This April, Hurst Publishers will release “The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam” by Simon Cottee (Kent University). The publisher’s description follows:
The Apostates is the first major study of apostasy from Islam in the western secular context. Drawing on life-history interviews with ex-Muslims from the UK and Canada, Simon Cottee explores how and with what consequences Muslims leave Islam and become irreligious.
Apostasy in Islam is a deeply controversial issue and features prominently in current debates over the expansion of Islam in the West and what this means. Yet it remains poorly understood, in large part because it has become so politicised — with protagonists on either side of the debate selectively invoking Islamic theology to make claims about the ‘true’ face of Islam. The Apostates charts a different course by examining the social situation and experiences of ex- Muslims. Cottee suggests that Islamic apostasy in the West is best understood not as a legal or political problem, but as a moral issue within Muslim families and communities. Outside of Muslim-majority societies, ex-Muslims are not living in fear for their lives. But they face and must manage the stigma attached to leaving the faith from among their own families and the wider Muslim community.
This September, Ashgate will publish Current Issues in Law and Religion by Silvio Ferrari (University of Milan) and Rinaldo Christofori (Emory University), a collection of essays that is part of Ashgate’s “Library of Essays on Law and Religion” series. The publisher’s description follows:
This volume focuses on issues that have only recently come to the forefront of the discipline such as freedom from religion, ordination of homosexuals, apostasy, security and fundamentalism, issues that are linked to the common themes of secularism and globalization. Although these subjects are not new to the academic debate, they have become prominent in law and religion circles as a result of recent and rapid changes in society. The essays in this volume present multiple points of view, facilitate scholars in understanding this evolving discipline and act as a stimulus for further research.This collection gives the reader a sense of the key topics and current debates in law and religion and is of interest to law, politics, human rights, and religion scholars.
In New York yesterday, CLR co-hosted a lunch briefing with Professor Heiner Beielefeldt (left), the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Beielefeldt was in New York to present his annual report, “Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance,” to the UN’s General Assembly. (I attended the General Assembly meeting as well; I’ll write more about that in a subsequent post).
Beilefeldt’s report focuses on the right of conversion as an essential component of the freedom of religion or belief. Although international human rights law grants a right to change one’s religion, the right has proved controversial in practice, especially, though not exclusively, in Muslim-majority countries, which often criminalize apostasy from Islam. In his briefing, Beilefeldt explained that his report identifies four versions of the right of conversion, all of which merit protection: (1) the right to change one’s religion; (2) the right not to Read more
Good news from Iran this weekend: the government has released Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from prison. The Iranian government initially had sentenced Nadarkhani, who converted to Christianity from Islam, to death for the crime of apostasy, but later switched the charges to rape and extortion – charges most people dismissed. In response to pressure from religious-freedom advocates in the West, including the White House, Iran now says the conviction was only for “evangelizing Muslims,” not apostasy, and that Nadarkhani can be released for time served. (H/t: First Things).
Conversion is a problematic concept for Muslim-majority societies. Classical Islamic law makes conversion from Islam a capital offense, and many Muslim-majority countries today, even those that do not apply classical fiqh, fail to recognize a right to convert. Turkey’s current draft constitution for the first time grants such a right, although the right’s contours are uncertain. A forthcoming book by Turkish historian Selim Deringil, Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire (Cambridge 2012) situates the subject historically, describing the pressures on Christians to convert in the nineteenth- century Ottoman Empire. These pressures coincided, ironically, with a secularization campaign known as the Tanzimat, which, as a formal matter, made religion irrelevant to Ottoman political identity. Deringil, a professor at Istanbul’s Bogazici University, no doubt deals with the ironies in his forthcoming book, which looks like a very worthwhile read. The publisher’s description follows:
The commonly accepted wisdom is that nationalism replaced religion in the age of modernity. In the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire, the focus of Selim Deringil’s book, traditional religious structures crumbled as the empire itself began to fall apart. The state’s answer to schism was regulation and control, administered in the form of a number of edicts in the early part of the century. It is against this background that different religious communities and individuals negotiated survival by converting to Islam when their political interests or their lives were at stake. As the century progressed, however, and as this engaging study illustrates with examples from real-life cases, conversion was no longer sufficient to guarantee citizenship and property rights as the state became increasingly paranoid about its apostates and what it perceived as their “de-nationalization.” The book tells the story of the struggle for the bodies and the souls of people, waged between the Ottoman state, the Great Powers, and a multitude of evangelical organizations. Many of the stories shed light on current flash-points in the Arab world and the Balkans, offering alternative perspectives on national and religious identity and the interconnections between the two.
Piet Hein Van Kempen (Radboud University Nijmegen) has posted a new piece on SSRN, Freedom of Religion and Criminal Law: A Legal Appraisal–From the Principle of Separation of Church and State to the Principle of Pluralist Democracy?. The abstract follows.
This paper discusses how criminal law and religion should or should not be involved with each other from the point of view of the right to freedom of religion. With that in mind the paper addresses several interrelated questions. What does the principle of separation of church and state require, what interests does it serve, and does it allow for criminal law measures that are explicitly concerned with matters of religion or belief? What does the human right to freedom of religion in general imply about the relation between state and religion? To what extend does the right to freedom of religion oppose, allow or require criminal law measures that deal explicitly with religion or belief? Issues discussed here are e.g. blasphemy, apostasy, an proselytism. And finally: is the principle of pluralist democracy better suited to regulating the relation between the state and religion when it comes to criminal law than the separation principle? As regards the analyses of international human rights law, the emphasis of this contribution is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1966) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR, 1950). The 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (the 1981 UN Declaration), the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR, 1969), and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (AfChHPR, 1981) will be considered insofar as these instruments or the jurisprudence based thereon provide relevant direction on the issues under discussion.
More news this weekend on Yousef Nadarkhani, the Evangelical pastor Iran has sentenced to death for apostasy. The semi-official Fars news agency says that Nadarkhani is actually facing execution for several counts of rape, extortion, and treason — nothing to do his conversion to Christianity. Fars quotes a government official criticizing outside media coverage for giving a distorted account of Nadarkhani’s trial. “In our system,” the official is quoted as saying, “no one can be executed for changing his/her religion.” The new allegations are surprising, to say the least, since the government’s brief in Nadarkhani’s appeal to the Iranian Supreme Court, obtained by Western news outlets, mentions only the charge of apostasy. Observers suspect that the international attention to Nadarkhani’s case, including an appeal from the Obama Administration last week, has embarrassed the Iranian regime, which is now seeking a pretense for punishing the pastor. — MLM
The White House issued a statement this afternoon condemning the conviction of Evangelical Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani for apostasy by an Iranian court. Having refused three times to recant his adult conversion to Christianity, Nadarkhani is now subject to execution. Some reports suggest that the authorities will commute the death-penalty sentence, but that is unclear at this writing. The White House’s statement follows. — MLM
The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people. That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran’s own international obligations. A decision to impose the death penalty would further demonstrate the Iranian authorities’ utter disregard for religious freedom, and highlight Iran’s continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens. We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion.
From Terry Mattingly at GetReligion, this troubling story: Rev. Yousef Nadarkhani, an Evangelical pastor in Iran, is facing execution for apostasy. Nadarkhani converted to Christianity as an adult. Although he never was a practicing Muslim, he has Muslim ancestry — which means, according to the Iranian courts, that his conversion qualifies as apostasy, a capital offense. Under the Iranian courts’ reading of Islamic law, Nadarkani must be given three public opportunities to renounce his apostasy before being subject to the death penalty. He has already refused twice to return to Islam; his third opportunity comes in an Iranian court this week, after which he may be executed. Mattingly criticizes the media for failing to cover this story, after all the attention given to the American hikers Iran released earlier this week. — MLM