Barnabas Fund launches new petition on Islamic law of Apostasy. PCP. Report.
03 Jul 2003
London. July 4 .International Christian charity Barnabas Fund this month launched a major new petition focusing on the Islamic law of apostasy. According to traditional Islamic law (Shari'ah) adult Muslim men who choose to convert to another faith (apostatize) and refuse to return to Islam, should be put to death.
Some schools of Shari'ah teach that this should be applied to women as well. Other punishments prescribed by the Shari'ah include the annulment of marriage, the removal of children and the loss of all property and inheritance rights.
This tradition is still upheld and taught by most Muslim religious leaders around the world today. In countries like Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia converts have faced imprisonment, death threats, torture and beatings because of their faith. Some have been executed; others have died in prison or disappeared. Even in more moderate Muslim countries, and Western nations where Muslims are a minority, converts often face widespread hostility and aggression from their own families and communities.
Barnabas Fund believes it is the basic human right of all to change their faith if they wish. Articles 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights respectively affirm the right of the individual to "change" their religion and to "adopt" a religion of their choice without fear of persecution. Barnabas Fund is calling on all those who believe that "Muslims who choose to convert to another faith should be free to do so without having to face a lifetime of fear" to sign the petition in support of their rights.
The petition calls upon Muslim religious leaders and Islamic organizations to make a public call for a reform or reinterpretation of Shari'ah, so that Muslims who change their faith will not have to face intimidation, harassment, persecution or death as a result. The petition also urges the UN Commission on Human Rights and Western governments and other international institutions to raise this as a matter of urgency with Muslim leaders and organizations, and to exercise their influence by speaking out in support of this call.
Speaking from Barnabas Fund's headquarters in Pewsey, England, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of the Fund, said "On 17 February 2003 a Muslim man walked up to Ziwar Muhammad Isma'il at a taxi rank in the Kurdish authority area of North Iraq and shot him dead, simply because Ziwar was a Muslim who had chosen to convert to Christianity. At the beginning of the twenty-first century it is outrageous that such brutal persecution of converts is still taking place. It is time the world took notice and began to demand an end to it. We hope all those who agree will join with us and sign this petition."
Whilst Islamic societies are not unique in their persecution of converts, only in Islam are the death penalty and other harsh punishments for converts such a well attested, accepted and orthodox part of traditional religious law. In recent years moderate Muslim organizations such as Malaysia's Sisters in Islam and even the Islamic Research Academy of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, have increasingly been calling for a reinterpretation of Islamic teaching on apostasy to make it more just and humane. Through its new petition Barnabas Fund is calling on all people of good will to help moderate Muslims by lending their support to these calls for change.