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/

The Death of Civilians; the Three Shades of Sorrow

Every life is precious.

For many people, every life form is considered sacred, whether human or animal. In the United States alone there are an estimated 7 million people who restrict their diets to fruits and vegetables.

The vast majority of people around the world are not vegetarians. Still, there are limits to what they would consider eating. Domestic animals like dogs and cats are considered taboo in many cultures, and almost all 7 billion people on the planet avoid cannibalism. Even to those that do not consider eating meat to be immoral, there are limits.

The concept of the preciousness of life and limits of behavior extends beyond eating habits. Most of Europe has abolished the use of capital punishment.   The European Union considers the death penalty to be “cruel and inhuman”, even for heinous crimes.

However, 40+ countries still use capital punishment for a variety of offenses.  Each society decides the limits of acceptable and extreme behavior.  Even among countries that use capital punishment, the nature of the crime makes people assess the level of innocence of the person, the objection to the use of the death penalty, and sympathy for the accused. People may feel more upset when they hear about a homosexual who harmed no one, being stoned to death (in Mauritania, for example), than a mass murderer being executed (in the USA). There is a perceived range of innocence and guilt, and therefore associated gradations of grief.

This is true even among civilians who are killed during wartime. Some innocents are viewed as more “pure” than others and their unfortunate demise warrants more despair. Below are three categories of civilians from most to least innocent: Innocents; Targets; and Enablers.

  1. The Innocent
    A. Bystanders:
    In battles, passers-by may be attacked and killed without cause. These people have no part in the conflict and may not even be aware that one was taking place. An example would be the passengers on the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 that was shot over the border of Ukraine and Russia in July 2014. The 298 bystanders were killed without reason- the people had no role in the war. One can imagine that even the people that carried out the attack did it by mistake and regretted the action.B. Children: Children are innocent by definition: they lack knowledge and ability; they have no control of their situation; they neither vote nor fight. Still, almost every war has witnessed children killed. In the War between Gaza and Israel in the summer of 2014, hundreds of children were killed as the fighting took place in heavily populated areas.

    C. Slaughtered Citizens:
    Citizens of a country have every reason, right and expectation that their own government protects them. That protection is the primary basis for any government to exist. When a government reverses that course and turns its protective weaponry inwards to target its own population, it is a slaughter of innocents. Consider the millions of German Jews in the 1930s and 1940s who had every right to expect their government to protect them. When the Nazis specifically targeted these citizens, the Jews were left completely helpless. It was not a civil war of a division seeking independence; it was a slaughter of the defenseless by its own army.

2. The Targets

D. Initial Civilian Targets: Some civilians are attacked because of the actions of their government. The people going to work on September 11, 2001 in the USA were not military targets and were not part of the government. The attackers specifically targeted their places of work – America’s financial and military centers – as they were unhappy with America’s influence and presence in the Muslim world. The nearly 3,000 civilians were just going to work and had no role in, or understanding of the unhappiness of the attackers.

E. Civilians Targeted after Military Attack: The victims in Hiroshima and Nagaski were living in Japan when the US dropped an atomic bomb on them during the end of World War II in 1945. The Japanese initiated the war by attacking US military targets in Pearl Harbor four years earlier. As the war dragged on, the US concluded that it would end the war faster by obliterating entire cities which included both people involved in the war and uninvolved civilians who were part of the aggressor force. World reaction to the attack has been mixed, whether the action saved more lives by ending the war faster.

F. Civilians Targeted after Civilian Attack: The allies in WWII launched a bombing campaign on the German city of Dresden in February 1945. The Dresden attack was a reaction to the German-initiated war and attack on Great Britain. The further argument given to destroying the entire city was that it was an important center for the German war effort. An estimated 25,000 people were killed in the British and US bombing campaign.

  1. The Enablers
    G.  Backers of War Policy: Civilians are defined as people who are not part of the armed forces. However, there are people who are technically not part of the armed forces but are directly involved in advancing a war. For example, Palestinians voted overwhelmingly for Hamas and its war campaign against Israel in 2006. Hamas has fought constantly against Israel and Israel has responded with three operations: in 2008 (Operation Cast Lead); 2012 (Operation Pillar of Defense); and 2014 (Operation Protective Edge). Many civilians (both those that voted for the war policy and those that didn’t) were killed in those wars.

The loss of any life is sad, but it is human nature to react to the particular circumstance of each death. In an extreme example, an 8-year old killed while riding a bicycle brings more sympathy than a convicted murderer getting the death penalty. As detailed in the article above, it is not surprising that even in the finer shades of gray among civilians killed during war, that people feel more horror for the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, than for Palestinians who voted for war.




EU human rights: http://eeas.europa.eu/human_rights/adp/index_en.htm

Death penalties worldwide: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Use_of_capital_punishment_by_country#Capital_punishment_in_the_world_.28by_country_not_by_population.29

Hamas victory: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/26/AR2006012600372.html

Death sentence for homosexuality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aXPECeOilA


Murderous Governments of the Middle East

Many countries in the Middle East have legal systems that enforce the death penalty in non-violent crimes and matters that have no victim at all such as apostasy (conversion from Islam) and homosexuality.  Many of those countries have public executions, condemn minors and encourage the public to view and participate in the murder (in the case of stonings).

Israel is the only country in the region to not carry out the death penalty for any person in the past 50 years.

Number of people executed (2012):

  • Iran: 314+
  • Saudi Arabia: 82+
  • Iraq: 68+
  • Yemen 28+
  • Somalia 10
  • Sudan 7+
  • Palestinian Authority: 6
  • South Sudan 5
  • Syria 1 (thousands in Civil War not included)
  • UAE 1

iran executions
80% of Iranian executions are for drug offenses

Executed Minors (under 18 years old):

  • Iran
  • Saudi Arabia

Iran Minors
Most of the minors in Iran are killed for drug offenses

Judicial Method of Execution

  • Bahrain: Shooting
  • Egypt: Hanging
  • Ethiopia: Shooting
  • Iran: Hanging, often in public (floggings often before the hanging); stoning (women buried to the neck, men to the waist)
  • Iraq: Hanging; shooting
  • Jordan: Hanging.
  • Kuwait: Hanging; shooting
  • Lebanon: Hanging (civilian court); shooting (military court)
  • Libya: Shooting
  • Palestinian Authority: Hanging
  • Qatar: Stoning
  • Saudi Arabia: Beheading (often in public); hanging; stoning
  • Somalia: Shooting; stoning
  • Sudan: Hanging; stoning; crucifixion afterwards for armed robbery
  • Syria: Hanging (civilian court); shooting (military court)
  • UAE: Shooting; stoning
  • Yemen: Shooting (vast majority); stoning. Post execution public crucifixion allowed for three days

Stoning is used for cases of adultery

somalia adultery
Man stoned in Somalia for adultery

Public Executions

  • Iran
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Somalia
  • Yemen

KSA behead nanny
Saudi Arabia publicly beheads a nanny,
January 2013

Reason for Capital Punishment [last execution]

  • Bahrain: premeditated murder; treason [2010]
  • Egypt: rape; murder; treason; drug trafficking [2014]
  • Ethiopia: murder; treason; genocide [2007]
  • Iran: adultery; homosexuality; murder; armed robbery; drug trafficking; kidnapping;rape; paedophilia; apostasy [2014]
  • Iraq: drug dealing; rape; terrorism [2014]
  • Israel: Crimes against humanity [1962]
  • Jordan: Murder [2006]
  • Kuwait: drug trafficking; rape; murder [2013]
  • Lebanon: murder [2004]
  • Libya: treason; premeditated murder [2010]
  • Oman: murder; drug trafficking [2007]
  • Palestinian Authority: murder; collaboration [2014]
  • Qatar: treason; apostasy [2003]
  • Saudi Arabia: drug trafficking; homosexuality; atheism; apostasy; adultery; rape; armed robbery; witchcraft; murder [2014]
  • Somalia: homosexuality; murder; adultery [2014]
  • South Sudan: murder; treason; drug dealing [2013]
  • Sudan: Homosexuality; apostasy; prostitution; treason; murder; armed robbery; smuggling [2013]
  • Syria: speaking against the government; rape; membership in Muslim Brotherhood; drug trafficking [2014]
  • UAE: drug trafficking; rape; treason; armed robbery [2014]
  • Yemen: homosexuality; adultery; apostasy; murder [2013]