Fear Stalks Muslim Apostates in the West
August 3, 2008
Persuading Western Muslim leaders to repudiate Shari’a-sanctioned violence against apostates can be a frustrating exercise, as Prince Charles discovered in 2004. Troubled by the treatment of Muslims who convert to Christianity in Islamic nations, the prince convened a summit of senior figures from both religious communities. It ended in disappointment. The Islamic representatives failed to issue a declaration condemning the practice, which the Christians had requested; they also cautioned non-Muslims not to discuss such matters in public, arguing that moderates would be more likely to make progress if the debate were kept internal.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the outspoken Anglican prelate of Rochester, attended the meeting but rejected their advice. While continuing to highlight the perils faced by those who leave Islam in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, he now has turned his focus to the harassment of apostates in the West. Last year the bishop warned that a convert could die in Britain unless prominent Muslims affirm the right of all people to change their faith. There have been few takers, despite the dire need for this message: a poll indicates that 36% of younger British Muslims believe death to be an appropriate punishment for renouncing Islam.