Couple of weeks ago, I read in the Arab press the story of the young Egyptian couple that converted from Islam to Christianity few years and hid this fact from family and friend and government, afraid of retribution.
I also read couple of days ago in the Arab press a story of a family with couple of children, again Egyptian, who converted to Christianity and wanted to have their children registered by the Coptic Church as Christian and the Coptic Church refused.
Of course and it seem more stories coming out of Egypt. We all recall the riots with several dead that broke out in Egypt between Muslims and Coptic Christian when the wife of a Coptic priest converted to Islam and literally all hell broke lose in Egypt.
Surprisingly and with much pleasure I read in the Asharq Alwsat “ Book Forum” Issue 10452 dated Wednesday 11/07/2007 a review of a book titled “ No Use of Force in Religion” in Arabic “ La Ikraha fe Deen” which means that people are free to join or leave Islam as they wish and at will. The book is authored by an Iraqi scholar, Dr. Taha Jabir Al-Alwani who I happened to know and listen to many of his lectures at Al-Hewar Center in Vienna, VA.
Dr. Taha is not only an Islamic scholar, but also a very bright and enlightened one at that, though he is a graduate of Al-Azhar University. The book review summaries Dr. Taha scholarly views that in Islam there is no verse in the Holy Quran that calls for a worldly punishment of those who convert away from Islam and that their punishment is in the hereinafter and not by man or state but by Allah. In fact Dr. Taha reference some 400 verses in the Holy Quran that emphasis the rights of free will to chose Islam does not allow for punishment for convert and that historically punishment has been more political rather than for religious reasons.
The book review mention a story in Iraq, where executions where on large scales many years back and not only today, where a Ba’athist revolutionary courts ordered the execution of over 5,000 Iraqi Communists and of course the reason was “redda” or convert away from Islam. It is interesting that the Ba’athist courts sought a “fatwa” from both Shiite and Sunni Clerics, and as expected in Iraq both gave the right fatwa to go ahead with the execution. Sound like today where Muslim clerics give the order for large-scale murder and execution by suicide bombers.
The execution mission was referred to General Alrawi who also happens to be a friend of Dr. Taha and was not so convinced of such a wholesale execution. General Alrawi raised the issue with Dr. Taha who explained that such an order based on “Redda” was political and not religious and as such it is not valid in Islam. The execution was cancelled.
Dr. Taha goes on to explain that most if not all cases of executions that are based on “Redda” or converting away from Islam were political and has nothing to do with religion and has no legal basis within the Holy Quran. Dr. Taha explain further that the “Redda” Wars in the early days of Islam and soon after the death of the Prophet Mohamed (s) where political and not religious in nature.
With that, one has to wonder why the big issue and why the big fuss over someone in Afghanistan or Pakistan or any one for that matter in Egypt or Iran if they want to convert away from Islam and become Christian or Jews. I see nothing wrong with it. In fact Islam can stand to lose not only dozen but millions and it will be much better off if the likes of Talibans or millions of radical Muslims in Pakistan or the Al-Qaeda where to convert away from Islam.