by Nonie Darwish, New English Review, October, 2009
I made the assertion that most Muslims who are rational, moral, humble, and God-fearing ignore or are unaware of the suggestions and mandates of the realities of Shar’iah law when it comes to the so called crime of apostasy in Islam…As we pray for Rifqa [Bary]’s safety and a just resolution to her case, it highlights now more than ever the need for lay Muslims to empower themselves in a new religious freedom movement. Muslims need to demand that our scholars and leaders start from scratch and sign petitions and write new law (ijtihad) protecting the equality of apostates which is endorsed by religious scholars in position of leadership or guidance in American mosques and American Muslim organizations. These petitions, opinions (fatwas) and new laws (Shar’iah) need to send to the dustbin of history any hint whatsoever of an Islamic punishment for apostasy. They should unequivocally repudiate any scholars who give exceptions to the rule of equal human rights for all before the state and family. They should make it clear that apostates deserve the same full rights as Muslims. This can only happen through a separation of mosque and state and a defeat of the idea of the “Islamic” state.
—-M. Zuhdi Jasser September 2009
The majority of Muslims say that Islam is misinterpreted or misunderstood especially by those who harbor hatred towards Muslims. I hear it over and over again even by well intentioned Muslims, that Islam is innocent from violent jihad, totalitarian regimes, honor killing, killing of apostates, oppression of women, slavery etc. That leads me to seriously question if such Muslims have read Sharia, Quran, hadith or life of Mohammad? Could this be a massive wishful thinking by people born in a religion that forbids criticism under penalty of death.
I know many Muslims, including myself when I practiced Islam, who believe that Islam is represented in my good and peace-loving grandmother and grandfather, who were decent Muslims and who prayed 5 times a day. That is how many of us decided what Islam is all about. Any other truth is an assault on the beliefs of my own grandmother and heritage and must be untrue. But is that a realistic judgment of Islam? I do not believe so any more.
The well-intentioned Muslims’ claims ignore basic facts in Muslim scriptures. They are denying that the interpretation of Islam has already been done and settled by those who wrote Sharia hundreds of years ago. Sharia was written shortly after Mohammad died by learned Imams of Islam based on careful and very elaborate investigation and interpretation of the Quran, hadith and life and example of Mohammad. So Islam has already been interpreted and reinterpreted since its inception 1400 years ago.
If anyone wants to know the interpretation of the word ‘jihad’ in Islam, just open the index in Sharia books and look it up. According to Shafi’I law jihad means “to war with non-Muslims to establish the religion”; nothing vague or ambiguous there. To understand what is the punishment for apostasy, it is also very simple, Sharia books are all unanimous and without exception, state that an apostate must be given 3 days to repent and if s/he does not, then s/he must be killed immediately. Apostasy law is at the heart of Islam, the only religion on earth that kill those who leave it. That is why to make sure it will be carried out regardless of government compliance, Muslim law entrusted its enforcement to the public. Thus Sharia states that a Muslim who kills an apostate will not be punished. No ifs ands or buts. Vigilante street violence against apostates is thereby allowed even encouraged, under Muslim law.
Through out the History of Islam, Muslims have been in turmoil over Sharia; they debate and re-debate, interpret and re-interpret, they denied, hid facts, used deceit, lies and misinformation to make Islam appear humane. But appearance is one thing and reality is another.
Muslims today are facing an international outcry against jihad, the killing of apostates and honor killing and feel they must do something about it but without changing Sharia. That is Islam’s quagmire. Muslims, who are extremely sensitive to shaming, try to eat their cake and have it too. So when they face the West, many say, there is no such thing as killing apostates, and claim it is all a misunderstanding. They tell the West, with some sensitivity training they will better understand Islam.
Muslim governments are also playing misleading games and playing with words. Official arrests of apostates are thus recorded as defaming Islam, enemies of the state, causing civil unrest or a threat to the peace. Announcing that you have become a Christian and why, in a Muslim state, meets all the above violations.
Muslim organizations in America play the same game with us former Muslims; by describing those who openly confess they have left Islam and state why, as hate mongers, Islamophobes and even racists. That is their way to silence and threaten former Muslims.
Our newly formed group Former Muslims United takes Islam at face value. Unless apostasy laws are clearly and beyond any doubt removed or annulled from Muslim scriptures, we cannot take claims by Muslim apologists seriously. We reject the double talk, contradictions or reliance on the wishful thinking of some progressive Muslims who are trying to create an unrealistic vision of Islam that does not exist today. We are happy to support such progressive Muslims, but unfortunately, they too are considered apostates for rejecting apostasy laws.
No one in Islam can dare change Sharia itself. So instead of dealing with the real problem many try to save face by claiming that Sharia and Islam are simply misinterpreted. That is not finding solutions for victims of Sharia and victims of terror; rather it is deceit that compounds the problem especially in the politically correct West.
The key issue for Islam today is not interpretation but a will to reform from inside. Muslims are in desperate need to muster the courage and leadership to admit that the problem is in the content and not the image. Islam needs renovation and change. Islam finds strength in the power of numbers. It is time to find power in reforming the faith.