Friday, September 28, 2007

The conversion obsession

The Islamic world is truly obsessed with conversions. At least 7 Islamic countries apply the death penalty to those who convert from Islam: Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mauritania. But in other states, like Egypt, converts are condemned to prison, not as apostates but for contempt of Islam, as Hossam Bahgat, a member of the Egyptian Initiative for personal rights, explains.
According to government daily Al-Massa’, all imams are unanimous on the need to kill the apostate Hegazi. They say that sharia (not the Koran) must be enforced and it calls for the death penalty.The more moderate say: if the apostate hides his conversion, does not broadcast his decision, then it is not necessary to kill him; he can live. If he lets it be known, then he causes scandal (fitna) and must die.

from: Asia News

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Islamic and Christian proselytising

Islam protects itself against conversions by putting apostates in prison or by killing them. But its obsession with conversion includes a series of privileges it claims for itself. So much so that in many Muslim countries, even those that are supposedly secular, the right to promote the Islamic faith is taken for granted and is not enshrined in law. Conversely, the right to promote any other religion is considered de facto and de jure unacceptable.
Islamic propaganda is part of the state’s mandate. In Egypt for example public institutions disseminate songs, prayers, movies and written material that praise Islam and denigrate Christianity. Inevitably this favours conversions to Islam. By contrast, Christian propaganda (tabshīr) is banned by law.
Recently in Algeria, a new law was approved that condemns anyone promoting the Christian faith and anyone who converts to Christianity. Of course, some might say that this kind of law is directed only at Protestant proselytising. True! But Muslims proselytise as well? Should the law not be the same for everyone?
Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly the country where double standards in matter of religion are the most glaring. One example: Saudi Arab Airlines’ website explicitly warns its passengers that Bibles, crucifixes, and any other non-Muslim religious symbol are prohibited on board. If any are found they are confiscated. Another example is when two pieces of wood happen to end up across one another. However inadvertently that may have come about, the resulting cross becomes ipso facto a religious symbol and police are known to have ordered people who happened to be nearby to step on them.
Anti-Christian propaganda is also found in how words are used. In Arabic Christians are called Massihi. In Arabia they are also called Salībi, crusaders, and Nasrami, Nazarenes. Interestingly, at the time of the Crusades Christians were by and large referred to as Faranj or Franks. But the most commonly used word today is kuffar, unbelievers who must be killed. For the past 30 or so years, its use has increasingly spread around the Muslim world.
By some estimates, the number of Christians who convert to Islam in Egypt is around 10,000, usually prompted by practical reasons like the need to divorce, or to marry a Muslim woman (or man), or to get a job. Rarely does faith come into the picture.
More recently there has been some talk about thousands of Muslim converts to Christianity. Protestant missionary centres, based in the United States (the Zwemer Institute* has been mentioned), are said to offer money, apartments, passports, etc in exchange for conversion to Christianity. Such charges have often found their way into the Muslim press in relation to the Hegazi affair.
In Arabic Tabshīr means ‘evangelisation’ and has taken on negative connotations. In Egypt and other countries anyone guilty of Tabshīr can end up in prison or pushed out of the country. On the other hand, dawah, which means a call to join Islam, has positive connotations and is seen as duty for every Muslim. In some Muslim countries dawah has its own ministry (or Ministry of Islamic Propaganda, a bit like the Vatican’s dicastery De propaganda fide).
When shall there be a spiritual Islam?
Leaving Islam is seen as a religious, social and political outrage.
From a religious point of view, converts abandon the true faith for a false one. Indeed, the Qur’an itself warns that “The only religion approved by GOD is ‘Submission’ (Qur’an 3:19),” and “Anyone who accepts other than Submission as his religion [. . .] will not be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter, he will be with the losers” (Qur’an 3:85).
From a social point of view, someone who converts to Christianity and encourages others to follow him or her becomes a cancer on society.
From a political point of view, anyone leaving Islam is a traitor, a spy against his own nation who deserves death, because Islam is always viewed as a community, the Ummah.

Read the full report here

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Intolerance Warning

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan has begun. In addition to fasting from dawn to dusk, Muslims are obligated to read the entire Koran during this month. Non-Muslims should be aware of some of the things their Muslim neighbors will be reading in the Koran:
The unbelievers among the people of the book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures. (98.6).
Surely the vilest of animals in Allah's sight are those who disbelieve. (8.55)
The unbelievers are your inveterate enemy. (4:101)
Mohammed is God's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another. (48:29).
It is unlawful for a believer to kill another believer, accidents excepted. (4:92)
Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends. (5:51)
Make war on them [non-Muslims] until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme. (8:40)
Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God's religion reigns supreme. (2:193)
The true believers fight for the cause of God, but the infidels fight for the devil. Fight then against the friends of Satan. (4:76)
We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers. (3:150)
I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers. (8:12)
When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them. (9:5)
Fight against such of those to whom the Scriptures were given as believe in neither God nor the Last Day, ... until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued. (9:29)
Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. (9:73 and 66:9)
Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them. (9:123)
When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield, strike off their heads. (47:4)
These and other passages in the Koran, which are considered Allah's literal word, will be important to non-Muslims until the imams preach to their congregations that these passages are no longer valid. So far, it has not happened.

By Carl Goldberg

Friday, September 14, 2007

Young Muslims begin dangerous fight for the right to abandon faith

“Sharia schools say that they will kill the ones who leave Islam. In the West people get threatened, thrown out of their family, beaten up,” Mr Jami said. “In Islam you are born Muslim. You do not even choose to be Muslim. We want that to change, so that people are free to choose who they want to be and what they want to believe in.”
Mr Jami, 22, who has abandoned his studies as his political career has taken off, denied that the choice of September 11 was deliberately provocative towards the Islamic Establishment. “We chose the date because we want to make a clear statement that we no longer tolerate the intolerence of Islam, the terrorist attacks,” he said.
“In 1965 the Church in Holland made a declaration that freedom of conscience is above hanging on to religion, so you can choose whether you are going to be a Christian or not. What we are seeking is the same thing for Islam.”
Mr Jami, who has compared the rise of radical Islam to the threat from Nazism in the 1930s, is receiving only lukewarm support from his party which traditionally relies upon Muslim votes. His outspoken attack on radical Islam has led to a prelaunch walk-out from fellow committee founder Loubna Berrada, who herself rejected Islam.
She said: “I don’t wish to confront Islam itself. I only want to spread the message that Muslims should be allowed to leave Islam behind without being threatened.”
By the Book
— 14 passages in the Koran refer to apostasy
— According to Baidhawi’s commentary, Sura 4: 88-89 reads: “Whosoever turns back from his belief, openly or secretly, take him and kill him wheresoever ye find him, like any other infidel. Separate yourself from him altogether. Do not accept intercession in his regard.”
— The hadith, tradition and legend about Muhammad and his followers used as a basis of Sharia, tells of some atheists who were brought to “’Ali and he burnt them. The news of this reached Ibn Abbas who said: ‘If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostate forbade it . . . I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostate, ‘Whoever changed his [Islamic] religion, then kill him’.”
— According to hadith, a special reward in Paradise is reserved for the killer of apostates
Source: Times archives; Barnabas Fund

with thanks to Times Online