Tag Archives: Anti-Conversion Laws

Al-Azhar’s Bill of Rights

Earlier this week, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the world’s preeminent Sunni center of learning, announced a new “Bill of Rights” for Egypt. Al-Azhar hopes that the non-binding document will guide the newly-elected parliament in preparing the new Egyptian constitution. Al-Azhar consulted Muslim and Christian intellectuals during the document’s drafting, and influential religious and political leaders have endorsed it, including Coptic Pope Shenouda and representatives of Islamist parties like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi Al-Nour. Observers say the announcement is one in a series of attempts by Al-Azhar to assert a “moderate” version of Islam and beat back challenges from stricter versions of the faith endorsed by the Islamists.

The Times  reports that the document protects “freedom of expression and belief.” I haven’t been able to find an official translation online, but phrases like these can obscure serious underlying tensions. For example, a secular Western liberal might understand “freedom of belief” to cover, among other things, the choice to change one’s religion. In a Muslim context, though, the phrase could mean only that non-Muslims have the right to convert to Islam — Muslims still would be prohibited from converting to other faiths. Similarly, “freedom of expression” would not protect expression perceived as an insult to Islam, for example, attempts to convince Muslims that other faiths are superior. The fact that Islamist parties have signed on to the new document suggests that these narrow interpretations are at least plausible.

Iran Says Pastor’s Crime Not Apostasy, But Rape

More news this weekend on Yousef Nadarkhani, the Evangelical pastor Iran has sentenced to death for apostasy.  The semi-official Fars news agency says that Nadarkhani is actually facing execution for several counts of rape, extortion, and treason — nothing to do his conversion to Christianity.   Fars quotes a government official criticizing outside media coverage for giving a distorted account of Nadarkhani’s trial.  “In our system,” the official is quoted as saying, “no one can be executed for changing his/her religion.”  The new allegations are surprising, to say the least, since the government’s brief in Nadarkhani’s appeal to the Iranian Supreme Court, obtained by Western news outlets, mentions only the charge of apostasy.  Observers suspect that the international  attention to Nadarkhani’s case, including an appeal from the Obama Administration last week, has embarrassed the Iranian regime, which is now seeking a pretense for punishing the pastor.  – MLM

White House Issues Statement on Iran Apostasy Trial

The White House issued a statement this afternoon condemning the conviction of Evangelical Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani for apostasy by an Iranian court. Having refused three times to recant his adult conversion to Christianity, Nadarkhani is now subject to execution. Some reports suggest that the authorities will commute the death-penalty sentence, but that is unclear at this writing. The White House’s statement follows. — MLM

The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.  Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people.  That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran’s own international obligations.   A decision to impose the death penalty would further demonstrate the Iranian authorities’ utter disregard for religious freedom, and highlight Iran’s continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens.  We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion.

Iranian Pastor Faces Death Penalty for Apostasy

From Terry Mattingly at GetReligion, this troubling story: Rev. Yousef Nadarkhani, an Evangelical pastor in Iran, is facing execution for apostasy. Nadarkhani converted to Christianity as an adult. Although he never was a practicing Muslim, he has Muslim ancestry — which means, according to the Iranian courts, that his conversion qualifies as apostasy, a capital offense. Under the Iranian courts’ reading of Islamic law, Nadarkani must be given three public opportunities to renounce his apostasy  before being subject to the death penalty. He has already refused twice to return to Islam; his third opportunity comes in an Iranian court this week, after which he may be executed. Mattingly criticizes the media for failing to cover this story, after all the attention given to the American hikers Iran released earlier this week. — MLM