Actually, Ali Gomaa’s position has been consistent throughout this mini-imbroglio. He says the apostate should be killed not because he has left Islam, but because he is a threat to society. In his original statement that many understood as calling for an end to the death penalty for apostasy, he says: “If the case in question is one of merely rejecting faith, then there is no worldly punishment. If, however, the crime of undermining the foundations of the society is added to the sin of apostasy, then the case must be referred to a judicial system whose role is to protect the integrity of the society….” Now he says, “I discussed the fact that throughout history, the worldly punishment for apostasy in Islam has been applied only to those who, in addition to their apostasy, actively engaged in the subversion of society.”
In an Islamic society, of course, any apostate could be seen as “actively engaged in the subversion of society,” since he would no longer be following Sharia which is that society’s highest law, so this is no guarantee of religious freedom at all. But one could argue — although the Mufti himself is not necessarily arguing — that this should mean that apostates from Islam who live in non-Muslim countries should be left alone. When we see the Mufti issuing proclamations to the effect that Islamic apostates in Virginia need not hire armed guards for their convention, we may be getting somewhere.
“Egypt mufti reaffirms Muslim freedom of faith choice,” from Middle East Times (thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist):
CAIRO — Egypt’s top religious advisor, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, reaffirmed his belief Thursday that Muslims could choose their own religion after the local press carried apparently conflicting statements.
Gomaa maintained that while it would be a “grave sin” for Muslims to commit apostasy and convert to another religion, worldly punishment should only be meted out if their actions endangered society.
In many Muslim societies, there is a long-held view – not necessarily supported by scripture – that the punishment for apostasy is death.
“Not necessarily supported by scripture” is good. Some see Qur’an 4:89 as mandating death for apostasy: “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.” But not all Muslim theologians accept this as calling for death for the apostates, so it is “not necessarily supported by scripture.” Then there is Muhammad’s famous statement: “If anyone discards his religion, kill him.”
“Choice means freedom, and freedom includes the freedom to commit grave sins as long as their harm does not extend to others,” he said in a statement, echoing remarks that he made earlier in a Washington Post-Newsweek forum on Islam.
His original remarks were picked up by the press who interpreted them to mean that the second-highest religious authority in Egypt did not mind Muslims converting to another faith, necessitating a statement from the mufti Tuesday condemning apostasy that appeared to contradict his Washington Post remarks.
“Some members of the press and the public understood this statement as a retraction of my position that Islam affords freedom of belief. I have always maintained the legitimacy of this freedom and I continue to do so,” he said. “I discussed the fact that throughout history, the worldly punishment for apostasy in Islam has been applied only to those who, in addition to their apostasy, actively engaged in the subversion of society,” he said.
The distinction is important as many clerics in the Muslim world have claimed that death is the automatic punishment for apostasy regardless of whether the individual is a threat to society or not….
Attempts by Muslims in Egypt to convert to other religions have been hindered by the state’s refusal to recognize the change in official documents and in some cases have led to arrests and imprisonment.
“Even though it is not a criminal offense in Egypt, they get detained under emergency laws or are put on trial for contempt of religion if they wish to convert,” Hossam Bahgat of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said….