A Review of Freedom To Believe. By Patrick Sookhdeo.

Isaac Publishing, 2009.

Religious freedom is not exactly a hallmark of Muslim-majority countries. One of the most disconcerting features of Islam is the way “apostates” are treated. In Islam those who choose to leave the faith are regarded as traitors, and death is often the penalty.

Islam appears to be alone among the major world religions in this harsh and barbaric practice. Religious freedom and freedom of conscience are features of free and democratic nations. Indeed, Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief…”

Thus if Islam is to be seen as an acceptable religion among civilised nations, it must address the issue of apostasy law. True, some Muslim reformers want to see the law abandoned, but they are clearly in the minority, and they face an uphill battle. Muslims and non-Muslims alike need to be informed about the nature and practice of this law, so that it can be successfully challenged.

Patrick Sookhdeo is well placed for this assignment: he is an expert on Islam who has written numerous scholarly titles on the subject. This volume offers an authoritative and well-documented account of Islamic apostasy law. He covers a wide array of territory here, leaving no stone unturned.

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He begins by examining the Koran, the hadith, and sharia law. He notes that all three give approval for the punishment, harassment, and even death of those who dare to leave Islam. In the Koran for example there are a number of passages which speak of severe punishment in the next life for apostates.

But punishment in this life is also possible. Sookhdeo points out that most Muslim scholars believe that justification for killing apostates can be found in various suras, such as 2:217, 16:106, and 88:24. He cites a number of Muslim jurists, commentators and scholars who favour this reading of the Koran.

He also offers an extensive examination of the hadith, and provisions in sharia law. For example, Muhammad is cited in Bukhari as saying, “Whoever changed his [Islamic] religion, then kill him.” As to the Islamic legal code, the different schools are fairly uniform when it comes to apostasy law.

They all prescribe the death penalty for apostasy, and all state that rulers or their deputies can only carry out the punishment. Yet they also say that if an individual kills an apostate, he is not to be punished in any way.

He also quotes extensively from modern Muslim scholars and jurists on this issue. These experts demonstrate the clear linkage between apostasy and heresy and blasphemy. These last two crimes are also considered to be severe, and can also be punished by death.

Sookhdeo also contrasts Islam with the Judeo-Christian tradition when it comes to human rights. Muslims regard Islam and the community as paramount, and do not have a high regard for autonomous, individual rights. Indeed, the former are always to trump the latter.

Thus in some Muslim nations you will find both sharia law and various forms of Western secular law existing together. However it is sharia which determines if and when human rights and equality can be allowed.

While not every Muslim nation carries out the death penalty for apostasy (the main ones are Saudi Arabia, North Sudan, Iran, Afghanistan, Mauritania and Yemen), death can still result, since laws against treason can also be invoked, and they too mandate the sentence of death.

And elsewhere, a sort of living death will be experienced by converts out of Islam. They will be severely punished, harassed and mistreated in various ways for their defection. Social ostracism, dismissal from jobs, beatings, and general second-class citizenship (dhimmitude) are all part of the daily reality for many ex-Muslims.

Sookhdeo also discusses how Muslims are seeking to gain a privileged position in this regard on the international level. The 57-member nations of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have been heavily lobbying the UN and EU, for example, to get preferential treatment, so that Islam can continue doing business as usual.

It has pushed the UN General Assembly and other UN bodies to adopt resolutions which seek to prevent any negative criticism of Islam, something accorded to no other major religion. Says Sookhdeo, the “OIC is seeking international legitimation of its own state-sanctioned blasphemy laws.”

He continues, “Should these trends continue, there will be no need in the future for fatwas such as those issued by Ayatollah Khomeini demanding the death of Salman Rushdie. Non-Muslim states will themselves prosecute their own citizens for alleged ‘blasphemy’ against Muhammad and Islam.” Indeed, this is already beginning to happen.

The rest of this volume looks at a number of Muslim nations and how this law is dealt with and applied. It also provides a number of case studies of individuals directly impacted by such laws. Several substantial appendices round out this thorough and comprehensive work.

For those looking for a single volume which brings together most of the important information on this topic – mainly from Islamic sources – this volume is indispensible. If we are to see any substantial change in Islam at this point, this most timely and necessary publication needs to be widely read and promoted.

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8 Replies to “A Review of Freedom To Believe. By Patrick Sookhdeo.”

  1. I finished Caner’s “Unveiling Islam” in September and wrote a report on it as part of the Bible school course I did at my church this year. It is quite fascinating, and shocking at the same time, to see what the Islamic faith is all about and where it originated from. I feel it is very necessary that both Christians and non-Christians alike read up on and even study the Islamic faith more regularly due to the enormous role it plays in the world and influences many of our societies today. It seems many people and leaders stand indifferent towards it or just choose not to interfere. I live in a part of the world where it is not that much of a reality/issue but the movements are there if you know what to look for and it is things that could be challenged should those trends develop here. I will definitely be on the look out for this book. Thanks Bill.

    Servaas Hofmeyr, South Africa

  2. Thanks Servaas

    Yes the Caner book is quite good. The more good books like this we can read and digest, the better prepared we will be for an uncertain and scary future.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. We may become better prepared, as you say, Bill; unfortunately, we can’t persuade those who rule us, in the West, as they are so conciliatory and compliant to Islamicism; indeed, one of the most depressing features of the present political scene is the unholy alliance between the Left (and not only the Far Left) and extremist Islamicism.
    John Thomas, UK

  4. Thanks John

    Yes sadly you are right. However we must keep plugging away nonetheless. We must persist and never give up.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  5. Yes I agree Bill – it’s more important than ever that we know, understand and speak out about the excesses that are inherent in Islam. Islam is not only a threat to non Muslims, it is a bondage to those who are born into this repressive system.

    If we truly love Muslims as Christ commands us to, then we cannot turn a blind eye to a belief system that not only entraps them in this life and in the one to come, but if followed faithfully, requires then to compel us to become similarly bound. Alerting people is a long, hard road but the alternative is ignorance and future bondage for growing numbers of people globally. Sadly that’s happening in many places.

    An Italian Catholic lady I know who taught at an Islamic school 14 years ago, in an effort to help the children integrate into our society, resigned in disgust after nearly 3 years, at the excesses she witnessed; Everything from the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation, widespread physical and sexual abuse within the home, through to indoctrinating the chilren from an early age that its ok to lie to infidels, steal from, kill and rape infiels – because they’re infidels.

    After 14 years she’s still battling to get people to even want to listen let alone understand and become proactive in exposing the truth about Islam and not the politically correct but factually wrong mantra that Islam is a religion of peace (more acurately a religion of pieces).

    Through sharing these stories, and acquiring factual information such as Patrick Sookhdeo makes available, we will be doing both ourselves and Muslims a considerable service.

    God puts a high premium on knowledge and understanding: HOSEA 4:6 says My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

    That’s a pretty good incentive to ‘crack the books’ before the growing influence of Islam, cracks down on us for ‘speaking the truth in love’ and exposing the fatal flaws of Islam.

    Michelle Shave

  6. Michelle, I looked up Hosea 4:6 and in the bible that I have (Douay – Rheims version) and the text starts “My people have been silent, because they have no knowledge…” I find it interesting that there seems to be much silence now, and that the silence in other versions is equated with doom. And twisting it around, before we make a noise it would be a prerequisite to, as you say, ‘crack the books’.
    Lawrie McNamara

  7. Thanks Bill for this alarming article about apostasy laws in Islamic society.
    Stan Fishley

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