Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Clear violation of Koran

A 41-year-old Afghan father lives overseas for 15 years. He has a custody battle with his wife who lives in Afghanistan. He returns to Kabul to fight a custody battle. A relative with a personal vendetta claims the father has converted to Christianity and dobs him into the authorities.

The father is charged with the ancient crime of apostasy. For poor Abdul Rahman, his apparent choice of religion is being used as a secondary means to deny him custody of children. It's amazing what people are prepared to do to pursue personal vendettas.

But for a small group of radical Afghan mullahs, this case has become the latest rallying cry for religious chauvinism and defiance of the West. Some mullahs haven't quite figured out that the Taleban lost the war.

Islamic legal tradition (or sharia) cops plenty of flack in the press and from politicians. Australian Government ministers, keen to deflect attention from the Saddam kickback scandals, tell us people supporting sharia should be deported.

But what people don't mention is that the alleged law of apostasy doesn't exist in sharia. And if it does, there is little consensus on its application among Muslim legal experts.

Paranoid commentators claim the Koran teaches Muslims to kill anyone abandoning Islam. In fact, the cardinal principle in the Koran is expressed in a verse which, translated into English, says: "Let there be no compulsion in religion."

In other words, the Koran teaches that religion is a matter of choice. You can't force someone to believe in a certain religion, let alone kill them for abandoning it.

In the early days of Islam, Muslims were a small group living under siege in a small city-state, surrounded by enemies always ready to drive them out of existence. In such dangerous circumstances, a person's Muslim identity was closely linked to their loyalty to the state.

If a person abandoned Islam and wished to remain in the city-state, they were effectively committing treason.

A person who left Islam could leave the city-state or might face trial for treason. If convicted, they could face a death sentence which wasn't mandatory and could be replaced with a lighter punishment. Today, even in the most civilised Western countries, treason is punished by a mandatory death penalty.

From some isolated historical incidents, a minority of medieval Muslim scholars concluded that leaving the Islamic faith (or apostasy) is punished by mandatory death sentence. Most Muslim legal scholars dispute this view. It isn't the practice of the overwhelming majority of Muslim countries to kill people who leave Islam.

One Australian Muslim scholar, Professor Abdullah Saeed of the University of Melbourne, recently co-authored a book on the law of apostasy. He states that the original intention of the law was to punish treason, not to forbid peaceful conversion.

A Swiss Muslim scholar, Professor Tariq Ramadan who teaches at Oxford University, goes further. He argues all forms of capital punishment should be stopped in Muslim countries. He says that corrupt police and judges mean that enforcing capital punishments will make sharia an instrument of injustice.

In Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, the government recognises six official religions. People switch faiths all the time especially after they get married.

During a recent visit to Indonesia, I met a woman whose Muslim mother married a Dutch Protestant man. The woman was brought up as a Muslim but converted to Catholicism after marrying a French Catholic. Her sister married an Australian Protestant Christian and converted to Anglicanism. Neither sister has spent any time in an Indonesian prison, nor have they been put on trial.

So why can people convert so easily from Islam in most Muslim countries but not in Afghanistan?

One factor is that ordinary people in Afghanistan aren't known for their high literacy rates or their general knowledge of Islamic law. Only 14 per cent of women in Afghanistan can read and write.

Muslim minorities in Western countries often claim discrimination and prejudice. Yet what they experience pales into insignificance compared to the plight of Abdul Rahman. Muslims have no reason to support those calling for Rahman's execution, an act which would represent a clear violation of the letter and spirit of the Koran.

* Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer and occasional lecturer in the School of Politics at Macquarie University.

(First published in the NZ Herald on 29 March 2006)

11 comment(s):

  • Irfan,

    The people of Afghanistan were slaughtered by the thousands by your beloved West. And here you are complaining about a guy who has already been set free. The West just slaughtered tens of Muslims in a mosque near Baghdad. And here you are cleberating The West's victory. The West continues to occupy and kill hundreds in Iraq, Afghanistan, and has bases all over the world to control any kind of serious movement against its hegemony. And here you are talking about The West winning the war.

    if you knew anything more than the trash you pointificate. The incredible crimes of the west pales in comparison to what you describe.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/29/2006 12:32:00 AM  

  • About the situation in Indonesia, thought the country is predominantly populated by the Muslims, the Indonesian constitution was not drafted on the basis of Sharia Law, and that is the reason why religious conversion is made easy in that country.

    However, in Afghanistan, the constitution was based on Islamic Sharia Law, hence making it an obligatory for the authority to fully enforce Islamic Teachings in its judicial system.

    And that what really makes the different between the cases of religious conversion in Afghanistan and Indonesia.

    By Blogger faisal, at 3/29/2006 02:22:00 AM  

  • i agree with anonymous @ 12:32. the west are all involved in a huge conspiracy to destroy anything and everything that is us. the west are in it together with the japanese, the jews, the shias, the sikhs, the mormons, the martians, the muppets, team america and mr whippy.

    we must destroy this complex and unrealistic conspiracy by implementing laws that spit in the face of our religion and make a mockery of our Prophet.

    we need to act really touch and nasty so that everyone gets scared of us and runs away in fright. if it worked for the taleban, why shouldn't it work for us?

    anyway, i have to go. i need to prepare my next lot of 1,000,000 HT pamphlets that i can hand out to disinterested people outside the mosque. i am wasting paper, destroying trees and creating a hole in the ozone layer. but who cares? as long as i sound really tough. just like cartman.

    i've even written a song about it: I AM MUSLIM, HEAR ME ROAR ....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/29/2006 04:35:00 AM  

  • Sounds like this anonymous dude as an axe to grind against HT - so he attacks all Muslims. The guy has a serious problem. Talk about acting like a total fool. You don't like HT take it up with them, whats your fucking problem with Muslims?!

    And could anyone please show me any, any instant articles that this Irfan dude has written that talks about the slaughter of Muslims by The West?! Lets see, I'm sure a few hundred will be slaughtered in the next week or so by the American army somewhere or the other. So, lets see Mr. Irfan Yusuf's article on how the West is destroying the world. You won't see any, because no one will publish it. So he will do his usual nonsense of writing articles attacking Muslims. Thats what gets him published.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/29/2006 07:44:00 AM  

  • I agree there is a need to factor in a media analysis to any 'Muslim' news story running in the mainstream media, especially one where the US government features prominently as does this one. Nonetheless, a number of reforming Muslim scholars, including Naim and S A Rahman, have questioned the concept of apostacy as espoused by some traditionalists.

    Whatever the motives of the US and the media in this, I support the reformist view on the basis of the arguments put forward by them. The US should not be allowed to set the agenda, whether it be directly or by evoking reactionary conservative responses. Islam is a dynamic faith defined by Muslims committed to that dynamism. This is the true tradition.

    I therefore welcome this article and support its perspective.



    By Blogger Julaybib, at 3/29/2006 07:58:00 AM  

  • "christian convert sentenced to death" will be cited in christian supremacist literature for years to come as reason to bring their vision of heaven to earth as fast as possible. the story verifies and validates years of false aggrievement arguments - one more for the list of evidence of a broad conspiracy against christianity. not that those folks can't make up reasons to fear the rest of us without our help.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/29/2006 08:59:00 AM  

  • The perspective of this article if it was to address the sharia issues would be one thing. What this article does is repeat the idiocity of the right wingers that Muslims are out to get Christians. Not only that - it suggests that Muslims don't have much of a problem compared to what is going on in Muslim countries. That is a bunch of baloney (the pig kind) and is designed to attack Muslims.

    No where does this article mention how many hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been slaughtered by The West in just the past two or three years. Irfan Yusuf just takes up one single issue, and makes the idiotic reference about how this is a all a conspiracy against "The West." And that the Taleban are behind it all, and how they "lost the war."

    If the war was really against the Taleban, why have hundreds of thousands of Muslims been slaughtered by The West? Were they all Taleban? Basically this Yusuf idiot continues to talk a lot of garbage against Muslims - but will not talk about how The West is slaughtering Muslims! Why not? And why does he not mention that the Karzai regime is a puppet regime of the United States? And that Afghanistan is an occupied country.

    There is a rot amongst Muslims for sure, and it is reflected in the kind of trash that reformist idiots like Irfan Yusuf writes. Screw the reformists. Until they recognize how The West is slaughtering Muslims - they are not worth s***.

    And TMA - of-course you would support this article. Yours is almost entirely an academic exercise in so-called "Muslim reform."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/29/2006 09:27:00 AM  

  • Salaam

    keep it clean people, or i'll start deleting comments. I don't agree with much of what Irfan writes...and have little or no love for the so-called "reformists," - most of whom I find to be very unprincipled who have little or no roots in Muslim communities that they are so into "reforming." And find that they base their "reform ideals" on an implicit view that the "west" is superior. ( i also have no love for puppet Karzai/Taleban et al.) but lets not get into name calling and cussing.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/29/2006 09:46:00 AM  

  • There is a RAWA statement that i got in my e-mail that I thought was a pretty good response to all this.

    It pointed out that the United States basically replaced one group of "fundamentalism" (I call it fanaticism) with another in Afghanistan. And that little or nothing has changed in Afghanistan since the US invaded the country.

    Basically as long as a country acts as a client state - all is well. I don't agree with everything in that RAWA article, but I think it places things in much more of a context than most of the other articles I've seen.

    Something that a RAWA representative has stated at an event a couple years back, was that you can't kill people, and expect that to change ideas. So winning wars is completely meaningless. If you want to see a more egalitarian society, then that is a long term work - and requires principled people who are willing to live and work within communities.

    And that does not mean doing things in a condescending manner - it means really being in solidarity with those communities. RAWA actually does do some of this (even though I don't agree with everything they do - and their politics) - I can't say the same for the modernist Muslim scholars, most of whom are talking from big universities in the US and Europe. Talking big from those institutions (and countries) is meaningless when it comes to recognizing the issues that Muslims face in occupied states such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere. And people in those area do know who is close to them, and who is not... If bringing about such change is really your mission in life, then you gotta go and live in Afghanistan. (And by that I don't mean just hanging out with elites in Kabul).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/29/2006 03:54:00 PM  

  • guns are not construction equipment. what will it take to convince people.

    we should all be so lucky as to receive as many extra chances to redeem ourselves as have the F-15 and the kalashnikov.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/30/2006 09:43:00 AM  

  • Thank you for posting this article.


    By Blogger Edward Ott, at 3/30/2006 01:40:00 PM  

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