The Dangers of Leaving Islam

Date Posted: 09/01/2006 at 2:39pm

The Dangers of Leaving Islam

by Erick Stakelbeck, Washington Terror Analyst

Leaving IslamWASHINGTON – Last month, CBN News brought you the story of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan man who was thrown in prison for converting from Islam to Christianity. He has since been released and has left Afghanistan.

But countless other ex-Muslims continue to face persecution–even here in the West.

The images have become all too familiar–Muslims marching in anger and threatening those they say have insulted Islam. The most recent trigger was cartoons of Mohammed, which sparked riots across the Muslim world. But perhaps nothing is more offensive to Muslims than apostasy, when a fellow believer abandons the faith.

“The consensus among Muslim scholars for a long time — for 14 centuries — was that those who leave the faith should be killed,” said terrorism expert Daveed Gartenstein-Ross.

Gartenstein-Ross has studied Islamic law extensively. He says those who convert out of Islam–especially Christians–lead a lonely and dangerous existence.

He said, “And even today, the view that apostates from Islam should not be killed — that people should be free to convert to another religion — is very much a minority view.”

Within the Islamic world there are at least 14 states that make it illegal to convert out of Islam. In at least eight of those states, it is punishable by death.

That list includes U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan — where, by and large, there is no separation between mosque and state–and no rest for former Muslims.

Exhibit A: Abdul Rahman — after his arrest for converting to Christianity, one senior Afghan cleric said he should be torn to pieces for his conversion. In light of that rage, what does the Koran say about it?
Several verses in the Koran severely condemn apostasy but fall short of calling for the death penalty.
But in the Hadith, Islam’s other holy book, Mohammed said those who leave Islam should be killed. Mohammed’s direct successors–the Caliphs–also said apostates should receive death.

Gartenstein-Ross said many Muslims take these verses literally and take it upon themselves to punish former Muslims– even in the west.

CBN News spoke to one Christian convert we will call “Khaleed.” Khaleed works for the popular Web site, His story is one of rejection and abuse by Muslims in his own community in Western Europe.

“A lot of people don’t even want to talk with me or even sit with me at the same table. I was like the reject of the community,” Khaleed said.

It was not long before Khaleed was forced to defend himself against physical violence.
He said, “They’d get very angry and very abusive verbally–call me “traitor” and things like that. And I’d even sometimes get into fistfights with some angry Muslims who hated the fact that I left Islam.”
And when he began doing Christian missionary work in these European Muslim communities, things only got worse.

“’We will kill you.’ That’s the verbal abuse–OK?” Khaleed said. “’…One day you’ll die. And you will die suddenly.’ It was death threats all the time. And I got more and more — actually physical attacks several times — from them.”

Khaleed left Europe and now lives in the U.S., but he is careful not to advertise his Christian faith.
So what is being done to protect converts like Khaleed? According to one former Muslim, who also wanted his face hidden, not nearly enough.

Author and renowned scholar Ibn Warraq said, “I would find it difficult to give you precise statistics, but many people have been killed by the family to save the family honor if they discover the family member has converted to Christianity, especially…and you don’t hear about it. The police just turn a blind eye to it.”

Warraq is the author of Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out. Warraq considers himself a secularist and lives in an undisclosed location because he fears for his family’s safety. He says the left, in particular, has largely ignored the plight of apostates.

“There was an article by a Muslim in the Columbia Law Review that argued strongly enough that even Muslims in the West who leave Islam should be punished in the most severe form possible,” Warraq said.

“No one thought to criticize this,” Warraq said. “It was accepted by the Columbia Law Review.”
Gartenstein-Ross points to what he calls a stark contrast in the West: “Those who convert out of Christianity and to Islam are often interviewed favorably in glossy magazines, talk about their conversion very openly, and are lauded for it. It’s seen as something of a brave step.”

But he says that those who leave Islam usually do so quietly, even in the Christian world, because it’s dangerous — “In large part, because even in the Christian world, those who leave Islam for Christianity are not safe,” he said.

Fred Farrokh wants to change that. Farrokh is executive director of the Jesus for Muslims Network. Raised Muslim, he is now a Christian. His book is called Jailbreak: A Christian’s Guide to Praying for the Muslim World.

Farrokh is opening a refuge center for Christian converts in New York City.
“Muslim background believers who are suffering persecution can come live and receive discipleship, training, equipping…and then, they themselves will be among the greatest missionaries, if you will, to Muslim people,” Farrokh said.

Warraq says that the West needs more people like Farrokh–who are willing to stand up and protect the rights of apostates here. But he says that even after the Abdul Rahman fiasco, the West remains crippled by political correctness–and largely indifferent to the plight of apostates.

“All we would have to do in the West is to simply stick to our own principles,” Warraq said, “and we would bring about change in the Islamic world. But we don’t seem to be able to do that. We seem to be incapable of defending our own values.” – Link

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© 2006, The Christian Broadcasting Network