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Religious Tolerance logo

Apostasy in Islam

Examples of apostasy; Emails;
A Committee for Ex-Muslims

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Examples of apostasy in Egypt, Afghanistan, and North America:

bullet1995 - Egypt: Nasr Abu Zeid, an Arabic literature professor, wrote on the topic of what he felt were needed reforms within Islam. Charges of apostasy were brought against him. The court agreed that Abu Zeid was no longer a Muslim, and ordered him to divorce his wife. He and his wife left Egypt, fearing physical attack. Abu Zeid later appealed his case and won. But he remained abroad. 1

bullet1999? - North America: James A. Beverly, professor of theology and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, ON, Canada writes a monthly column in Faith Today magazine. He said that he met with a former Muslim, who is now a Christian, at some time before 2000-JAN. That individual left Islam, remains living somewhere in North America and has become the target of death threats because of his apostasy. He feels that he has required police protection. 2

bullet2001-Egypt: Lawyer Nabih el-Wahsh had brought a charge of apostasy against the prominent feminist writer Nawal el-Saadawi, aged 70. The charges were based on her comments during a newspaper interview in 2001-MAR. According to Al-Midan weekly, she said that the Hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Mecca) was "a vestige of a pagan practice," and that Islamic inheritance law should be abolished. It gives female heirs only half what men receive. 2
Under Islamic law, an apostate cannot be married to a Muslim. Thus, her marriage was at risk of being dissolved by the court. Judge Hassanein el-Wakil dismissed the case against her. He ruled that only Egypt's prosecutor general could file an apostasy case. El-Wahsh lacked the legal status. She told the Associated Press: "I and my husband feel that we have survived this ordeal through our resistance, firmness and refusal to yield to the mentality of the dark ages." 1

bullet 2006-MAR-16: Afghanistan: A Christian tried on a capital charge: Abdul Rahman, 41, was born into a Muslim family in Afghanistan, and raised in that faith. He converted to Christianity 16 years ago when he worked for an Christian aid group in Peshawar. He was placed on trial on a charge of apostasy and faced execution if found guilty. He was later released, but two more Afghani converts to Christianity have been arrested 3,4 More details

bullet 2005-MAR-21: Algeria: Presidential order approved to restrict non-Muslims: The Algerian Parliament approved a previous Presidential Order which severely restricts religious freedom in the country. Anyone found guilty of shaking "the faith of a Muslim" or possessing material that promotes Christianity to Muslims will receive a jail sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $12,000. Non-Muslim organizations that disobey the law can be heavily fined, banned or dissolved; their assets will be confiscated. Foreigners convicted under the law will be expelled from the country after serving their prison term. House fellowships and informal religious gatherings will be illegal. he law states that: "Collective exercise of religious worship takes place exclusively in structures intended for this purpose, open to the public and identifiable from the exterior." 5,6

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An exchange of Emails:

An individual, who we have no permission to identify, sent a clipping from the Evening Standard -- presumably the newspaper by that name in London England -- for 2006-MAR-27. He E-mailed the clipping to our website and to dozens of other groups. It is apparently a hate-motivated letter to the editor. It said, in part:

"So, Its alright for Muslims to convert Catholics, Protestants, even Jews to Islam BUT if a Muslims sees the light and wishes to worship god in a religion of love and peace they must be murdered. That says it all for Islam."

"It proves that Islam is a religion based on an obvious lie and supported by hate and terror.....When the Islamic masses learn to think for themselves things will change."

We responded via E-mail:

"IMHO, the Evening Standard has made a very common, very human error. They [published a letter that attributes] the actions of a small minority to an entire religion of 1.2 billion people." **

"Granted, the death penalty has historically been the penalty for any Muslim converting to another religion or to secularism. However, very few countries still have such laws on the books today and even fewer enforce them. There is a very strong movement within Islam which argues "Let there be no compulsion in the religion...." (Al Baqarah, 2:256). They also point out that there is no historical record which indicates that Muhammad (pbuh) or any of his companions ever sentenced anyone to death for apostasy. The hadiths (sayings of Muhammad) which seem to call for execution are very weak and suspect. ..."

"I don't see a lot of difference between the call for Abdul Rahman's execution and the call by a Baptist Minister in Texas some years ago for the U.S. Army to round up Neopagans and napalm them to death. Both were calls by a small minority of a small extreme, violent wing within a religion -- a wing made up of people with little regard for human rights. Most major religions, except the Baha'i Faith. Unitarian Universalists, and perhaps others have such a wing."

"It is interesting to note that there was great outrage among Christians in the case of Abdul Rahman, but silence on the proposed genocide. I suppose that it depends upon whose ox is being gored. Still, the world will never know peace and justice until Jews, Christians, Muslims and others are equally outraged at any infringement of religious freedom by a follower of any religion anywhere in the world. IMHO, it is towards this end that we should be directing our energy."

** Note: As of mid-2010, the most accurate estimate appears to be 1.6 billion.

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Dutch committee to create religious freedom in Islam:

On 2007-SEP-11, the sixth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the Committee for Ex-Muslims launched a campaign to make it easier for Muslims to change their religion. The committee's founder, Ehsan Jami, rejected Islam after the attack on the World Trade Center. He is currently in hiding, having received a series of death threats. There have been two assassinations in recent years of individuals who have taken a stance against traditional Islam: politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002 and film-maker Theo Van Gogh in 2004.

Jami said:

"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. 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. ... 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."

He denied that the choice of SEP-11 to launch the campaign was deliberately provocative towards the Islamic Establishment. He said:

"We chose the date because we want to make a clear statement that we no longer tolerate the intolerance of Islam, the terrorist attacks."

Jannie Groen, a reporter for De Volksrant newspaper, said that among Muslims, Mr. Jami:

"... is getting the same reaction as Ayaan Hirsi Ali that he is too confrontational. But you are seeing other former Muslims now coming forward. So he has been able to put this issue of apostasy on the agenda, even though they do not want to be in the same room as him and he has had to pay a price." 7

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was a Somali refugee. She became a Dutch politician and has actively campaigned for the reform of Islam. She is the author of two highly rated books, and is pursuing an academic career. 8,9

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2019-DEC: Gatestone Institute publishes article on a "Great Non-Event of 2019:"

Douglas Murray, writing for Gatestone Institute discussed an event which went largely unnoticed in late 2018. It involved the British music star Zayn Malik who was a Muslim, but has left the faith.

During an interview with British Vogue magazine, Malik said that he no longer follows any religion. He said:

"I'm not professed to be a Muslim. ... I believe whatever people's religious beliefs are is between them and whoever or whatever they're practising. For me, I have a spiritual belief of there is a God. Do I believe there's a hell? No." 10

Murray wrote:

"It is now more than a year since ... Zayn Malik revealed that he no longer considers himself a Muslim. Malik has not had to become Salman Rushdie. He has not become a 'famous apostate'. Someone who may [have been] ... Britain's most famous Muslim left Islam and nothing happened. ..."

"In the last twenty years, it has often been -- and certainly been presented as -- exceptionally dangerous for Muslims to apostasise (that is, leave the Islamic faith), especially publicly. ..."

"I have deliberately left off writing this article for a year because I wanted to confirm the silence. I wanted to confirm that there was no barking in the night. And across 2019, there has not been. Malik has got on with his life and career. So far as I know there has been no serious threat to him other than from the hordes of young women around the world who often appear as zealous in their feelings as some of the most ardent Islamic clerics are in theirs. Malik has not had to become Salman Rushdie. He has not become a 'famous apostate'. Someone who may be Britain's most famous Muslim left Islam and nothing happened." 10

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Salah Nasrawi, "Egyptian court won't force feminist writer to divorce," Associated Press, 2001-JUL-31, at:
  2. J.A. Beverley, "Something terrifying and intolerable," Faith Today, Religion Watch column, 2000-JAN/FEB, Page 11.
  3. "Afghan Christian Could Get Death Sentence," Examiner, 2006-MAR-19, at:
  4. "Christian convert could be executed," Toronto Star, 2006-MAR-20.
  5. "Algeria: Repressive law, severe penalties," World Evangelical Alliance, 2006-MAR-19, at:
  6. "New anti-conversion law in Algeria," Friday Church News Notes, 2006-APR-07.
  7. David Charter, "Young Muslims Begin Dangerous Fight for the Right to Abandon Faith," Times Online (London, UK), 2007-SEP-11. at:
  8. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam," Free Press, (2006). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  9. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "Infidel," Free Press, (2007). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  10. Douglas Murray, "Celebrating a Great Non-Event of 2019," Gatestone Institute, 2019-DEC-31, at:

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Home page > World Religions > Islam > Apostasy > here

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Copyright 2001 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-FEB-20
Latest update: 2019-DEC-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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