leaving_islam_is_not_a_capital_crime

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Unformatted text preview: Chicago Tribune news: Leaving Islam is not a capital crime Page 1 of; 4—DNLIHE EDITlDfl— by://vv'ww.chicagotribune.corn/news/op inion/chi-0604020336apr02,1,3345595.stogy Leaving Islam is not a capital. crime By M. Cherif Bassiouni, a professor and the president of the International - Human Rights Law Institute at DePaul University College of Law April 2, 2006 A Muslim’s conversion to Christianity isnot a crime punishable by death under Islamic law, contrary to the claims in the case of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan. While there is long-established doctrine that apostasy is punishable by death, that has also long been questioned by Islamic criminal justice scholars, including this writer. ' There are 1.4 billion Muslims who live in more'than 140 countries. They constitute the great majority in 53 countries that declare themselves to be - Muslim states. Most of these states have constitutions that guarantee freedom of religion, as does the Afghani constitution. Most of these states have criminal codes that do not include apostasy as a crime. Among them are: Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. Other Muslim countries, however, criminalize apostasy on the basis of doctrinal constructs established in the 7th and 8th Centuries, which have been mildly questioned over the years or simply sidestepped. States that recognize it as a crime punishable by death include Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. However, there are no known cases in recent times in which-someone charged-with apostasy in these countries has been put to death. The principal category of crimes in Islam is called hudud. These crimes are referred to in the Koran and thus require prosecution. They are: adultery, theft, transgression (physical aggression), highway robbery, . slander and alcohol consumption. Apostasy is included in this list by most scholars, but not by a few others. The Koran refers to it as follows: "And whoever of yc'iu turns I[away] from his religion [Islam] and dies disbelieying, their works have failed in this world and the next [world]. Those are the inhabitants of fire: therein they shall dwell forever. "Surat (chapter) al-Ma’eda, verse 35. This verse does . not criminalize the turning away fromflslam, nor does it establish a penalty. Turning away from Islam, which is translated as apostasy, would not have been considered a crime, except the Prophet Muhammad (praise be upon him) in the 7th Century applied the death penalty to a Muslim who turned away from Islam. Historians of the Sunnah, the tradition established by the Prophet and deemed binding upon all Muslims, failed to note a significant fact about that case~-that person not only had a change of faith, but decided to join the enemies of Islam at a time of war, thus making it a crime of high treason. Such a crime exists in all legal systems, many with the death penalty. ' The Prophets application of the death penalty was used by Muslim scholars in combination with the verse cited above as a legal basis for making apostasy, namely, change in religious belief, a crime punishable by death. These scholars have overlooked the passage to the enemy at a time of war, which http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-O6040203 36apr02. l .3 588431.nrint.storv 4/60006 Chicago Tribune news: Leaving Islam is not a capital crime Page 2 of 2 was the most important element in the Prophet‘s decision in that case. They have also overlooked two important factors. The first relates to the Koran, the highest binding source of Islamic law, which contains a fundamental principle stated in unequivocal terms: "Let there be no compulsion in religion, " Surat Al-Baqarah, verse 256. Surely this overarching principle cannot be transgressed by forcing a person under penalty of death to espouse Islam even after such a person professes to have renounced it. The second overlooked factor relates to the Prophet‘s Sunnah, which is the second source of law. In another case, the Prophet reached a different outcome. In this case, which shows the considerate and gentler face of Islam, a man was brought to the Prophet and accused of turning away from Islam. He was seen throwing his spear into the sky and screaming, "I want to kill you God!" The Prophet inquired of the man if that was true, and then asked for his reasons. The man said that God had killed his beloved one that he was soon to marry, and that he wanted to kill God for that. The Prophet, addressing the accusers, said, "Is it not enough for you that he believes in God enough that he wants to kill him?" And he let the man go. Interestingly, all theSe scholars qualified the application of the death penalty with a time~lag to allow the apostate to change his/her mind. This period varied from one to 10 days. If all scholars agree to a period of time, and there can be no compulsion in religion, then why is it not valid to say that the person's natural life is the appmpriate period of time? After all, the applicable Koranic verse refers to those who I’die as disbelievers." By shortening their natural life, such condemned persons are deprived of the opportunity to make the choice of returning to Islam. If they do not, then their punishment is in the hereafter, and not in this world. The Koran is the last of God's divine revelations and it is specifically stated therein that Islam is the continuation of Judaism and Christianity. "We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon as, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus; and that which has been vouchsafed to all the [other] prophets by their Sustainer: we make no distinction between any of them. And it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves." Surat Al-Baqarah, verse 136. It would be contrary to this recognition to criminalize, let alone execute, aperson who embraces Judaism or Christianity. Why these issues were not raised in the Rahrnan trial in Kabul and with the government of Afghanistan is surprising. Regrettably, contemporary Muslim scholars do not sufficiently address controversial issues long- established in tradition for fear of having to face the wrath of the traditional religious establishments in the Muslim world. And they are also reluctant to do so in this country, because of consistent attacks against Islam by certain religious and political groups who have their own agenda. The media have regrettably abetted this agenda by negative portrayals of Islam and Muslims. Adnnttedly, such situations as in Afghanistan, the horrendous crimes committed by the jihadists in Iraq, indiscriminate bombings, aerial attacks in the U.S., suicide bombings in Europe and Israel, lend credence to anti-Islam negativism. Muslim scholars must assume their responsibilities in responding to such negativism, and also by condemning the wrongs committed in the name of Islam. Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune hfi‘fl‘Hunxnxr r-lqinnrrnh-ilannn nnmfna1urn1n—:u:naL-.LZ (\(ndnnnfifl r. nn 1 n ~nn 4n 1 ...
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This note was uploaded on 01/11/2010 for the course REL REL 308 taught by Professor Judithmartin during the Fall '09 term at University of Dayton.

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leaving_islam_is_not_a_capital_crime - Chicago Tribune...

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