CESNUR - Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni diretto da Massimo Introvigne

CESNUR 2006 International Conference
July 13-16, 2006
San Diego State University, San Diego, California
Religion, Globalization, and Conflict: International Perspectives

'Not Convert or Die' but 'Convert and Die': Laws Against Apostasy as Obstacles to Islamic Democracy

by Charles McDANIEL (Baylor University)

A paper presented at the CESNUR 2006 International Conference. Please do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author

On 26 March 2006 Abdul Rahman, an Afghan Christian, was released from Policharki Prison near Kabul after charges of apostasy stemming from his conversion from Islam to Christianity were dropped due to insufficient evidence and suspicion of "mental illness." With his release, the immediate challenge to the sensibilities and, one might contend, to the very ethos of the Western world has passed. The issue of religious liberty, however, in countries where Islam is the dominant religious tradition has not passed nor will it until some provision for the religious conversion of Muslim citizens is achieved. What is happening in places like Iraq and Afghanistan are experiments in liberalization that, according to the thesis of this paper, will reinforce the understanding of religious liberty as the "first freedom," a position long-asserted by William Lee Miller, James E. Wood, Jr., and other prominent scholars in the field of religion and politics. The "democratization of Islam" minus this basic liberty may well result in systems of governance that exploit its omission in order to deny other fundamental freedoms or perpetuate authoritarian regimes.  

Legal prohibitions on proselytizing by Christians and other religious groups and the possible punishment by death of Muslims who convert to other faiths demonstrate the asynchronous processes of liberalization at work in Islamic culture. Conversion from Islam to another faith is defined as ridda, or apostasy, by virtually all schools of Islamic law. Consequently, laws against conversion have been incorporated into the legal codes of several states that are built upon Shariah. In other cases, the process is more subtle. Constitutional provisions requiring "conformity" of laws and legal rulings with Shariah enable courts to impose death sentences on apostates. Although "mixed" secular and Shariah legal systems, such as those of Iraq and Afghanistan, generally include appellate courts composed of both secular and Islamic judges, such structures provide no guarantee of the right to change one's religion. The Afghan constitutional system offered no legal safeguard to support Mr. Rahman's conversion from Islam to Christianity, despite the fact that his "apostasy" occurred some sixteen years earlier.[1] The verdict shocked those who believed that the country's democratic experiment included some minimal right to religious freedom. Even supporters of the Bush Administration's policies and its nation-building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan were quick to identify this transgression as unacceptable. Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, stated: "If we can't secure the most basic of human rights, Americans will increasingly question whether we should continue the expenditure of lives and resources in these countries."[2]

While many Islamic countries have liberalized by expanding the rights of women and minority groups, implementing principles of constitutional government, extending electoral participation, and generally affirming international norms on "human liberty," these advances stand in stark relief to the continued presence of religious conversion as a capital offense in otherwise "moderate" Muslim countries like the newly democratized Afghanistan. Offers of asylum for Mr. Rahman by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and other Western leaders only postpone (or even obfuscate) an issue that is sine qua non for reconciliation of the West and Islam. No other issue is wedged so deeply into the divide separating Western and Islamic civilizations.

Persecution of those who dare leave Islam is not the simple product of overreaching ulama (religious scholars) or the zealotry of jihadist groups; it is a widespread and culturally accepted article of faith in otherwise progressive Muslim countries as well as fundamentalist states. Many who question implementation of the hudud (strict penalties for crimes prescribed by the Qur'an) often accept the necessity of death for those who voluntarily leave Islam, despite the absence of specific Qur'anic injunctions requiring this punishment. Indeed, the impetus for this paper was my presentation on the possibility of an Islamic reformation at the CESNUR conference at my school of residence, Baylor University, in the summer of 2004. My fellow presenter was a Muslim from Malaysia who, from the bulk of his paper and comments afterward, sounded almost Lockean as he extolled the freedoms granted his countrymen and the warm reception of political and economic rights that contributed to the socio-economic development of his country and to the construction of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the symbol of modern Malaysia. But when asked by a member of the audience whether a Muslim may leave Islam, his answer was an unqualified and unwavering "No".[3]

Malaysia, in fact, is a relatively moderate Islamic country respecting the way in which it deals with those who leave the faith. In 1998, four Kelantan Muslims were jailed for rejecting their faith before a Commissioner of Oaths. In response to international criticism, the Malaysian Government determined that "apostates" would not be subject to punishment so long as they refrain from defaming Islam after leaving the religion.[4] Still, many Muslim countries, even professedly democratic ones, hold open the possibility of death sentences through their Shariah courts for those Muslims who renounce Islam. 

What is the source of widespread condemnation of the apostate in Islam? What is the threat posed by those who leave the faith such that it justifies harsh and surprisingly universal treatment in the Islamic world? And, importantly, will it be possible for Muslim countries to liberalize sufficiently to enable truly democratic forms of governance if they do so minus what many consider the fundamental right to freedom of conscience? While the West must be mindful of its own past and the crucial role of the Enlightenment in the development of liberal democratic institutions, that history suggests that the asynchronous processes of liberalization presently at work in fledgling Islamic democracies are jeopardized unless respect for individual conscience can be located within the traditional institutions of Islamic culture. Women's rights, economic freedoms, the abolition of slavery and polygamy, although crucial to the achievement of modern democracy, have been arrived at incrementally in the West. But the right to believe in one's own conception of ultimate truth was the traumatic result of religious reformation and political enlightenment that necessitated war and division among the nation-states of Europe.

Three factors appear significant in the persistence of apostasy laws in Islamic society. First, the intense association of religious and political institutions in Muslim nations contributes to the perception of apostasy not simply as a religious transgression but as a crime against the state. History in both East and West has demonstrated that the more intense the integration of religious and political institutions in a society, the more likely that its leadership will view rejection of the dominant faith tradition as a treasonous act. Second, the intransigence of such laws reveals significant differences in processes of theological abrogation (naskh in Arabic) between Islam and Christianity. The theological development of Christianity within an Old Covenant-New Covenant motif that arguably became more inclusive and less legalistic in its "formative" period differs from that of Islam, which at the outset witnessed a hardening of restrictions and the de-liberalizing of its institutions in the Medinan period of Islamic (and Qur'anic) development. This process of abrogation contributed to a culture in which apostasy laws are viewed not as infringements on human rights but as constructs of Islamic identity. Finally, the federal structures of many Islamic countries grant considerable authority to their constituent states in overriding rights and liberties articulated in their national constitutions and allowing rigorous implementation of Islamic law. Conversely, strong centralized Islamic governments, as in the case of Sudan, are often able to impose Islamic law even on their non-Muslim populations. To generalize, variations in the federalist structures of predominantly Muslim countries have enabled pockets of authoritarian (often theocratic) rule to subsist despite their ostensible adherence to democratic principles. These influences serve to reinforce a social value that accepts execution as a legitimate punishment for leaving Islam. 

A Brief History of Apostasy in Islam

Despite having a questionable Qur'anic basis, laws against apostasy (riddah) may be traced in hadith virtually to the formation of Islam and have become solidified in the tradition as what Abdullah and Hassan Saeed contend is "one of the non-negotiable aspects of Islamic law."[5] Their reach is pervasive, extending to the four major branches of Sunni jurisprudence-the Hanbali, Hanafi, Shafi'i, and Maliki schools-as well as to the dominant Jaafari school of Shii Islam. These laws are largely uniform in implementation; one exception being the provision of Hanafite law that female apostates should not be executed but rather "kept in hostage" and, according to De Vries and Peters, "beaten every three days in order to effect their return to Islam."[6] The extent to which the death penalty is implemented for violation of apostasy laws varies among nations; however, the foundations for such laws can be located in all major schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

The entrenchment of Islamic legalism has tended to reinforce death as punishment for apostasy despite evidence from Islamic "culture" that suggests the existence of religious tolerance in various historical periods. Scholars commonly point to the relative leniency extended by Muhammad and the Rashidun caliphs in the formative period of Islam[7] as evidence of the non-traditional nature of apostasy laws. But the inexactness of this comparison may serve to overstate the case of Islamic religious tolerance. It is true that Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and even Hindus were often extended the protected status of dhimmi and relative autonomy in Islamic societies; however, it is also true that the Wars of Riddah led by Abu Bakr and those led by Muhammad himself against Mecca and the Jews of Medina laid the groundwork for later religious wars and the formation of Islamic law that sought to impose religious conformity. Even periods of religious tolerance imposed restrictions on the liberty of non-Muslims and required the payment of "jizyah" (tribute) to Muslim leaders. Moreover, conversion from Islam to another faith has been illegal and subject to severe punishment virtually from the inception of Islam. To generalize, the penalties for apostasy (most commonly death) were determined in the early centuries of Islam and continued until the liberalization of the Ottoman and European colonial periods at which time they became largely inactive. Those penalties returned with renewed vigor in the last quarter of the twentieth century as Islamist groups in predominantly Muslim countries sought to re-Islamize legal and political institutions that were perceived as having been corrupted by Western values.  

Severe punishments for apostasy are in no manner unique to Islam. Blasphemy, considered a form of apostasy by utterance under Islamic law, is likewise identified as a capitol offense in Exodus 32, Deuteronomy 13, and elsewhere in the Jewish Torah and Christian Bible, having inspired both political and religious leaders to implement laws prohibiting religious conversion of the faithful and coercing others into their traditions. The confluence of religious and political institutions in medieval Christendom enabled the enforcement of the faith on non-Christian populations and inspired various forms of inquisition to determine the faithfulness of converts. Jane Gerber's book, The Jews of Spain, demonstrates the impossible situation of the marranos (crypto-Jews) and moriscos (forcibly converted Muslims) who were never accepted as true Christians and subject to repeated pogroms during the reconquista.[8] Similarly, Paul Werth explored the forced baptisms of Tatars in nineteenth-century Russia and observes that the decentralization of the Russian government in 1866 enabled many to reassume their Tatar names and Muslim identities only to be charged as "apostates" from Orthodoxy under Imperial apostasy laws. These charges often led to loss of property rights and forced resettlement to prevent their "heretical" influence.[9]  Common to Christian, Islamic, and Jewish historical experiences was the integration of religious and political institutions such that religious orthodoxy and allegiance to the state were indistinguishable.

The persistence of apostasy laws and their pervasiveness in Islamic society is somewhat unique, however. Not only does support for these laws reach down through all levels of Islamic culture, it spans ethnic and regional differences and, as noted previously, virtually all schools of Islamic law. The major branches of Islamic jurisprudence, both Sunni and Shi'i, insist that the punishment for a "sane" Muslim who voluntarily leaves the faith must be death, although there are certain minimal criteria for a Muslim to be declared an apostate. According to Peters and de Vries, the apostate (murtadd) in Islam "can perform a legally effective act of riddah only out of free will (ikhtiyār), at an adult age (bulūgh), being compos mentis (‘āqil) [of sound mind], and, as emphasized by the Malikite school, after his unambiguous and explicit adoption of Islam."[10]

Detailed "apostasy lists" such as that crafted by Ahmad b. Naqib al-Misri in the 14th century CE illuminate the range of expression, belief, and action that constitutes apostasy in Islam. Al-Misri's list includes such crimes as denying the existence of Allah, denying any verse of the Qur'an or the existence of angels or jinn (spirits) in heaven, describing a Muslim in terms of unbelief, or denying "that Allah intended the Prophet's message to be the religion followed by the entire world."[11] Other acts considered apostate by scholars such Abu Bakr al-Jaza'iri and Ali al-Tamimi include stepping on the Qur'an or putting it in a filthy place (interesting in the context of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib), claiming that there is no reward or punishment in the afterlife, denying the finality of Muhammad's prophetic message, and ridiculing or making fun of any aspect of Islam. Al-Tamimi's list also includes judging by systems and laws other than Shariah, which perhaps helps to explain some of the difficulties of Islamic societies in implementing constitutional systems.[12] Professed unbelief or the actual blaspheming of Allah or the Prophet are unnecessary for the commission of apostasy according to most prominent scholars and jurists, and omission of certain practices can be as egregious a transgression as the commission of certain acts. Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328) insisted that Muslims who do not practice the pillar of salat (prayer) five times each day are to be instructed to do so; if they continue in their negligence, they are to be executed.[13]

The sixteenth-century Hanafite calligrapher and scholar Shaykhzādeh contributed his own list, which included denying the divinity of Allah, attributing to Jesus status as the Son of God or describing Allah in terms of a trinity, denying the prophethood of Muhammad, calling oneself a prophet, repudiating some Qur'anic scripture or professing to append to or omit Qur'anic verses, rejecting the legitimacy of the Shariah-courts, ascribing createdness to the Qur'an or uncreatedness to the world.[14] The last two forms of apostasy are significant in the history of Islam. Mu'tazilite scholars and theologians were marginalized in the ninth century CE by their adherence to the theological doctrine supporting the createdness of the Qur'an. Rejection of that view by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil led to the theological dominance of Asharite determinism and to the loss of the doctrine of human "free will" associated with the Mu'tazilites.[15] Similarly, the apostasy that concerns belief in the uncreatedness of the world was associated with Islamic thinkers such as Averroës and Avicenna and their affinity for Greek philosophy. Abu Hamid al-Ghazali condemned Avicenna, the eleventh-century philosopher who sought to reconcile Greek thought and Islamic theology, for the latter's unwillingness to acknowledge that God works through the particulars of creation. Although al-Ghazali attempted to salvage rationality alongside mysticism in his unique epistemology, his condemnation of Avicenna precipitated a turn against philosophy in Islamic culture and, after this time, many Muslim scholars who referenced Greek or other philosophy were subject to various forms of persecution including the death penalty by virtue of their apostate condition.[16]

Apostates who flee to the Dār al-Harb ("House of War") are subject to loss of legal rights such as inheritance. Property-owning female apostates witness the transference of their estates to their Muslim heirs. Also, in most schools of Islamic law, apostasy by a married partner dissolves the union and, should the apostate repent, a new marriage contract must be initiated.[17]  

Apostasy has indeed influenced the political direction of Islamic society and, often, dictated relations between Islam and the West. The execution of a young Armenian who had converted to Islam and was beheaded in Istanbul in 1843 for returning to Christianity set off a chain of events in European diplomacy that witnessed an eventual concession by Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid in 1844. The Sultan responded to pressure from the West with the statement: "The Sublime Porte engages to take effectual measures to prevent henceforward the persecution and putting to death of a Christian who is apostate."[18] Periodic occurrences of execution for apostasy in Muslim countries like Afghanistan, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia have led to tensions between those nations and the West.

While support for laws prohibiting apostasy has been remarkably pervasive in Islamic society throughout much of its history, it has not been universal. Nineteenth-century reformers Rashid Rida and Muhammad Abduh, and in the twentieth century, Muhammad Iqbal, were among those "modernists" who questioned the basis for execution as a mandatory punishment for Muslims who reject the faith. Liberal Muslim voices of the twentieth century including S. A. Rahman, the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Tunisian Rashid al-Ghannouchi, Muhammad Salim el-Awa, and Islamic modernist Abdullahi An-Naim have also questioned how foundational the law of apostasy is to Islam.[19] These voices appear to be a minority, however, among scholars and jurists in the history of Islam.   

Significantly, apostasy laws have entered periods of relative dormancy at different times in Islamic history. While there were obvious political and economic incentives for remaining Muslim in the Ottoman Empire, Serim Deringil has noted that even prior to the Tanzimat reforms of the mid-nineteenth century, it had become the policy of state officials to "look the other way" when converts to Islam reverted to their former religions, principally Christianity.[20] Thus, even in empires where apostasy was viewed principally as a state crime, there is historical evidence to suggest that severe punishments have not always been an unqualified rule for dealing with it. Leniency has been extended as a political concession in situations where apostates have not been seen as threatening to social order.

The quest for independence by colonized Muslim states re-energized apostasy laws and the prosecution of apostates as means of reestablishing national identities. This question of apostasy was at the heart of various independence movements during the colonial period. France, for example, initiated a campaign in the 1920s to enable Tunisians to attain French citizenship, which led to a response in kind by Tunisian nationalists who declared that "the naturalisé should be considered an apostate."[21] Apostasy thus served to promote Tunisian nationalism and counter the hybridization of Tunisian identity inspired by French colonialism.

One historical argument supporting the non-essentiality of apostasy as a crime in Islam concerns the development of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. There was a lack of uniformity among Muslims as to the provisions of the document respecting freedom of religion and the right to change one's system of beliefs. At issue in development of the UDHR in 1948 was Article 18 concerning the right of the individual to change his or her religion. The Saudi Arabian representative was among those who voiced objection to the article while Muhammad Zafarullah Khan of Pakistan supported it, citing Qur'anic verses that allow one to believe or not to believe in the "truth" of Islam.[22] Subsequent development of the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December 1966, highlights the controversy over the Muslim's right to change his or her religion. That document contains a similar Article 18, which states "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching." Further, "no one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice."[23] Despite this language, the Covenant was supported by Muslim nations like Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Syria and Tunisia.[24]

Support for these human rights documents was far from unanimous, however. Division among Muslim nations led to subsequent development of the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights (UIDHR) in 1981. In concert with many of these international covenants, the UIDHR professes adherence to the Qur'anic verse, "There is no compulsion in religion" in Article X on the rights of minorities. That same article voices support for even non-Muslim religious groups to govern themselves "in personal and religious matters." However, a number of other articles respecting religious freedom are ambiguous. Some imply, for example, that all religious rights are circumscribed by Shariah, such as Article XII, section (a), which states: Every person has the right to express his thoughts and beliefs so long as he remains within the limits prescribed by the [Islamic] Law. No one, however, is entitled to disseminate falsehood or to circulate reports which may outrage public decency, or to indulge in slander, innuendo or to cast defamatory aspersions on other persons."[25]

Despite religious liberty provisions found in international human rights documents that have been ratified by Muslim countries and similar provisions in the constitutions of those countries, the implementation of apostasy laws is widespread and, interestingly, it has gained momentum beginning in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Sudan, for example, instituted the death penalty as punishment for apostasy in 1983 and Pakistan implemented a similar "blasphemy" law in 1986. A few countries are exceptional, including Morocco where there are no civil or criminal penalties for conversion from Islam, but attempts to proselytize Muslims by members of other faith traditions are illegal.[26]

This resurgence of Islamic apostasy laws since the 1970s undoubtedly was connected to the aftereffects of colonialism and the attempts of Muslim countries to throw off colonial yokes and return to traditional identities. Yet in recent times, apostasy laws have been used principally to silence critics and impede reformers. Iranian scholar Hashem Aghajari was arrested in June 2002 and charged with apostasy after suggesting that Iranians should not "blindly follow religious leaders" and issuing a call for both political change and "religious renewal."[27] Originally sentenced to be hanged for his "crime," civil unrest within Iran and international political pressure helped gain a reduction of Aghajari's sentence to 5 years in prison, and he was released from prison in the summer of 2004. Similarly, Cairo University Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies Nasr Abu Zayd was charged with apostasy and jurists declared his marriage void based on the tenet of Islamic law forbidding a female Muslim to marry a non-Muslim male.[28] Abu Zayd and his wife relocated to The Netherlands to avoid persecution. Speaking to the contemporary resurgence of apostasy charges in Islamic countries, Charles Paul Freund contrasts the cases of Iran's Aghajari and that of Egyptian scholar Taha Hussein who was charged by clerics with apostasy in the 1930s. In the case of Hussein, just as with Aghajari, university students rose to his defense but Freund notes that Hussein never faced the prospect of execution; such a consequence at that time in Egyptian history "would have been unthinkable."[29] Freund's obvious implication is that apostasy as a crime in Islam has reacquired its pre-nineteenth century definition and cultural status, and that punishments are being meted out accordingly. Thus, while there has been inconsistency in the implementation of apostasy laws in Islamic history, there can be little doubt that such laws have experienced resurgence in recent decades.

The Theoretical and Theological Basis for Laws Against Apostasy 

Central to the issue of punishment for apostasy in Islam is the question of whether it is an essential tenet that helps to forge the faith's theological core or a cultural value that has developed in Islamic civilization yet is non-essential to Islam as a " If the latter, then the possibility exists for "recontextualization" of Islamic legal principles in light of contemporary values of human rights, as advocated by Abdulaziz Sachedina and other scholars. Modernists like Abdullahi An'Naim go even further, suggesting the need for abrogation of many Islamic principles that are no longer consistent with modern notions of human rights. Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed also may be categorized among those scholars of the "recontextualization" school. They suggest that development of prohibitions on apostasy in Islam was largely a cultural phenomenon-a "response to the socio-political situation of the Muslim community in the immediate post-prophetic period (in the seventh century CE)."[30] As will be seen the lack of Qur'anic support for these laws has led scholars to question the religious basis of apostasy laws in Islamic countries, just as some question whether heresy trials in Medieval Europe were as much religiously as politically inspired. The splintered orthodoxy of Islam, virtually from its inception, along with the integration of religious and political institutions that has accompanied the development of Islamic civilization complicates understanding of how apostates are targeted in Muslim culture.

What is most theologically controversial about these laws is the fact that Qur'anic verses dealing with apostasy generally imply eternal punishments rather than temporal penalties to be implemented by man, such as verse 217 from the second surah that those "who turn away from his faith and die as a denier of truth…are destined for the fire therein to abide."[31] Indeed, ''anic verses such as Q 3:86-99 suggest that apostasy is a crime to be dealt with by Allah in the hereafter and not by human beings or their agencies in this world.[32] A verse often cited as supporting death for apostasy in found in Q 9:73: "O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination." Even here there is no command by Allah to kill the apostate but rather the implication that punishment will be eternal not temporal.

Despite the lack of Qur'anic foundation for death as punishment for apostasy, however, the process of abrogation or naskh in Islam has provided theological support. Subsequent hadith, the traditions that purport to be both the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, are far less ambiguous respecting the penalty for those who leave the faith. In particular is the hadith pronouncing a mandatory sentence of death (qatl) for those who abjure Islam: "Whoever changes his religion, kill him."[33] This statement is cited frequently by Orientalists attempting to demonstrate the irreconcilability of Islam and modernity, and by Islamic traditionalists who desire the return to some ostensibly austere and pristine state of Islamic civilization. The compilation of hadith by Bukhari, generally considerable most credible by Muslims, includes a statement by Muhammad that:

The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.[34]

Additional hadith compiled by Bukhari provide justification for death as the penalty for apostasy. The traditional text found in Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57 testifies that Ali, the fourth Rashidun caliph, professed to follow the example of Muhammad by killing those who change their Islamic religion. Similarly, Number 58 cites an event where the Prophet's companion, Abu Musa, complies with the rule of Allah as given by his Prophet by killing a Jew who converted to Islam but then reverted to Judaism.[35] These hadith calling for the execution of apostates are developed further in the opinions of medieval scholars and jurists who further delineated the necessity of punishment.

There are distinctions, however, that open windows of possible dialogue concerning the status of apostasy in Islam. The distinguished scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, for example, distinguished between two forms of apostasy: hirabah, high treason or what is commonly considered "aggressive apostasy," and riddah, or "passive apostasy" in which one simply leaves Islam and does not defame it or fight against it.[36] One assumes that the case of Abdul Rahman falls in the latter category since he desired to keep his religious conversion quiet and was only arrested when a Bible was found in his possession by a family member. Thus, even among some conservative Islamic scholars such as Ibn Taymiyyah, the simple act of leaving the faith, in and of itself, does not mandate death.

Beyond the theological traditions, however, is the intense association of faith, law, and politics in Islam such that apostasy is virtually indistinguishable from treason. Apostasy becomes quite literally a crime against society, and those who perpetrate these crimes must be executed for the reason that they threaten not simply their own eternal salvation, but the entire Islamic social order. The principal determination thus becomes not whether a Muslim has left the faith but whether her apostasy undermines social stability. The problem is that some scholars tend to view almost every rejection of Islam as a potential destabilization of the social order. Muhammad al-Ghazali, the eleventh-century Asharite theologian and refuter of Aristotle and his Muslim disciples, presents the case for apostasy as a particularly egregious crime against Islamic society:

Apostasy seldom is a matter that only concerns one's inner self alone. If that would be the case, nobody would notice it. In most instances apostasy is the psychological pretext for rebellion against worship, traditions and laws, even against the foundations of the state itself and against its stand towards its external enemies. Therefore apostasy is often synonymous with the crime of high treason.[37]

A common objection to the right to change one's belief from Islam is voiced by Sultanhussein Tabandeh of Iran, the leader of a Shi'ite Sufi order who authored critiques of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that became seminal documents for the Islamic Republic of Iran's treatment of religious minorities:

No man of sense, from the mere fact that he possesses intelligence, will ever turn down the better in favour of the inferior. Anyone who penetrates beneath the surface to the inner essence of Islam is bound to recognize its superiority over the other religions. A man, therefore, who deserts Islam, by that act betrays the fact that he must have played truant to its moral and spiritual truths in his heart earlier.[38]

Tabandeh cites what he sees as a thoroughly rational basis for -that no minimally intelligent human being could ever reject the perfection of the Islamic faith once it is fully explored. Every person on the planet, of every racial and ethnic origin, of every possible worldview, will accept Islam once it is fully and accurately understood. Such a view is guided by the Islamic notion of fitra, or human nature, a universal imperative "given at birth to all humans … with the necessary cognition and volition to fulfill the goals of humanity and to recognize and serve God."[39]  Those who reject the imperative of the fitra reject the Muslim community and God Himself. Liberalism, given such a worldview, becomes unnecessary. The good for society is preordained, and intelligent human beings who have carefully examined the faith will recognize that good while others will be expelled from the community or, in some cases, killed for their rejection of truth.  

Muslim scholars who have challenged the theological basis of apostasy laws have often found themselves subject to charges of apostasy for their efforts. Many have denied the hadith and other elements of the Sunna that appear to contravene the sacred scripture of the Qur'an. Prominent arguments among the "Sunna-deniers" such as the aforementioned reformer Rashid Rida and his mentor Muhammad Abduh are that hadith-based punishments for apostasy conflict with Qur'anic injunctions that imply apostasy is a sin whose punishment is to be carried out by Allah alone.[40] The foundational status of the Qur'an in Islam insists that the voice of Allah must take precedence over human words and deeds. Yet despite the absence of a Qur'anic basis and the opinions of some conservative scholars that apostasy (at least particular forms) need not be a capital crime, these laws persist and often conflict with the constitutional law of predominantly Muslim countries.

Political Institutions and the Persistence of Apostasy Laws

Governmental structures influence laws prohibiting apostasy in Muslim countries. In some cases, a weak federal organization enables provincial states to implement and enforce Islamic law even on non-Muslim citizens. In other cases, centralized Islamic governments construct policies that seemingly violate their own constitutions, often aided by Shariah courts that "fill the void" left by insufficient development of secular law, which exposes populations (often unwillingly) to the strictures of Islamic jurisprudence. This reality is frequently masked by the existence of quite modern human rights language in the constitutional provisions of these countries.

The constitutions of some Muslim nations go so far as to include " language, such as that found in Article 5 of the Constitution of Tunisia: "The Tunisian Republic guarantees the inviolability of the human person and freedom of conscience, and protects the free exercise of beliefs."[41] Even the Constitution of Iran calls for religious liberty, but the institutional manifestation of velayaat-i-faqih (rule by jurists) has enabled the subversion of rights found in the constitution.[42] Article 3 of the new constitution of Afghanistan states that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam" while Article 34 states that "freedom of expression is inviolable." [43] Article 63 requires the president-elect to swear an oath to Allah even as Article 22 insists that "any kind of discrimination and privilege between the citizens of Afghanistan are prohibited."[44] The difficulty in reconciling these provisions is found in the insistence that no law or policy may violate the "beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam," a broad and commonly employed theme in the constitutions of Muslim countries.  

The federal structure of particular Islamic states has factored heavily into the implementation (or attempted implementation) of hudud laws and mandatory sentences of death for apostasy. In the case of hudud laws, the issue has been particularly pronounced in Malaysia and Nigeria. In the former, a movement led by the Islamist PAS party (or Islamic Party of Malaysia) for years sought to implement hudud in the Kelantan and Terengannu states but was blocked by the national government of Malaysia on constitutional grounds. PAS was successful in implementing particular laws based on Shariah such as laws banning Muslims from liquor stores and prohibiting gambling. Eventually, however, the movement for implementation of the hudud laws lost momentum and the PAS Party was defeated in national elections in 2004.[45]

A similar fight over the implementation of Islamic law in Nigeria's federalist government over the past few years has exposed the authoritarian character of that system. The implementation of Shariah for civil and personal law had long been permitted, extending to the time of British colonialism. However, the Zamfara state extended Islamic law to criminal offenses and implemented the hudud for punishment of crimes expressly given in the Qur'an. At first the federal government under President Obasanjo challenged this extension, however, it later relented under political pressure and full Shariah criminal law was implemented in several states. According to Elaigwu and Galadima, "Zamfara, Jigawa, Niger, and Sokoto have opted for the full-blown Islamic criminal law for Muslims, with the attendant floggings, decapitations, amputations, and stonings to death, among others, for offenses such as theft, fornication, adultery, and murder."[46] They also note that implementation of the criminal Shariah law has had implications beyond the Muslim community:

Christians protested that the Supreme Sharia would affect them in many ways, even if they are not expected to be taken to Sharia courts. They argued that closures of hotels, bans on the sale of alcohol at beer parlors, discrimination in contract awards and in permit and license issuances, and the like negatively affect their economic life. In addition, they argued that their fundamental human rights, as enshrined in the Constitution, were being eroded by enforcement, especially vigilante enforcement, of the Supreme Sharia, such as attempts to ban or limit proselytizing, church construction, and Christian education in state schools.[47]

The authors present a strong case that non-Muslim populations do not have to be directly subject to Shariah to be impacted by it. Interestingly, implementation of criminal Shariah, at least in Zamfara, excluded the criminalization of apostasy, a positive sign that there is some flexibility among states choosing to implement Shariah. Regardless, the existence of weak federalist systems likely will continue to permit implementation of Islamic law in predominantly Muslim states in ways that affect even non-Muslim populations.

In situations such as in the Sudan, a strong nationalist Muslim government seeks to extend Shariah to Christian and other religious peoples in the South, where female Christians have been sentenced to lashing and even stoning for adultery and for not veiling themselves in public.[48] Distinct implementations of federalism in states where Muslims form a significant portion of the population will continue to press these issues concerning the reach of Shariah and the extension of hudud and apostasy laws to various populations.

The examples above reflect that the threat of death for apostates is not the only (or even the principal) problem envisioned here. In cases where actual death sentences are imposed, such that of Aghajari in Iran and Rahman in Afghanistan, world pressure generally serves to overcome the immediate threat. However, the mere existence of such laws reflects a fundamentally illiberal mindset incompatible with the construction of democracies capable of long-term survival and incapable of supporting the diverse needs of a pluralistic society. Support of apostasy laws in Muslim culture reflects attitudes that will ultimately undermine democratic institutions such as freedom of speech and the press, freedom of association, and others  that are dependent on the freedom of individual conscience. Thus, the Saeeds' questionable contention that "many Muslims have abandoned aspects of the pre-modern apostasy laws, particularly punishment by death"[49] provides little comfort for those hoping for real progress in human rights. During the protests over Aghajari's death sentence, an Iranian student confirmed that segments of Muslim society understand that there is more at stake in the resurgence of apostasy laws than religious freedom itself: "Our problem," the student insisted, "is not only the revision of the death sentence on Hashem Aghajari, but freedom of speech and freedom in general."[50] 

Apostasy as Justification for Institutional Violence

 The question of whether Islam is an inherently violent religion has been posed countless times since 11 September 2001. For many Americans the answer is obvious: violence attends Islam like death attends war. For others, including many Muslim scholars of Islam, the question is nonsensical. University of Pennsylvania professor S. Nomanul Haq, in his essay, "Revisiting the Question of Islam and Violence," states that "those of us who are somewhat better informed than the vast majority of our public wonder why the question arises in the first place-for in the larger sweep of the annals of history, evidence points in other directions."[51]  Haq contends that production of historical evidence to prove that "intolerance, violence, and bloodshed" are not Islamic values is not necessary; "for if they were, Islam would not have been a civilization but a mafia, and it is a law of nature that mafias do not create civilizations since inherent in them are active forces and mechanisms of rapid internal destruction."[52] Haq ignores the fact that mafias have existed for centuries despite their violent ways and that they possess many of the same characteristics of nation-states. Still, his point has salience. If Islam is as inherently intolerant and violent as its critics contend, how has it survived and even flourished for a millennia-and-a-half and, disregarding a global culture in which freedom is flourishing, continues to grow  a pace greater than Judaism and Christianity? How can a religion whose sacred scripture, the Qur'an, is held in the Muslim consciousness with such an air of inviolability, support death for apostasy even as the Qur'an's own words profess: "There is no compulsion in religion."[53]

One answer that has been offered is through the process of abrogation (naskh)-the means by which every faith is transformed as certain tenets and mores are trumped by other values and practices through subsequent theological development and interaction with the wider culture. Despite the Muslim's profession of certainty and of an essential unity at the core of Islam, the historical and theological fact is that the religion has wrestled with its core identity for every bit as long as Christianity and Judaism. Islamic reformation was immediate and has remained continuous from the period of puritanical Kharijism. Judaism and Christianity have experienced similar traumas but arguably with less frequency and, at least for the last five centuries, with the stabilizing influence of Enlightenment that has promoted the liberalization of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

One might surmise that Islam's own history would expose the futility of coercion in the enforcement of religious belief and practice. Instead, Muslims appear traumatized to some extent by that history and by the possibility that religious pluralism will relegate Islam to the status of one among many systems of belief. Hazrat Ahmad perhaps accents this point in describing the thought of Maulana Maududi, a founding father of Pakistani Islamism, on the subject of religious liberty:

Freedom of conscience is limited to faith and religion only. It does not mean that people have freedom to commit sin. Islam does not permit the use of force for conversion, but force may be used-in fact, should be used-to prevent people from doing wrong. Non-Muslim countries and cultures cannot be allowed to practice immoral deeds and force used to keep these countries free of vice should be clearly distinguished from that used to convert people to Islam.[54]

Thus, for Maududi, while no compulsion may be used to force conversion to Islam, coercion may be necessary to force non-Muslim nations to abide by Islamic morality. Thus, despite stated limitations on coercion of the individual conscience, one can easily discern an ideology that allows the punishment of death for those who leave the faith. If Muslims are entitled to coerce even those who do not believe in Allah and his prophet Muhammad to their own standards of morality, then how much more force can be used to keep "believers" from leaving the tradition?

Despite Maududi's statement on the "freedom of conscience" he found justification for death as the punishment for apostasy, even providing a Qur'anic basis for the claim.[55] According to Ahmad, Maududi was inspired to rationalize death to apostates through the influence of two Western Christian thinkers: the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes and the French Reformer John Calvin. Portending the justification for apostasy laws in contemporary Islam, Hobbes stated that "it is not the intrinsic error of the judgment that makes the heresy punishable, but the private rebellion against authority. To make loyalty to the commands of conscience the ruling principle would sanction all private men to disobey their princes in maintenance of their religion, true or false."[56] Ahmad contends that Maududi's campaign against heresy was inspired by, and even required the incorporation of medieval and pre-modern Christian conceptions of heresy and apostasy.[57] The Christian preoccupation with dogma and orthodoxy belatedly entered into Islam and was manifested in the form of apostasy laws. What Ahmad's theory does not explain are the equally condemnatory pronouncements of pre-modern Muslim scholars and jurists and the sources of their requirement of death as punishment for leaving Islam. Hobbes and Calvin could not have served as models for the original hadith supporting death for apostates and for the subsequent reinforcement of that penalty by medieval scholars such as al-Ghazali.


Some scholars contend that central to the Muslim faith is the obligation to punish apostates in order to ensure the integrity of Islam.[58] But why is the integrity of Islam dependent upon forcing those who do not believe to falsely profess belief and engage in religious practices they no longer condone? Islamic integrity would seem more dependent upon ensuring that those who profess belief, who follow the five pillars, and who call themselves Muslim are true believers. This is not the typical academic issue in which passions run high because the stakes are low. Its resolution has enormous consequences not only for those persecuted for the sake of Islam's "integrity" but also for the critical experiments underway in Islamic democracy.

Scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have sought to attenuate what they see as an exaggeration of apostasy laws in Islam by emphasizing the cultural contexts of such laws. Many who support penalties for apostasy also recognize inconsistencies when one views Qur'anic injunctions concerning the rejection of Islam against subsequent developments in Islamic law. In The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism, Abdulaziz Sachedina notes the cultural conditioning of apostasy laws and the difficulties of their reconciliation with the 'an and the state's compelling interest in a stable social order. Sachedina notes that the "harsh treatment of apostates in Islamic law was promulgated without making an indispensable distinction between the Koranic doctrine of freedom of religion, which insists that no human agency can negotiate an individual's spiritual destiny, and legitimate concerns about the Muslim public order."[59] But Sachedina observes the contentious issue of when an individual's right to change religious belief constitutes a threat to public order:

There is a self-evident problem in any Islamic criminalization of apostasy defined in the strict sense of public abandonment of an institutionalized religion for another; a mere expression of religious dissent against the established community, which the Koran grants as a basic individual right, cannot constitute a criminal act punishable in this world. The Muslim civil authority has the ultimate responsibility for using its discretionary power to assess the level of discord created by a public declaration of an apostasy and to lay down the appropriate measures to deal with it.[60]

The key difference is that in non-Muslim societies, apostasy in the strictest sense of the term as leaving one's religion, does not generally create public discord. Thus, in the private religious ethos of the West, the question for civil authorities of when "to lay down appropriate measures to deal with it" is rarely relevant. But this freedom of conscience serves more than simply to deflect religious oppression. It also serves as the basis for myriad human rights upon which democracies are uniquely dependent.

Religious liberty is the cornerstone of all freedoms: freedom of association, a free press, and other freedoms are centrally dependent upon this one value. Without the right to believe freely and to express that belief openly, the rights of expression and action afforded by modern constitutions become meaningless. Thus, attempts to craft democratic institutions minus the commitment to freedom of conscience (that must include the right to leave one's faith) are exercises in nation-building on unstable ground. Present experiments in Islamic democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to fail if the most basic liberties cannot be guaranteed.

Conversely, however, one can envision a transformation of Islamic culture if a way can be found to inculcate this value. But is such a dramatic alteration to the ethos of Islam possible? Is preservation of the concept of the ummah (community), the very foundation of Islamic society, feasible in the context of mass liberalization in the Muslim world? Christianity adapted with the aid of the Reformation to a world liberalizing through forces of rising pluralism, representative government, and nascent capitalism. Martin Luther's development of a theology of individual conscience was essential to break from the restrictions of canon law and an authoritarian ecclesial structure that would not or could not reform itself. Liberty necessitated a break from the old order in which conscience was held captive in the iron fist of a Constantinian social order. At least with regards to ultimate things, king and priest alike were defrocked and everyman placed in their stead. Location of a genuine right to religious liberty, one that some scholars find rooted in the traditions of Islam, will involve a similarly radical change in the Muslim world. The first step is to admit the rights of all persons (Muslim and non-Muslim) to believe without coercion and to change those beliefs without fear of dying for one's vision of truth.    

[1] For an interesting discussion of Afghanistan’s legal system by a scholar who assisted in its development, see “Constitutionalism in the Muslim World: A Conversation with Noah Feldman”; accessed at http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/itdhr/0304/ijde/feldman.htm on 12 May 2006.

[2] Quoted in “Afghan Christian Averts Death for Apostasy as Italy Grants Asylum,” Christian Century 123 (18 April 2006): get page and check. Perkins has been a supporter of the Iraq War but it is now critical of the possibility that it may end with a “theocratic” Iraq. See also Terry M. Neal, Talking Points, “War Supporters Concerned That ‘Theocracy’ Will Be Final Word in Iraq Saga,” washingtonpost.com (29 August 2005); accessed at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/26/AR2005082600548.html on 10 May 2006.

[3] This is not to suggest that my fellow presenter favored capital punishment for leaving Islam; however, he contended that such a “right” is unacceptable and strongly suggested that legal restrictions on apostasy are legitimate for governments of predominantly Muslim nations. Taken from the conference session, “Religion, Democracy, and Islam,” Center for the Study of New Religions annual conference, 19 June 2004, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

[4] See Sebastian Tong, “Malaysia’s Converts Test Freedom of Faith,” Reuters, 26 June 2006; accessed at http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2006/ 06/26/malaysias_converts_test_freedom_of_faith/?page=1 on 29 June 2006; United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, International Religious Freedom Report 2003, “Malaysia”; accessed at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2003/23838.htm on 15 May 2006; and Internet Malaysia, “Talking Apostasy,” (28 December 2004); accessed at http://www.littlespeck.com/region/CForeign-My-041228.htm on 15 June 2006.

[5] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2004), 1. Abdullah Saeed is a professor at the University of Melbourne while Hassan Saeed is an attorney general in The Maldives.

[6] The authors also state that in Shi’ite law, female apostates are relegated to solitary confinement and “beaten at the hours of the salāh [prayer].” Further, among Sunni schools, the Hanafites are of the view that  “discriminating minors” may legally commit apostasy but are not to be subject to the death penalty; “according to the remaining schools, no minor is qualified to produce an acceptable apostasy, whether he be ‘discriminating’ or not.” See Rudolph Peters and Gert J.J. de Vries, “Apostasy in Islam,” Die Welt des Islams 17, Issue 1/4 (1976-1977): 5, 6.

[7] The four Rashidun or “rightly guided” caliphs who led the Muslim ummah in the era immediately after the death of Muhammad were Abu Bakr 632-634 CE), Umar (634-644 CE), Uthman (644-656 CE), and Ali (656-661 CE). 

[8] Jane Gerber, The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience (New York: The Free Press, 1992).

[9] See Paul W. Werth, “The Limits of Religious Ascription: Baptized Tatars and the Revision of ‘Apostasy,’ 1840s-1905,” The Russian Review 59 (October 2000): 493-511.

[10] Rudolph Peters and Gert J.J. de Vries, “Apostasy in Islam,” Die Welt des Islams 17, Issue 1/4 (1976-1977): 4.

[11] Ahmad al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: A Classical Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller (Evanston: Sunnah Books, 1994), 596-598; quoted in Saeed, 44-45. One of the most esoteric of al-Misri’s categories of apostasy is the act of saying mockingly, “I don’t know what faith is.” See ibid.

[12] Saeed, 45-47.

[13] Saeed, 172. The authors continue with the observation that “Ibn Taymiyyah’s view is not isolated; as far as fundamental religious obligations are concerned, many ulama would concur with him, at least in theory. In fact, many view Abu Bakr’s (the first caliph) engagement in the so-called ‘wars of apostasy’ as fighting apostates whose crime was refusal to pay zakat, a fundamental part of Islam like the prayers.” See ibid.

[14] Rudolph Peters and Gert J.J. de Vries, “Apostasy in Islam,” Die Welt des Islams 17, Issue 1/4 (1976-1977): 4.  

[15] Jonathan Berkey, The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003),  126-129.

[16] For an interesting treatment of rationality and mysticism in the thought of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, see Binyamin Abrahamov, “Al-Ghāzāli’s Supreme Way to Know God,” Studia Islamica 77 (1993): 141-168.

[17] Peters and De Vries note an exception to the faskh or nullification of marriage when the wife becomes apostate: in Shafi’ite and Shi’ite legal theory, consideration is given where “the marriage contract in some cases [continues] to be in abeyance during the wife’s waiting period (‘iddah), so that, if the apostate repents during this period, the marriage remains valid. See Peters and De Vries, 8-9.

[18] Quotation taken from Stanley Lane-Poole, The Life of the Rt. Hon. Stratford Canning. London: Green & Co, 1888, 2 vols.; vol. 2, p. 89-98; quoted in Peters and De Vries, 13.

[19] Saeed, 2.

[20] Tanzimat reforms (from the Turkish word for “reorganization) were modernizing and liberalizing policies initiated by Ottoman sultans in the mid-nineteenth century to forestall Ottoman decline vis-à-vis the nation-states of Europe and the Americas. See Selim Deringil, “‘There Is No Compulsion in Religion’: On Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire: 1839-1856,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 42 (July 2000): 550-551.

[21] Peters and de Vries, 12.

[22] Saeed, 14.

[23] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2200A [XX1]. 16 December 1966; accessed at http://www.cirp.org/library/ethics/UN-covenant/ on 3 May 2006. Interestingly, the United States did not ratify the Covenant until 1992 due to a number of concerns, in particular its anti-death penalty language that was seen as a political hot potato by the US Senate. 

[24] Saeed, 14.

[25] Explanatory notes at the end of the document state that the word “Law” where it is found in the UIDHR means “Shari’ah.” See Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights (19 September 1981); accessed at http://alhafeez.org/rashid/ISLAMDECL.html on 10 July 2006.

[26] Saeed, 19.

[27] Charles Paul Freund, “Liberal Martyrdom in Iran,” Reason 34 (February 2003): 18-19.

[28] Fauzi M. Najjiar, “Islamic Fundamentalism and the Intellectuals: The Case of Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 27, no. 2 (2000): 177-200.

[29] Freund, 19.

[30] Saeed, 3.

[31] Qur’an 2:217.

[32] The last part of Q 2:217 states: “Whoever of you turns back from his religion, then he dies while an unbeliever—these it is whose works shall go for nothing in this world and the hereafter, and they are the inmates of the fire; therein they shall abide.” The Qur’an: Arabic Text and English Translation, trans. M.H. Shakir, Ninth U.S. edition (Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 2004).

[33] Sarakhsi, Al-Mabsut, 10:98; quoted in Saeed, 51.

[34] Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 83, #17 from the USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts; accessed at http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals /hadithsunnah/bukhari/083.sbt.html on 3 July 2006.

[35] Burkhari, Volume 9, Book 84, #58 in ibid.

[36] Shah Abdul Halim, “Islam and Pluralism,” 11 October 2002; located at http://www.ummah.net/forum/

printthread.php?t=3763 on 1 June 2006.

[37] Muhammd al-Ghazali, Huqūq al-Insān bayn ta‘ālīm al-Islām wa-i‘lān al-Umam al-Muttahidah. Al-Qāhirah: al-Maktabah al-Tidjāriyyah, 1383/1963, 272 p.; p. 101-2; quoted in Peters and De Vries, 17.

[38] Sultanhussein Tabandeh, A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (London:  F.T. Goulding, 1970), 71; quoted in Saeed, 15. 

[39] Abdulaziz Sachedina, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 26.

[40] Aluma Dankowitz, “Accusing Muslim Intellectuals of Apostasy,” The Middle East Media Research Institute, Inquiry and Analysis Series no. 208, 18 February 2005; accessed at  http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area =ia&ID=IA20805 on 1 July 2006.

[41] The Constitution of Tunisia; located at http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/ts00000_.html on 12 June 2006.

[42] See, for example, Asghar Schirazi, The Constitution of Iran: Politics and the State in the Islamic Republic, trans. John O’Kane (New York: I.B. Tauris [distributed in the United States by St. Martin’s Press] ), 1997.

[43] Constitution of Afghanistan; accessed athttp://www.afghansite.com/afghanistan/afghan Constitution.asp on 15 June 2006.

[44] Ibid.

[45] US State Department: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, International Religious Freedom Report 2005, “Malaysia”; accessed at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51518.htm on 1 July 2006.

[46] J. Isawa Elaigwu and Habu Galadima, “The Shadow of Sharia Over Nigerian Federalism,” Publius 33 (Summer 2003): 123-144; accessed via FirstSearch on 21 January 2006. The authors further note that “Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Yobe, Gombe, and Kaduna have opted for a gradual implementation of Sharia in criminal matters. In Kaduna, for instance, amputation of the limbs of thieves, the stoning of adulterers, and hawking by children have been disallowed, while the authorities strictly frown at pre-marital sex.” See ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Human Rights Watch, World Report Sudan, “Dinka Woman's Death Sentence Overturned:
Emergency Court Replaces Stoning Sentence With Flogging”; accessed at http://hrw.org/press/2002/03/sudan-0308.htm on 5 April 2006.

[49] Saeed, 169.

[50] Quoted in Freund.

[51] S. Nomanul Haq, “Revisiting the Question of Islam and Violence,” A Journal of Theology 40 (Winter 2001): 303.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Q 2:256.

[54] Maulana Maududi, Al-Jihad fil Islam (lookup ; quoted in Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Murder in the Name of Allah, trans. Syed Barakat Ahmad (Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 1989), 21.

[55] Maududi employs Q 9:11,12 in arguing that the Qur’an itself requires death for apostasy: “But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religion. We detail our revelations for a people who have knowledge. And if they break their pledges after their treaty (hath been made with you) and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief -- Lo! they have no binding oaths in order that they may desist.” Quoted in Abul ala Maududi, “The Punishment of the Apostate According to Islamic Law,” trans. Syed Silas Husain and Ernest Hahn, 1994; accessed at http://answering-islam.org.uk/Hahn/Mawdudi/ on 28 July 2006.

[56] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, or Matter, Form and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil (Chicago: Great Books of the Western World, Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 1952), 210; quoted in Ahmad, 52.

[57] Ahmad, 59.

[58] For example, see the debate among scholars Joseph D. Wilkinson, II, Irfan Khawaja, and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in the article “Muslim Apostasy,” Commentary 119 (18-19 May 2005 check) concerning an article by Ali Khan in the Cumberland Law Review (February 2005) that attempts to provide justification for apostasy laws.

[59] Abdulaziz Sachedina, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 101.

[60] Ibid.