In response to the mass and gross atrocities committed by Nazi Germany in World War II, the world sought to enshrine a list of basic human rights which were due to every person on the planet. In December 1948,  the United Nations passed those laws as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR.

Today, many members of the United Nations continue to routinely trample on those rights.

For example, Article 18 of the UDHR provides for the freedom of religion and worship:

  • “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

The action of changing one’s religion is called “apostasy”. Not only is it considered a crime in many countries, several Islamic countries consider it a capital offense according to their established law:

  • Afghanistan
  • Brunei
  • Mauritania
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sudan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen

Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag
Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag sentenced to death by hanging in Sudan for apostasy,
May 2014

Not all Islamic countries call for killing apostates, but many still criminalize the act of leaving Islam by punishing the apostate with civil penalties including negating the person’s inheritance and nullifying their marriage.

In some countries, specifically: Mauritania; Saudi Arabia; Jordan; and Yemen, individuals can be charged with apostasy for simple matters of writing something negative or controversial about Islam, even a post on social media.

Here is a summary of some countries laws regarding apostasy.

  • Afghanistan: Apostasy is considered a serious offense and persons so charged may “possibly face death by stoning, deprivation of all property and possessions, and/or the invalidation of their marriages.
  • Brunei: A Muslim who declares himself non-Muslim is punishable with death, or with imprisonment for a term not exceeding thirty years and corporal punishment, depending on the type of evidence.
  • Egypt: There have been cases where people have been placed in jail or marriages nullified due to apostasy.
  • Iran: While Iranian law does not provide for the death penalty for apostasy, the courts can hand down that punishment, and have done so in previous years, based on their interpretation of Sharia’a law and fatwas.
  • Jordan: While there is no express statutory prohibition on apostasy, conversion trials are heard by Islamic courts and may be instituted by any member of the community. According to Islamic law, there are consequences when Muslims adopt religions other than Islam.  For instance, if someone is convicted of apostasy, the Islamic courts adjudicating matters of personal status have the power to void the person’s marriage and deny his/her right to inherit from a spouse and from Muslim relatives.
  • Kuwait: According to Law 51 of 1984 on Personal Status, which is based on Islamic Sharia law, Under Article 18, the marriage of a non-Muslim man to a Muslim woman is considered annulled. Article 145 of the aforementioned law applies such legal and religious principle to Muslim husbands that might adopt other religions than Islam during the marital relationship. Moreover, under article 294 of this law, an apostate is not able to inherent from his Muslim relatives or marital spouse.
  • Mauritania: Apostasy is punished under article 306 of the Mauritanian Criminal Code.  This article provides that “any Muslim guilty of the crime of apostasy” is to be given the opportunity to repent within three days.  If the accused does not repent within that period, he/she is to be sentenced to death, and all of his/her property shall be confiscated by the government.

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed
Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed sentenced to death for article about Islam,
December 2014

  • Morocco: In April 2013, the Supreme Council of Religious Scholars issued a religious decree (fatwa) that Moroccan Muslims who leave Islam must be sentenced to death.
  • Pakistan: There is no specific statutory law that criminalizes apostasy in Pakistan.  In 2007, a bill to impose the death penalty for apostasy for males and life imprisonment for females was proposed in Parliament but failed to pass.
  • Qatar: While apostasy is one of the offenses subject to the death penalty, Qatar has not imposed any penalty for this offense since its independence in 1971.
  • Saudi Arabia:  Islamic law imposes the death penalty on apostates based on statements attributed to the Prophet Mohammed.
  • Sudan: Article 126 of the Sudanese Penal Code, on apostasy, provides that any Muslim who declares publicly that he/she has adopted any religion other than Islam commits the crime of apostasy and is punishable with the death penalty.
  • Tunisia: Has begun to institute new laws to protect people from Sharia law regarding apostasy. Article 6 of the Tunisian Constitution of 2014 protects its citizens by preventing any attacks against them based on accusations of apostasy.
  • UAE: Article 66 states that among the “original punishments” under the law are the punishments of hudud crimes, including by imposing the death penalty.  However, there have been no known prosecutions or legal punishments for apostasy in court.
  • Yemen: The crime of apostasy may be subject to the death penalty by virtue of Article 12 of the Yemen Penal Code of 1994, as amended by Law 24 of 2006, which identifies crimes, including apostasy, that are punished according to the provisions of Islamic Sharia.  Furthermore, Article 259 provides that individuals committing the act of apostasy may be punished with the death penalty.

KSA apostasy
Man in Saudi Arabia to be beheaded for ripping up Quran,
February 2015

These laws are often not considered radical by the country’s citizens.  Many Muslims in the world specifically support the death penalty for apostasy.  The countries with the highest percentage calling for the murder of converts:

  • Egypt 88%
  • Jordan 82%
  • Afghanistan 79%
  • Palestinians 66%
  • Pakistan 62%
  • Malaysia 62%

Have you ever seen a censure in the United Nations against any of these countries for trampling a basic human right?


Country apostasy review: http://www.loc.gov/law/help/apostasy/index.php

Pregnant Sudanese woman gets death sentence for apostasy: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/05/sudan-woman-given-death-penalty-apostasy-20145159264775754.html

Vast majority of Muslims support death penalty for apostasy: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/05/01/64-percent-of-muslims-in-egypt-and-pakistan-support-the-death-penalty-for-leaving-islam/

Related First One Through article:

Blasphemy: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/blasphemy-or-terrorism/

US Working with Countries with terrible human rights records: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/dancing-with-the-asteroids/

28 thoughts on “Apostasy

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  10. Apostasy in Islam

    An apostate may be questioned on the reasons for his actions and if he sincerely feels regrets he may be pardoned.

    Where, in which country’s citizen the apostate is, is an important consideration. Islam has no jurisdiction over non-Muslim secular nations except protesting by diplomatic channels and through the UNO

    But whether it is an Islamic law that considers apostasy a serious crime and that an apostate should be punished is a contentious issue

    However, apostasy is not always in the same degree or the same form.

    There are several kinds of apostasy, each which has a different impact and harm on the Muslim community.

    Some scholars and authorities of Islamic history had maintained that the punishment for apostasy should match its harm to society, and that punishment may differ in accordance with its degree of impact.

    Many scholars view is that some apostasies may be excused by repentance, depending on whether it is simple apostasy, which could be excused by that way ,

    Punishment for apostasy depends on the degree of the apostate’s harm to Islam

    It is the same way as a nation’s traitor’s behavior. It depends on the harm the traitor does to his nation.

    Imprisonment might be an alternative punishment in the case of apostasy.

    An apostate may, not only deny Islam, but he may also incite a war against Islam and the Muslim Ummah.

    The apostate joins the rank of those who wage war against Islam. This is same way as a traitor joins the ranks of the enemies of his nation.

    Imagine an American citizen joining Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria and try to kill the Americans

    Would not such an American face the court martial and convicted for a long prison sentence

    However, there are certain regulations and restrictions

    Declaring a Muslim an apostate is a very complicated issue

    The person who issues a ruling on apostasy should be an expert or specialized scholar, and the person who implements this rule must be a specialist of religious law.

    An apostate should be given a chance to repent before passing judgments. .

    But hidden apostasy may be left to the mercy of God and be judged by Allah in the hereafter.


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