I trust you have been following the case of the Muslim convert to Christianity who has been sentenced to death. I raise some issues about the case in an article below, if you are interested.
A Religion of Peace?
A Muslim who converted to Christianity in Afghanistan has attracted a lot of attention lately. He was jailed and sentenced to death for his “crime”, but following an international outcry, he has just been freed. His life is still at risk however.
The case of Abdul Rahman is on the one hand, quite unique, while on the other it is fairly commonplace. His case is unique in that after a widespread international outcry, the Afghanistan government backed down and intervened to free him from jail. Sadly, however, his case is also quite commonplace, in that whenever Muslims convert to Christian, they are at great risk of persecution, abuse and the death sentence.
His case raises a number of questions that are worth examining. The first question that comes to mind is this: If Islam is really a religion of peace, then why do we have this case and so many like it? Why are ex-Muslims routinely threatened with the death penalty in Muslim countries if it is really such a peaceful religion? It seems to be peaceful only if you do not rock the boat. But dare to make a choice to leave that religion, and it turns decidedly un-peaceful.
We all know of the fate of Salman Rushdie when he dared to criticize Mohammed. But much less known are the many instances of former Muslims being ruthlessly targeted because they have “apostasied” from Islam. And it is not just those who convert out of Islam. Minority Christians face severe and mounting persecution in many Islamic nations including Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and elsewhere.
Indeed, those monitoring the situation worldwide report growing anti-Christian discrimination and violence throughout the Islamic world. Just recently, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and even Muslim-controlled areas of the largely Christian nations like the Philippines have all seen wanton acts of bloodshed against Christians, church-burnings, and so on.
A related question that arises is this: is the death penalty for Islam an aberration of the Islamic faith, or a necessary corollary of it? The Koran can help us on this. Apostates are regarded as unbelievers who deserve death, as Surah 9:5, 48:29 and others declare.
Also, almost every Muslim legal scholar agrees that one who renounces Islam deserves to die. Many Muslim scholars include apostasy as one of the justifications for jihad, or holy war. This has been so since day one. Soon after Mohammed’s death in 632, his followers waged war on any who renounced Islam, and the bloodshed has been a constant part of Islamic expansion thereafter.
It even continues today. Even a “moderate” cleric in Afghanistan, Abdul Raoulf, who had opposed the Taliban, said of Rahman: “Cut off his head!” He told the Washington Post that “we will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there is nothing left.” He continued: “Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die.”
Two final questions can be raised. First, is there such a thing as a moderate Muslim? The answer is overwhelmingly yes. Perhaps the majority of Muslims are peace-loving. But that may be the wrong question to be asking. The real question that concerns all of us is this: Is Islam moderate? It seems that in the light of its teaching and practices regarding unbelievers and apostates, let alone on other issues, such as jihad, that this question really deserves closer scrutiny.
Yet I and many other critics could be quite wrong here. Perhaps we are radically misrepresenting Islam in this regard. If so, it seems that there is a very easy way for us to be proved wrong. Muslim leaders here in Australia can simply denounce in uncertain terms the treatment of Rahman, and others like him. If we are wrong, these leaders can clearly and unequivocally state their abhorrence of Muslim persecution of non-Muslims in general, and denounce the death sentence for converts out of Islam in particular. And they can begin right now with the Rahman case. But unless I have missed something, I have yet to hear one Australian Muslim leader do so. Their silence says volumes. But I will keep waiting to hear otherwise.