“I could chop you up into little pieces and put you in the Thames right now and no one will find out.” Those words were spoken by a Muslim uncle to his ex-Muslim nephew. This article tells the stories of several ex-Muslims, but it doesn’t explain why it has proven so difficult for them to leave Islam — indeed, true to form for the mainstream media, it gives the impression that Muslims who threaten or shun apostates are violating the Qur’an’s dictum that “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256). Author Simon Cottee doesn’t mention, and may not know, that a hadith depicts Muhammad saying: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Bukhari 9.84.57). The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law according to all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. This is still the position of all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, both Sunni and Shi’ite. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most renowned and prominent Muslim cleric in the world, has stated: “The Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-`ashriyyah, Al-Ja`fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed.” There is only disagreement over whether the law applies only to men, or to women also – some authorities hold that apostate women should not be killed, but only imprisoned in their houses until death.
“For Muslim apostates, giving up their faith can be terrifying, alienating and dangerous,” by Simon Cottee, National Post, January 2, 2015 (thanks to Daniel):
In many Muslim-majority countries, renouncing Islam is a crime punishable by death. But even in the liberal West, some ex-Muslims continue to fear leaving their faith. Although reformists point to the Qur’anic ruling,”there [sic] is no compulsion in religion,” they hide their disbelief or risk being ostracized by their families and the wider ummah (community) of believers. In extreme cases they believe their status as “apostates of the faith” puts them in danger. Simon Cottee, a senior lecturer in criminology at Kent University, England., [sic] interviewed 35 former Muslims in Britain and Canada as part of the first major sociological study of ex-Muslims in the west. He based this piece on fieldwork in Canada.
Halima is an 18-year-old biology student from a strict Muslim family in Ontario.
Although she continues to wear the hijab and dresses conservatively, Halima no longer prays or fasts. Nor does she abide by the restrictions against alcohol and pork, and she has all but forgotten the Qur’an — the holy book she once had committed to memory.
“They think I’m a bad Muslim,” she says of her family, “but I doubt if they’d ever think I’m an ex-Muslim.”
She adds she cannot imagine what would happen if she told her father, a well-known religious leader. “That would be the end. He would never accept my apostasy.”
Halima, who asked that her real name not be used, has good reason for concern.
“There was a lot of pressure to be completely religious,” she says of her childhood. And any and all deviations were vigorously punished.
She remembers one incident in particular.
“There was a tear in a page and my father assumed I’d ripped it,” she says. “He got my hand — and put it on the stove.”
Probably the torn page was from the Qur’an.
After a teacher noticed the burn, the Children’s Aid Society interviewed her parents, who said it was an accident. CAS didn’t pursue the matter, but this did little to placate her father, who castigated her for bringing “kaffirs” (unbelievers) into the house.
Halima still spent up to three hours a day studying Arabic and the Qur’an into her teen years, and rarely missed the five daily prayers that are obligatory for Muslims.
But ultimately, she says, “I just couldn’t agree with most of the stuff, especially with the treatment of women — that got me out of Islam.”…
Last year, her father started proceedings to bring a friend over from Yemen, a man in his mid-50s, to marry his daughter. Under immense pressure, she agreed to the engagement and signed the sponsorship papers to enable him to settle in Canada. But she couldn’t go through with it and fled her home.
“I just filled in two bags of my papers and stuff and told my brother, ‘I have to take out the trash,’ and there was a cab waiting for me and I went straight to the shelter.”
Her flight has confused as well as enraged her parents.
“Come home — or you’ll regret it,” her father recently warned her on Facebook.
Zain, 27, is one of the few who has disclosed his apostasy to his family. Born in Britain to Pakistani parents, he came to Canada at age 20.
“As a kid I really believed with all my heart, but my faith just kind of went away,” he says. “It flickered out. I stopped feeling the presence of God. And that’s when I took seriously the possibility of Islam being wrong.”…
By 19 he was agnostic — and in love with Mel, a Winnipeg woman he met online. They decided to elope and she flew to Britain.
But somehow Zain’s family found out and intercepted them at the airport. An uncle was especially furious: “He’s a tough guy who likes to throw his weight around and he was saying, ‘I could chop you up into little pieces and put you in the Thames right now and no one will find out.’” His father also was angry, telling him not “ruin his life for a girl.”
“Terrified and distraught,” Mel flew home a few days later. Soon afterward, Zain also boarded a plane — to Pakistan with his uncle. The purpose of their trip became clear when they went to a mosque where an imam took a glass of water, began to pray over it, then switched to broken English.
Zain asked what he was doing and another man replied, “Oh, you don’t know? You have an evil spirit inside your body that has clung on to you in London and the spirit is in love with you and is refusing to leave your body. And he’s talking to her right now in English, telling her to leave.”
The young man was asked to drink some of the water and walk around the room before being asked how he felt. “I lied and said, ‘Yeah, I feel better, thank you very much.’”
After a month, Zain returned to London, but the first thing he did was book another flight. “I came back on Boxing Day and on Jan. 3 I took my guitar, some clothes and a small backpack and I left for Canada.”
Within months he and Mel were married. Zain wishes he had told his parents face to face and sooner about his loss of faith.
But “I was such a coward.” This is why he later decided to come out fully and post his testimony online, attaching his real name and picture.
“I wanted to do my part for the apostate community, I guess. To normalize the process of apostatizing … To say, ‘I’m an ex-Muslim, you are not alone, you are not the only apostate in the world.’ There’s such a taboo surrounding apostasy in Islam.”
He is well aware of how far the normalization process has to go. When his extended family discovered his online testimony, they “collectively shamed my parents for being bad parents” and refused to socialize with them.…
“There’s great animosity towards ex-Muslims,” says Kiran Opal, one of the group’s founders and a human rights activist.
“You’re treated like a traitor, just for not believing the same thing. And you’re expected to keep your mouth shut and not criticize the religion.”…
The Pakistan-born Ms. Opal, who came to Canada with her family as a refugee, tells a familiar story.
She says she had always aspired to be a “good Muslim. … I wanted to belong, I wanted to feel connected to my roots, I wanted to have a certain identity. And I really wanted to believe.”
But the more she studied Islam, the more estranged she became. Every step of the way there was resistance: “I remember having lots of fights with my mom, lots of arguments, lots of yelling and I felt very trapped but I just kind of stood my ground.”
It was the prospect of marriage that brought matters to a head. Her parents expected her to marry within the faith and lined up candidates. But Ms. Opal refused, thinking she’d be trapped forever. So, against her family’s wishes, she left home.
Leaving Islam, she says, is much harder for Muslim women, since they are supervised more vigilantly than men.
“Men can date, have sex outside of marriage, can marry somebody not of their religion — they can pretend to have their wives convert — they can go through the motions. But if we want to be free, we have to leave. There is no middle ground for women.”