, comes from within, or not at all.”  The emphasis is mine.  This is important on this and many other issues involving ijtihad and interpretations of shariah.  As he also points out:  “It used to be that the media (whether Muslim or non-Muslim) would cover Islam in reference to the well-known ‘three H’s’: hijab, halal and haram. It has now changed somewhat such that the focus is on hijab, apostasy, shari’ah and hate (preachers of). Doubtlessly from the point of view of a religion that abjures intoxicants, this creates a rather unfortunate acronym.” 

If we are going to be able to deal with these very real issues facing Muslim communities, then we will need to deal with them within our communities.  We need for ordinary Muslims to be much more aware and demanding of their scholars and leaders.  We need dialogue within our communities, and we need to struggle for the soul of Islam.

This issue of apostasy and freedom of faith is an important one in this discussion.  We live in a country where such freedom is a foundational principle and must be defended.  We must continue to insist on the Islamic principle that there is “no compulsion in religion.”

Qur’an on human dignity and rights:

[17:70] We have honored the children of Adam, and provided them with rides on land and in the sea. We provided for them good provisions, and we gave them greater advantages than many of our creatures.

The Qur’an on freedom of thought, conscience and religion:

[10:99]“If it had been the will of your Lord that all the people of the world should be believers, all the people of the earth would have believed! Would you then compel mankind against their will to believe?”

[2:256] There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.

God Almighty never gave any guardianship role to the Messengers or Muslims over this issue: 

[33:40] Muhammad was not the father of any man among you. He was a messenger of GOD and the final prophet. GOD is fully aware of all things.

[4:80] Whoever obeys the messenger is obeying GOD. As for those who turn away, we did not send you as their guardian.

[6:66] Your people have rejected this, even though it is the truth. Say, “I am not a guardian over you.”

[6:104] Enlightenments have come to you from your Lord. As for those who can see, they do so for their own good, and those who turn blind, do so to their own detriment. I am not your guardian.

[18:29]”(O Prophet Muhammad) proclaim: ‘This is the Truth from your Lord. Now let him who will, believe in it, and him who will, deny it.’”

[6:107] Had GOD willed, they would not have worshiped idols. We did not appoint you as their guardian, nor are you their advocate.

[10:108] Proclaim: “O people, the truth has come to you herein from your Lord. Whoever is guided is guided for his own good. And whoever goes astray, goes astray to his own detriment. I am not a guardian over you.”

[11:86] “Whatever GOD provides for you, no matter how small, is far better for you, if you are really believers. I am not a guardian over you.”

[42:48] If they turn away, we did not send you as their guardian. Your sole mission is delivering the message. When we shower the human beings with mercy, they become proud, and when adversity afflicts them, as a consequence of their own deeds, the human beings turn into disbelievers

[4:137] Those who believe, then reject faith, then believe again and again reject faith, and go on increasing in disbelief, God will not forgive them nor guide them nor guide them on the way. 

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person:

[2:178] O you who believe, equivalence is the law decreed for you when dealing with murder - the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the female for the female. If one is pardoned by the victim’s kin, an appreciative response is in order, and an equitable compensation shall be paid. This is an alleviation from your Lord and mercy. Anyone who transgresses beyond this incurs a painful retribution.

[2:191] You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict them whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder. ...

[16:126] And if you punish, you shall inflict an equivalent punishment. But if you resort to patience (instead of revenge), it would be better for the patient ones.

[17:33] You shall not kill any person - for GOD has made life sacred - except in the course of justice. If one is killed unjustly, then we give his heir authority to enforce justice. Thus, he shall not exceed the limits in avenging the murder, he will be helped.

Everyone is entitled to these rights and freedoms without distinction:

[2:136] Say, “We believe in GOD, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs; and in what was given to Moses and Jesus, and all the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them. To Him alone we are submitters.”

[49:13] O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant.

UPDATE 4/15/09

Debating apostasy and capital punishment, Aziz Poonawalla discusses the recent case where “As occurs regularly, a fantastic discussion has been unfolding at Talk Islam, initially about the comments by the Harvard muslim chaplain on the matter of the death penalty for apostasy. The story begins with a private email from the chaplain, Taha Abdul-Basser, in response to a question about the matter, which ended up getting forwarded around in typical outrage recruitment fashion.”

UPDATE 8/18/09

There is a new case in the headlines. The Fatimah Rifqa Bary Case  “Fatimah, a cheerleader at New Albany High School ran away from her Columbus, Ohio home and ended up at the home of a pastor in Florida named Blake Lorenz. The details on how she ended up in Florida are still murky but what is clear is that she is leveling some very serious allegations against her family, including that she will be killed if she is returned to Ohio.”

There are a lot of claims and counter claims and no one yet knows what is actually happening.  Rushing to judgement seems foolish.  The courts will investigate and make a decision.  NOTE:  There is now much more known, and a number of articles on this case are listed in the resources under “see also:” below.

Jeremy Henzell-Thomas has published Extract from Introduction to The Book of Hadith (The Book Foundation, 2007) which discusses in depth the misuse of hadith to make a case against freedom of religion.  In that article he says in part:

It cannot be denied that there has been an unwarranted elevation over time of the Hadith as a source of guidance in competition with the Qur’an itself, to the extent that verses of the Qur’an which appear to conflict with favourite Hadith may be declared to be abrogated by other verses which agree with the Hadith in question. This idolization of Hadith contradicts the incontrovertible truth that the Qur’an alone should always be referred to as infallible guidance even if the Hadith have been second only to the Qur’an as the basis of Islamic law.

  One striking example will suffice to show the many conflicts between the Qur’an and the Hadith: The Qur’an clearly allows freedom of religion, but both Bukhari and Abu Dawud include the bizarre Hadith, If anyone leaves his religion, then kill him. (Bukhari 52:260). Similarly, a very early source, the Al-Muwatta’ of Malik ibn Anas (d.179/795), states that anyone who leaves Islam for something else and divulges it is called upon to repent, but if he does not turn in repentance, he is killed. The penalty of death for apostasy is repeated elsewhere in Bukhari: Whoever changes his Islamic religion, then kill him (Bukhari 84:57). Another Hadith (Bukhari 83:37) holds that death is required in three cases: for a murderer, for a married person committing illegal sexual intercourse, and for one who deserts Islam. In this last case, historical evidence makes it clear that the apostates referred to here can be identified with those who are waging war against the Muslim community, and I will return to this critical point in due course.

  The most oft-quoted Hadith in Bukhari, If anyone leaves his religion, then kill him, can be questioned on the grounds that its chain of transmission (isnad) goes through a source whose narrations were rejected by Imam Muslim because of the accusations of some scholars that the man concerned (‘Ikrimah) was a liar who also accepted gifts from various political authorities. Besides, the content of this Hadith would also apply to anyone changing his religion to Islam, or from Christianity to Judaism or vice versa, and this clearly contradicts the Prophet’s command that No one is to be turned away from their Judaism or Christianity.

But the widespread assumption that Islam pronounces death for apostasy (ridda, irtidad) can be most persuasively challenged and definitively rejected from the evidence of the Qur’an and the actions of the Prophet and his Companions.

  The Qur’an repeatedly and unequivocally states that faith and denial are matters of personal choice in which there can be no coercion or interference, and that, in accordance with what Muhammad Asad describes as a fundamental principle of Islamic ethics, each human soul must take personal responsibility for the consequences of that choice.


UPDATE 9/24/2009

Yesterday, it was announced that a group called Former Muslims United had sent a “Freedom Pledge” to Muslim leaders, asking them to repudiate death penalty for apostasy.  This statement contains a lot of superfluous text and claims that confuse the issue.  Muslims themselves have already released a statement confirming freedom of faith.  I have written about this pledge and why it is meaningless and redundant in an article Former Muslims United Freedom Pledge Against Punishment for Apostasy a “Red Herring”.

Muslims themselves have created such a pledge more than two years ago.  This FMU pledge is simply another attempt to create propoganda (planting the idea that American Muslims have not taken a position against punishments for apostasy) and to attempt to make it seem as if only former Muslims can stand for what is right, and frankly to attempt to increase the visibility of the FMU at the expense of the Muslim community.  This is shameful behavior (although typical of members of this group who go beyond denouncing Islamic radicalism to denouncing all of Islam) and is simply another example of attempting to marginalize the Muslim community and bolster the false claim that Muslims don’t speak up against injustices, extremism, etc.

In 2007 Dr. Umar Farooq met with many Muslim scholars, community leaders, etc. and released a statement which we published on TAM.  Dr. Farooq set up a website - http://apostasyandislam.blogspot.com/2007/03/statement-muslims-uphold-faith-of.html  - and sent out the following letter which we also published on The American Muslim site:

Add your voice in affirming the Freedom of Faith

Assalamu alaikum.

Freedom of faith is essential to Islam. Prophets and Messengers of Allah along with their communities had to struggle for their freedom of faith. That Islam is by choice is unambiguously stated in the Qur’an and reflected in the Prophetic legacy. However, throughout history, the issue has been clouded due to mixing the issue of apostasy with treason. Now one of the biggest tools of anti-Islam/anti-Muslim propaganda is based on the issue of apostasy, claiming that Islam does not uphold the freedom of faith. Even our own children are getting confused and many are not quietly disavowing our wishy-washy position on as fundamental issue as freedom of faith.

While many contemporary Muslim scholars have expressed their views affirming the freedom of faith, the collective voice of Muslims is still feeble and little known. To elevate the discourse about the freedom of faith to a more visible level and to engage Muslims in general to have impact on shaping a broader agreement, a new blog has been created sharing information on this issue. It also has a Statement affirming the Freedom of Faith (reviewed by a number of Muslim scholars and academics), which we hope Muslims, especially scholars, academics, imams, professionals, would come forward to endorse.

Please visit the blog at http://apostasyandislam.blogspot.com/ and, if you also concur that while we as Muslims believe Islam as the way to salvation, we also uphold the freedom of faith, please add your name to the signatories. Let’s affirm the freedom of faith and send a clear message in projecting understanding of Islam in accordance with the Qur’an and the Prophetic legacy.

To add your name to the list, please send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with your name, affiliation/occupation, highest degree/field, and country of residence.

Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq
Upper Iowa University, USA

Here is the statement that was signed by over 100 individuals back in 2007:

Muslim Academics/Scholars/Imams/Professionals uphold the Freedom of Faith and the Freedom to Change one’s Faith

“ ... Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error ...” [2:256]

This is Islam’s unambiguous affirmation of freedom of faith, which also applies to changing of faith. The Qur’an illuminates before the humanity the two highways [90:10], one of which leads to salvation. Islam is an invitation to the highway toward salvation, but it is based on FREEDOM OF CHOICE.

Apostasy (riddah) is a major issue that affects the understanding of, and perception about, Islam. Historically, Muslim scholars have not factored in the distinction between apostasy (changing one’s faith, which is strictly a sin against God) and treason (strictly a civil offense against an established public order) when it is stated that Islam mandates capital punishment for riddah. That unnuanced perspective about apostasy has fueled negative propaganda against Islam and a negative image of Muslims. In recent years in some notable and well known cases, a fatwa (legal, non-binding opinion) was issued against alleged apostates and, at times, even a bounty was announced on their head.

Many Muslim scholars and academics have argued against the stated historical position as inconsistent with the Qur’an and on the grounds that killing someone for making a considered choice negates the very Islamic value and principle of freedom of choice, affecting Islam’s position on universal human rights.

Freedom of choice in faith is central to Islam. This has been exemplified in the Qur’anic narrative regarding the choice made by Satan in contrast with Adam and Eve, and the broad agreement of Muslim scholars that only faith freely adopted is meritorious before God. Throughout history prophets and the communities of their believers have struggled to secure freedom of faith for themselves. Indeed it is a principle quintessential to both Islam and humanity.

Choosing a path in line with our beliefs about salvation has significant consequences in terms of our afterlife. In this world that freedom is bestowed upon us by God, which, by implication, must include the possibility of changing one’s faith. Freedom of religion is meaningless without the freedom to change one’s religion. Denial of such reciprocal rights is also inconsistent with the principle of justice (adl/qist), as clearly enunciated in the Qur’an [4/an-Nisa/135].

The Qur’an does not specify any worldly punishment or retribution solely for apostasy. Similarly, there is no clear prophetic judgment on apostasy, nor examples that such punishment was meted out (during the time of the Prophet or in the period of the Righteous Caliphate) to someone solely for abandoning Islam as a creed, in contrast with apostasy-cum-treason, involving taking up arms against the Muslim community or the state.

Islam upholds the fundamental principle pertaining to freedom of faith [“Let there be no compulsion in Deen” 2/al-Baqara/256; also see 39/al-Zumar/41]. Thus:


We the undersigned Muslims from diverse backgrounds affirm: The freedom of faith and the freedom of changing one’s faith.  In light of the Qur’anic guidance and the Prophetic legacy, the principle of freedom of faith does not lend itself to impose in this world any punishment or retribution solely for apostasy; thus there ought not to be any punishment in the name of Islam or fatwa calling for the same.

In addition, we call upon:

our esteemed scholars (ulama) and jurists (fuqaha), to address this inconsistency between the Islamic principle of freedom of faith and the position mandating punishment for apostasy, and to bring our legacy of Islamic jurisprudence and general Islamic discourse up-to-date for the times with reference to indisputable and categorical Islamic principles.

our fellow Muslims, to be informed of Islam’s position on apostasy and to uphold the principle of choice so that we may exercise tolerance towards those who have left the “straight path” and deal with their subsequent views and actions (even when they are against Islam) within the conext of human rights and civil liberties allowed by law.

Imams and religious leaders, to educate and sensitize Muslim masses about notions of fairness and justice inherent in Islam and respond to apostasy in a dignified, constructive and patient manner.

governments of Muslim-majority countries, to address this matter constitutionally as well as legally, and actively engage in a process that eventually discards any law entailing punishment for apostasy.

Islamic organizations, to uphold universal human rights (not inconsistent with Islam) and to defend the rights of ex-Muslims in regard to apostasy.

100+ Signatories to the Statement About Islam and Apostasy can be seen along with the statement and supporting information at http://apostasyandislam.blogspot.com/2007/03/statement-muslims-uphold-faith-of.html where you can also sign on to the statement.  The list of signatories is at http://apostasyandislam.blogspot.com/2007/03/signatories-to-statement-about-islam.html  If your name is not on the list of signatories, and you wish to add your name, please send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with your name, affiliation/occupation, highest degree/field, and country of residence. Is the name of the Imam or the Leader of your community not on the above list?  Ask them if they unequivocally affirm the freedom of faith in Islam, and if they do, encourage/urge them to add their voices by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with their name, affiliation/occupation, highest degree/field, and country of residence.

UPDATE 9/29/09 

CAIR Position Statement – Islam and Apostasy -

Islamic scholars say the original rulings on apostasy were similar to those for treasonous acts in legal systems worldwide and do not apply to an individual’s choice of religion. Islam advocates both freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, a position supported by verses in the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, such as:

“If it had been the will of your Lord that all the people of the world should be believers, all the people of the earth would have believed! Would you then compel mankind against their will to believe?” (10:99)

“(O Prophet Muhammad) proclaim: ‘This is the Truth from your Lord. Now let him who will, believe in it, and him who will, deny it.’” (18:29)
“If they turn away from thee (O Muhammad) they should know that We have not sent you to be their keeper. Your only duty is to convey My message.” (42:48)

“Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (2:256)

Religious decisions should be matters of personal choice, not a cause for state intervention. Faith imposed by force is not true belief, but coercion. Islam has no need to compel belief in its divine truth. As the Quran states: “Truth stands out clear from error. Therefore, whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks.” (2:256)

Before issuing this position statement, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) consulted with members of the Fiqh Council of North America, an association of Islamic legal scholars that interprets Muslim religious law.

UPDATE 12/21/2010

The Aasiya Bibi case in Pakistan has again made it clear that we need to work harder to educate people about this issue of freedom of faith.  Rafia Zakaria discusses the case in A sip of water - the Aasia Bibi Apostasy Case

UPDATE 10/1/2011

An Iranian man, Youcef Nadarkhani, who became a Christian and is now a pastor in Iran has been tried and found guilty of apostasy in an Iranian court and now may be executed because he refuses to recant and return to Islam.  This is an absolute injustice and a denial of his human rights.  This is barbaric behavior and a disgrace to humanity and an insult to Islam.  Individuals from all over the world have condemned this sentence and demanded that he be freed.  The White House has called for him to be freed.  Every news article, including those out of Iran said that he was convicted of apostasy.

Yesterday, CNN reported that the Iranian government is now saying that although it was reported that he was sentenced to death for apostasy, that is not correct and actually

will be put to death for several charges of rape and extortion, charges that differ greatly from his original sentence of apostasy, Iran’s semi-official Fars News agency reported Friday.

Gholomali Rezvani, the deputy governor of Gilan province, where Nadarkhani was tried and convicted, accused Western media of twisting the real story, referring to him as a “rapist.” A previous report from the news agency claimed he had committed several violent crimes, including repeated rape and extortion.

All of this only makes a mockery not only of justice but also of the truth.  The only thing that Iran can do to retain any respect in the world community is to set this man free, and to reform its judicial system so that such injustices will not happen again.

Aslam Abdullah, the Director of the Islamic Society of Nevada wrote

An Iranian pastor may be executed in Tehran for refusing to recant his religious beliefs and convert from Christianity to Islam, according to a news report. This is directly in violation of the Quranic command that says there is no compulsion in matters of faith.

Christians and people of other faiths have a right to freely practice what they believe. Those who use the name of God to justify their coercive action do so against the divine guidance. We must not remain silent on this issue. We must hold Iran accountable for this un-Islamic position.

The Quran does not pronounce death to apostates. The Quran, on the contrary, gives freedom to choose. Chapter 2 verse 256 says there is no compulsion in matters of faith.

The Quran also says, “The truth is from your Lord”: Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it) (chapter 18: verse 29).

Mehdi Hasan wrote

In 1948, most of the world’s Muslim-majority nations signed up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including article 18, “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” which includes, crucially, the “freedom to change his religion or belief”. The then Pakistani foreign minister, Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, wrote: “Belief is a matter of conscience, and conscience cannot be compelled.”

Fast-forward to 2011: 14 Muslim-majority nations make conversion away from Islam illegal; several – including Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Sudan – impose the death penalty on those who disbelieve. The self-styled Islamic Republic of Iran has sentenced to death by hanging a Christian pastor, born to Muslim parents, for apostasy. At the time of writing, Youcef Nadarkhani, head of a network of Christian house churches in Iran, is on death row for refusing to recant and convert back to Islam.

The decision to execute Nadarkhani beggars belief. For a start, the sentence handed down by judges in the pastor’s home city of Rasht a year ago, and affirmed by the country’s supreme court in June, is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but Iran’s own constitution. Article 23 is crystal clear: “The investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”

Pleas for clemency from the archbishop of Canterbury, the UK’s foreign secretary and Amnesty International, among others, have fallen on deaf ears in Tehran. Meanwhile the silence from the world’s Muslims – especially the UK’s usually voluble Muslim organisations and self-appointed “community leaders” – has been shameful. The irony is that I have yet to come across an ordinary Muslim who agrees that a fellow believer who loses, changes or abandons his or her faith should be hanged. Yet frustratingly few Muslims are willing to speak out against such medieval barbarism. We mumble excuses, avert our eyes.

There is a misguided assumption among many Muslims that such an abhorrent punishment is divinely mandated. It isn’t. Classical Muslim jurists wrongly conflated apostasy with treason. The historical fact is that the prophet Muhammad never had anyone executed for apostasy alone. In one well-documented case, when a Bedouin man disowned his decision to convert to Islam and left the city of Medina, the prophet took no action against him, remarking only that, “Medina is like a pair of bellows: it expels its impurities and brightens and clears its good”.

Nor does the Qur’an say that a Muslim who apostasises be given any penalty. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by Islam’s holy book in the famous verse: “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:256). Apostasy is deemed a sin, but the Qur’an repeatedly refers to punishment in the next world, not this one. Take the 137th verse of chapter 4: “Those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, God will never forgive them nor guide them to the Way” (4:137). This verse, which explicitly allows for disbelief, followed by belief, followed once again by disbelief, suggests any punishment is for God to deliver – not judges in Iran, Saudi Arabia or anywhere else.

Interestingly, the judgment in the Nadarkhani case is based not on Qur’anic verses but the fatwas of various ayatollahs. Fatwas, however, differ. For example, the late Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, a grand ayatollah and one-time heir apparent to Ayatollah Khomeini, argued that the death penalty for apostasy was originally prescribed to punish only political conspiracies against the nascent Islamic community; Montazeri believed Muslims today should be free to convert to another religion.

The decision to execute Nadarkhani, therefore, is both an affront to universal moral values and a disservice to the cause of Islam. There can be no freedom of religion without the freedom to leave or change one’s religion. To try to control a person’s mind and heart, their thoughts and beliefs, is the ultimate negation of individual freedom. It is totalitarianism, pure and simple.

It also doesn’t work. Another late Iranian ayatollah, and high-profile ally of Khomeini, Murtaza Muttahari, once wrote of the sheer pointlessness of any and all measures to compel belief upon a Muslim (or ex-Muslim!), arguing that it was impossible to force anyone to hold the level of rationally inspired faith required by the religion of Islam. “It is not possible to spank a child into solving an arithmetical problem,” proclaimed Muttahari. “His mind and thought must be left free in order that he may solve it. The Islamic faith is something of this kind.” Muslims have to ask ourselves: Is the God we worship so weak and needy that he requires us to force our fellow humans to worship him? Is our religion so frail and insecure that it cannot tolerate any rejection whatsoever? And why are we silent as an innocent Christian is sentenced to death in the name of Islam? To hang a man for refusing to believe in Islam is theologically and morally unjustifiable; it is not just unIslamic but anti-Islamic.


UPDATE 3/24/2012

Harris Zafar has written on this ongoing issue regarding the case in Iran, Pastor Nadarkhani, Islam and Punishment for Apostasy

Adeel Ahmed has written about the case of Hamza Kashgari in Saudia Arabia.  How Hamza Kashgari’s fate will shape the face of Islam.  Muslims for Progressive Values has issued a statement about this case. 

UPDATE 5/23/2012

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s hate groups the AFDI/SIOA are planning another of their “conferences” and Geller has published one of her typical screeds promoting the conference.  It is to be held, as Geller says “to compete with CAIR’s ‘human rights’” conference in Southern California at the same time.  In the course of Geller’s promotion of her event and mud-slinging at CAIR, Geller says:

“We’re calling upon Hamas-tied CAIR to stand up for Pastor Youcef and other victims of Islam’s apostasy law at their so-called “civil rights” conference and to stand for human rights for all. Under the guise of “civil rights,” these subversive groups seek to undermine the unalienable rights guaranteed to every individual under the Constitution. Their ruse must be exposed, their Shariah agenda renounced.”

If Geller would actually keep up with what American Muslims are actually saying, she would have noticed that CAIR did issue a position statement on punishment for apostasy in 2009, and can find the full text in the 9/29/09 update to this article above.  She would also notice that in 2006 CAIR called on the government of Afghanistan to release Abdul Rahman, a man facing the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity, and she would find articles against any punishment for apostasy written by CAIR members in our TAM article collections.  For example, this one by Ahmed Bedier.

This is typical of the approach of Islamophobes like Geller and Spencer.  Just a month ago they held another phony conference, the Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference and made similar baseless attacks on Imam Qazwini of Dearborn. 

UPDATE 9/3/2012

Once again, in Pakistan, a case has come up that defies any understanding.  An 11 year-old child with Down’s Syndrome, Rita Masih, has been arrested under the Pakistani Blasphemy laws for allegedly burning pages of the Qur’an.  See the article American Muslims Must Protest “Blasphemy” Laws for a complete background on this case and updates on new developments.  Imam Mohamed Magid, the President of ISNA, as well as the organizations ISNA, MPAC, and CAIR have all issued statements condemning this. 

UPDATE 9/8/2012

It was just announced by the Christian Post that Pastor Nadarkhani has been acquitted of apostasy and released from jail in Iran.

UPDATE 5/15/2014

This week a Sudanese court sentenced a pregnant woman to death for renouncing Islam.  CAIR released a statement reiterating its rejection of state intervention in personal religious matters, and repeating the 2009 statement listed above.



A Fresh Look at Freedom of Belief in Islam, Dr. Abdullah Saeed

Affirmation of Freedom of Expression and Belief in the Quran, Haris Aziz

Afghan Convert Controversy: A Counter-Perspective on Apostasy in Islam, Yoginder Sikand,

apostasy claim that killing an apostate is required by Islamic Law and 2,

Apostasy, Jamal Badawi  

Apostasy, Tariq Ramadan

Apostasy, Sh. Tantawi of Al Azhar
On Apostasy and Islam: STATEMENT:  100+ Notable Islamic Voices affirming the Freedom of Faith, issued April 2007

Apostasy and Islam STATEMENT (Fatwa) by Ali Gomaa the Grand Mufti of Egypt on Apostasy and Freedom of Religion

Apostasy, Freedom and Da’wah:  Full Disclosure in a Business-like Manner, Mohammad Omar Farooq

Apostasy:// an unqualified fatwa, Davi Barker

Apostasy In Islam - Sharia Vs Islam, By Rehman Faiz,

Apostasy and Religious Freedom, Louay Safi

The Fatimah Rifqa Bary Case
— Bent on Confusing the Public about Islam:  The Far Right Exploits Rifqa Bary’s Case to Distort Islam, Louay Safi http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/bent_on_confusing_the_public_about_islam_the_far_right_exploits_rifqa_
—  http://www.loonwatch.com/2009/08/robert-spencer-self-declared-scholar-v-real-scholar-on-the-fatimah-rifqa-bary-case/ 
— The Persecuted Rifqa Bary? http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/2009/08/the_persecuted_rifqa_bary.html 
— Police have questions about Ohio runaway’s story http://www.miamiherald.com/news/florida/AP/story/1182919.html 
— Statement From Lawyer Indicates Rifqa Bary’s Parents Blame Pastors for Creating Story http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=8317155&page=1

Concept of Freedom in Islam, Mohamed Shahrour

Death for apostasy?, Nesrine Malik

Freedom and Islam, By T. O. Shanavas, M. D.,

Freedom of Religion is Islam, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa

Apostasy, Freedom and Da’wah:  Full Disclosure in a Business-like Manner, Mohammad Omar Farooq,

Apostasy Laws – An Injury To Islam By Muslims, By Mirza A. Beg,

Are The Scholars The Same As God Himself?, Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa,

Australian Federation of Islamic Councils says Prosecution of convert ‘un-Islamic’,
The Case of the Afghan Apostate, Hasan Zillur Rahim,

Egyptian Court Allows Return to Christianity

Extract from Introduction to The Book of Hadith (The Book Foundation, 2007), Jeremy Henzell-Thomas

Extremism isn’t Islamic Law, Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid

Fatwa://  Freedom of Belief & Minority Rights in Muslim Countries, Jamal Badawi and Shaikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah

Freedom and Choice: The First-Order Condition of Islam, Mohammad Omar Farooq

Freedom of Religion in Christian, Buddhist, Sunni, and Shi’a Jurisprudence: The Role of ‘Ilm al ‘Adl, by Dr. Robert D. Crane

Freedom of Religion, Dr. M. Hashim Kamali
Freedoms of Expression and Belief, Istiaq Ahmed

Headscarf Ban in France Violates Religious Freedom, Human Rights Watch

Intellectual Apostasy, the Real Issue, Ibrahim N. Abusharif,

Is Killing An Apostate in the Islamic Law?, Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed,

Islam and the apostasy debate,

Islam and Punishment for Apostasy, Asghar Ali Engineer,

Islam and Pluralism: A Contemporary Approach, Shah Abdul Halim

Islam and Freedom of Thought, Akbar Ahmed and Lawrence Rosen

Islam and Religious Freedom, Asghar Ali Engineer,

Leaving Islam Is Not a Capital Crime, by M. Cherif Bassiouni,

Know Your Rights: Federal Laws Protecting Religious Freedom, DOJ

Let there be no compulsion in religion, Javeed Akhter

Malaysia’s crisis of faith
MPAC - Dr. Maher Hathout on Apostasy

Message to Iran: Free Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Ilisha of Loonwatch

Moratorium on Death Penalty, Tariq Ramadan

No Earthly Penalty for Converts, Imam Farooq Abo-Elzahab

Punishment of Apostasy in Islam, S.A. Rahman (Rtd.) Chief Justice of Pakistan

Religious freedom and the Law of Apostasy in Islam, Mahmud Ayoub

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Imad-as-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.

The right to religious conversion, A. Rashied Omar,

Toledo Imam Farooq Abo-Elzahab says no earthly penalty for conversion,

U.S. Muslims Call for Release of Afghan Christian Convert, CAIR,

Whatever happened to “no compulsion in religion”?, Irfan Yusuf

Why is an Afghani Man on Trial for leaving Islam? , Ahmed Bedier

‘Whosoever will, let him disbelieve’


First published 4/3/08