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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Why it's worse to be an apostate than an unbeliever 

I briefly alluded to the Abdul Rahman story in my last post, and since Jennifer has also referred to it, I should probably explore it more.

From ekklesia:

Afghan Christian faces death sentence -19/03/06

An Afghan man is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death on a charge of converting from Islam to Christianity, a judge said this weekend.

The news comes less than three weeks after US President George W Bush made his first visit to the country, and talked about religious liberty in the country.

But it also comes shortly after the appointment of a religious affairs official of Afghanistan's former Taliban regime to the country's new parliament which prompted concern among international human rights advocates....

In a surprise visit to Afghanistan on March 1st George Bush implied in a speech that the US invasion had brought religious freedom to the country.

"Under the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, there is no religious freedom. You have no chance to express yourself in the public square without being punished. There is no capacity to realize your full potential" he said.

But 41-year-old Abdul Rahman was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian.

Rahman was charged with rejecting Islam.

The defendant has confessed that he converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

religioustolerance.org says:

The act in which a Muslim abandons Islam....

A person is an apostate if they leave a religion and either adopt another religion or assume a secular lifestyle. Historically, Islam, Christianity and other religions have taken a very dim view of apostates. The penalty was often execution. Today, apostasy in Islam is a very complex and sensitive issue....

Islam teaches that a newborn has an innate ability to know and believe in his creator, and to understand good and evil. Muhammad (pbuh) stated: "Every child is born with the believing nature...it is his parents who make him into a Jew or a Christian." There is to be no force used to convert a non-believer to Islam. The Qur'ãn, quoted above, prohibits the use of compulsion to force a person or a society to accept Islam.

However, once a person freely "enters into the fold of Islam, the rules change." 4 The word "Islam" means "submission to the will of God." The Qur'ãn says that: "No believing man and no believing woman has a choice in their own affairs when Allãh and His Messenger have decided on an issue." (33:36) On the issue of apostasy, "Islam clearly says: No! You cannot become an apostate." 4 Apostasy is viewed as a form of treason.

Notice that there's a different rule for those who never become Muslim, and those who become Muslim and then renounce it. But the stricter rules for apostates are not only confined to Islam. Here's a brief summary of common Mormon beliefs:

I have talked with Mormons who do believe in Hell, but Hell is only for demons and a very few people, such as people who leave the Mormon church.

And look how an apostate Christian was treated:

[Emperor Julian] had been brought up as a Christian, baptized, and even ordained a reader (lector) in the church. [His later] rejection of his upbringing led Christians to call him "Julian the Apostate." An apostate is one who falls away from faith. What caused Julian to change sides?...

[One] reason that may have influenced Julian was that a "Christian" emperor killed off all of his family for political reasons. Although Julian owed his life to another Christian, he seems to have blamed all Christians for the massacre.

At any rate, with strong support from the more educated classes, Julian determined to restore the traditional pagan religions to supremacy. He ordered old temples rebuilt and new ones started. He developed a pagan priesthood.

Because Christians were loud in their disapproval of Julian's actions (some even resorted to violence), he went even further in his rejection of Christianity, removing Christian teachers who did not accept the legends taught in the pages of pagan authors....

But his reign did not last long:

Emperor Julian of the Roman Empire grunted in agony. You would, too, if a spear had just been shoved into your guts. It was on this day, June 27, 363.* Julian was at war with the Persians. But after just two years of rule he was finished. He was just 32 years old.

As he bled, the dying emperor groaned, "You have conquered, O Galilean"--referring to Jesus Christ. At least that is what later reports said. Early rumors suggested that a Christian had assassinated the emperor. The Christians probably didn't, but they had reason to.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

More from Afghanistan:

..."Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die," said cleric Abdul Raoulf, who is considered a moderate and was jailed three times for opposing the Taliban before the hard-line regime was ousted in 2001....

"He is not crazy. He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian," said Hamidullah, chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque.

"The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed."

Raoulf, who is a member of the country's main Islamic organization, the Afghan Ulama Council, agreed. "The government is playing games. The people will not be fooled."

"Cut off his head!" he exclaimed, sitting in a courtyard outside Herati Mosque. "We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there's nothing left."

He said the only way for Rahman to survive would be for him to go into exile.

But Said Mirhossain Nasri, the top cleric at Hossainia Mosque, one of the largest Shiite places of worship in Kabul, said Rahman must not be allowed to leave the country.

"If he is allowed to live in the West, then others will claim to be Christian so they can too," he said. "We must set an example. ... He must be hanged."

The clerics said they were angry with the United States and other countries for pushing for Rahman's freedom.

"We are a small country and we welcome the help the outside world is giving us. But please don't interfere in this issue," Nasri said. "We are Muslims and these are our beliefs. This is much more important to us than all the aid the world has given us."...

Hamidullah warned that if the government frees Rahman, "there will be an uprising" like one against Soviet occupying forces in the 1980s.

"The government will lose the support of the people," he said. "What sort of democracy would it be if the government ignored the will of all the people."

And CAIR is objecting to the views of the Afghan clerics:

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful


Islamic civil rights group says conversion a personal, not state matter

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/22/2006) - A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on the government of Afghanistan to release Abdul Rahman, a man facing the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says the man’s conversion is a personal matter not subject to the intervention of the state.

SEE: Afghan Christian Could Face Death

In its statement, CAIR said:

“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:

1) ‘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)
2) ‘(O Prophet) proclaim: 'This is the Truth from your Lord. Now let him who will, believe in it, and him who will, deny it.'’ (18:29)
3) ‘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)
4) ‘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)

“We urge the government of Afghanistan to order the immediate release of Mr. Abdul Rahman.”

Before issuing its statement, CAIR consulted with members of the Fiqh Council of North America, an association of Islamic legal scholars that interprets Muslim religious law.

CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 32 offices, chapters and affiliates nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

- END -

CONTACT: Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: ihooper@cair-net.org; Rabiah Ahmed, 202-488-8787 or 202-439-1441, E-Mail: rahmed@cair-net.org


Council on American-Islamic Relations
453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003
Tel: 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726
Fax: 202-488-0833
E-mail: cair@cair-net.org
URL: http://www.cair-net.org

Oh my. It's worse than I thought. Thank you for the indepth research.
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