M. Cherif Bassiouni, Distinguished Research Professor of Law Emeritus and President Emeritus, International Human Rights Law Institute, DePaul University, has taken issue with my reference to him in this article. This is what I wrote:
Other Islamic spokesmen in the U.S. have been even more flagrantly deceptive. M. Cherif Bassiouni, a professor of Law at DePaul University and President of the International Human Rights Law Institute, asserted about the notorious Abdul Rahman apostasy case in Afghanistan in 2006 that “a Muslim’s conversion to Christianity is not a crime punishable by death under Islamic law.” This is simply false. Islam’s death penalty for apostates is only a dead letter if no one cares or is able to enforce it in a particular case, but it is deeply rooted within Islam. Some argue that it derives from Qur’an 4:89, which speaks of those who have embraced the Islamic faith and then turned “renegade,” directing Muslims to “seize them and slay them wherever ye find them.” Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, said, “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Bukhari, vol. 9, bk. 84, no. 57). This is a universal principle in Islamic law. The Islamic scholar and ex-Muslim Ibn Warraq explains that all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach this: “Under Muslim law, the male apostate must be put to death, as long as he is an adult, and in full possession of his faculties….According to Hanafis and Shia, a woman is imprisoned until she repents and adopts Islam once more, but according to the influential Ibn Hanbal, and the Malikis and Shafiites, she is also put to death.”
I just received this email from Professor Bassiouni:
Mr. Robert Spencer
Dear Mr. Spencer,
I note once again that you are scurrilously attacking me. My position on apostasy has been expressed as early as 1983, namely that at the time of the Prophet it was not considered as only changing one’s mind but that it was the equivalent of joining the enemy and thus constituting high treason. In fact, at one time the Prophet had an agreement with the people in Makkah to return to Makkah all those who came from there, who wished to return after they had converted to Islam. I and a number of other distinguished Muslim scholars have long criticized the views of the four traditional Sunni schools. You may be interested to know that the piece you attribute as being “flagrantly deceptive,” which was published in the Tribune, was a written document submitted to the Court in Kabul in the Abdul Rahman apostasy case.
It is amazing to me how apparently little good faith and intellectual honesty you are displaying in your attack upon Islam and Muslims.
M. Cherif Bassiouni
Distinguished Research Professor of Law Emeritus
President Emeritus, International Human Rights Law Institute, DePaul University
I wrote this back to Professor Bassiouni:
Dear Professor Bassiouni,
Thank you for your kind note. May I publish it at Jihad Watch?
I fail to see how it is a lack of "good faith and intellectual honesty" to note what you yourself seem to assume when you say: "I and a number of other distinguished Muslim scholars have long criticized the views of the four traditional Sunni schools." You thus appear to acknowledge that the "views of the four traditional Sunni schools" prescribe the death penalty for apostates. I am glad you oppose that position. However, it does seem to contradict the statement I quoted from you in my article: "a Muslim’s conversion to Christianity is not a crime punishable by death under Islamic law.”
If Islamic law does not view conversion to Christianity as a crime punishable by death, why do you criticize the views of the four traditional Sunni schools?
And if the traditional Sunni schools do indeed teach death for apostasy, as they obviously do and as you yourself seem to acknowledge in this note, then why do you accuse me of lacking "good faith and intellectual honesty" when I characterize as false your assertion that "Islamic law" does not prescribe death for apostates?
I'm sorry I didn't have the honor and pleasure of meeting you when I spoke at DePaul last year. I'd be glad to come back to DePaul at my own expense, at a time convenient to you, in order to engage in a public discussion or debate about the issue of Islamic apostasy law with you. It would be a signal opportunity for you to establish, once and for all and in a public forum, my lack of "good faith and intellectual honesty."
I look forward to hearing from you, and thank you again for writing.