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Mainstream Islam Rejects Freedom of Conscience

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) will be meeting in Chicago later this month, sponsoring a program promoting values antithetical to the U.S. Constitution.

by
Andrew G. Bostom

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September 23, 2010 - 7:33 am
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The gravely negative implications of the OIC’s Sharia-based Cairo Declaration are most apparent in its transparent rejection of freedom of conscience in Article 10, which proclaims:

Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion, or to atheism.

Ominously, Articles 19 and 22 reiterate a principle stated elsewhere throughout the document, which clearly applies to the “punishment” of so-called “apostates” from Islam:

[19d] There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Sharia.

[22a] Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Sharia.

[22b] Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Sharia.

[22c] Information is a vital necessity to society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith.

Punishment by death for apostasy from Islam is firmly rooted in Islam’s foundational texts, both the Koran (verses such as 2:217 , 4:89, and their classical exegesis by renowned Koranic commentators such as Qurtubi, Baydawi, Ibn Kathir, and Suyuti) and the hadith (i.e., collections of the putative words and deeds of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, as compiled by pious Muslim transmitters), as well as the sacred Islamic law (the Sharia). For example, Muhammad is reported to have said “kill him who changes his religion,” in hadith collections of both Bukhari and Abu Dawud. There is also a consensus by all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (i.e., Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shafi’i), as well as Shi’ite jurists, that apostates from Islam must be put to death. Averroes (d. 1198), the renowned philosopher and scholar of the natural sciences who was also an important Maliki jurist, provided this typical Muslim legal opinion on the punishment for apostasy:

An apostate … is to be executed by agreement in the case of a man, because of the words of the Prophet, “Slay those who change their din [religion].” … Asking the apostate to repent was stipulated as a condition … prior to his execution.

The contemporary (i.e., 1991) Al-Azhar (Cairo) Islamic Research Academy-endorsed manual of Islamic Law, Umdat al-Salik (pp. 595-96), states:

Leaving Islam is the ugliest form of unbelief (kufr) and the worst. … When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostasizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed. In such a case, it is obligatory … to ask him to repent and return to Islam. If he does it is accepted from him, but if he refuses, he is immediately killed.

This doctrinal and historical legitimacy of Sharia-mandated killing of apostates from Islam is affirmed by Heffening in his scholarly review for the authoritative, mainstream academic reference work, the Encyclopedia of Islam:

In Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), there is unanimity that the male apostate must be put to death. … A woman, on the other hand, is imprisoned … until she again adopts Islam … [or] she also is put to death.

As noted by historian David Littman, Adama Dieng, then a prominent Muslim Senegalese jurist, alerted the international community to the Cairo Declaration’s profoundly dangerous impact, which under the rubric of Sharia deliberately restricted certain fundamental freedoms and rights — most notably, freedom of conscience. He also argued that the Cairo Declaration introduced “in the name of defense of human rights,” unacceptable discrimination against non-Muslims and women, while sanctioning the legitimacy of heinous practices — Sharia-compliant punishments (from corporal punishments, to mutilation, and stoning) — “which attack the integrity and dignity of the human being.”

Pew Survey data published August 13, 2009, reflects starkly the depth and prevalence of popular support among the Muslim masses for these hideous views, sanctioned by their theo-political Islamic leadership within the OIC, and contrary to our foundational Western freedoms. Specifically, the Pew findings reveal that among Pakistani Muslims:

78% favor death for [apostates] those who leave Islam; 80% favor whippings and cutting off hands for crimes like theft and robbery; and 83% favor stoning adulterers.

The universality of these Islamic attitudes affects Muslim communities in the West, including North America. Syed Mumtaz Ali, the late architect of Canada’s Sharia (Islamic Law) tribunal, and law professor Ali Khan both have openly advocated extending Islamic apostasy laws to the West. Mumtaz Ali, in a disturbing essay, affirmed the traditional Islamic legal viewpoint that apostates must “choose between Islam and the sword,” arguing further that if Canada were to act in accord with its own Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian government must grant the country’s Islamic community authority to punish those Muslims who apostasize, or malign their faith.

Washburn University law professor Ali Khan, another practicing Muslim, provided a more original, but no less chilling rationale for Muslims in the West to violate, fatally, the basic freedom of conscience of their co-religionists. Khan argued in The Cumberland Law Review that apostasy from Islam is an “attack” upon “protected knowledge,” which if deemed (i.e., by some Islamic tribunal one must assume!) to be “open, hostile, and voiced contemptuously,” justified punishment by death. Ali Khan is convinced that traditional Islamic law precepts antipodean to freedom of conscience nevertheless trump this foundational Western freedom:

Islam is the truth beyond doubt. [These] rules preserve the dignity of protected knowledge, discouraging an “easy in, easy out” attitude toward Islam.

In April 2009 Harvard Muslim chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser explained approvingly to a Muslim student that the traditional Islamic practice of executing apostates from Islam remained both venerable and applicable:

There is great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment), and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human-rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand.

The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, consistent with modern fatwas published by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, president of the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS), and other prominent, mainstream Muslim clerics in Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, and Malaysia, has also mandated lethal punishment for apostates from Islam. Their mission statement maintains:

[The organization was] founded to provide guidance for Muslims living in North America. … AMJA is a religious organization that does not exploit religion to achieve any political ends, but instead provides practical solutions within the guidelines of Islam and the nation’s laws to the various challenges experienced by Muslim communities.

They further issued these rulings, in 2006 and 2009:

Dr. Hatem al-Haj 2006-04-17 As for the Sharia ruling, it is the punishment of killing for the man with the grand Four Fiqh Sharia scholars, and the same with the woman with the major Shari`ah scholars, and she is jailed with Al-Hanafiyyah scholars, as the prophet, prayers and peace of Allah be upon him, said: “Whoever a Muslim changes his/her religion, kill him/her”, and his saying: “A Muslim`s blood, who testifies that there is no god except Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah, is not made permissible except by three reasons: the life for the life; the married adulterer and the that who abandons his/her religion.”

Dr. Main Khalid Al-Qudah 2009-01-02 Under the authority of the Muslim state, the People of the Book have the right to stay on their belief without being compelled to embrace Islam. But if one of them has embraced Islam, it would not be acceptable from him to go back to his original religion. The same rule applies to those who are born into Muslim families. According to the Islamic Law, they cannot commit apostasy.

Dr. Main Khalid Al-Qudah 2009-04-10 As for the second one, the “people” in this hadith means either the apostates who had become Muslim and then retreated to disbelief thereafter, or the polytheists who do not attribute themselves to any divine religion. This second possible meaning has been mentioned in Imam Al-Nasa’i’s narration: “I have been commanded to fight against the polytheists until they … ” In Islam, neither of these categories of people is allowed to remain on their religion. The fact that there is no compulsion in religion does not negate the other fact that someone who has embraced Islam cannot change his mind afterward and embrace polytheism.

The issuance of such “rulings” by a so-called council of Muslim jurists in North America — antithetical to the protection of freedom of conscience enshrined in American law — is mirrored by the overwhelming refusal of mainstream Islamic organizations to sign a simple, unequivocal pledge composed and distributed one year ago by ex-Muslims living in America:

To repudiate the threat from authoritative Sharia to the religious freedom and safety of former Muslims.

Sadly, the OIC may find fertile grounds for any planned Islamization campaign in America, spearheaded by like-minded American Muslims.

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Andrew Bostom (http://www.andrewbostom.org/blog/) is the author of The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (2005/2008) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History (2008).
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