The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law. It’s based on the Qur’an: “They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah. But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.” (Qur’an 4:89)
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.”
Qaradawi also once famously said: “If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment, Islam wouldn’t exist today.”
“Baha’i Man Sentenced to Public Execution in Yemen. His Crime? Practicing His Faith,” by Aleesha Matharu, The Wire, January 14, 2018:
In December 2013, Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara disappeared into the maze that is Yemen’s National Security Bureau (NSB). Over the course of four years, he was tortured and denied a fair trial. His wife and daughters were not allowed to visit, nor did he get to meet legal counsel. Finally, on January 2, 2018, Haydara, was sentenced to public execution by the specialised criminal court in Yemen’s capital Sana’a. He wasn’t even present in court.
One of around 2,000 Baha’is in Yemen, he was picked up for something one would take for granted in a secular country: practicing his faith.
The Baha’i faith, founded in Iran in the 1800s, essentially believes in the oneness of humanity and the unity of all religions. Incidentally, the Lotus Temple, a landmark in New Delhi, is a Baha’i house of worship.
Though no date has been given so far for when the execution will take place, the verdict also asks that all Baha’i spiritual assemblies, the governing bodies for Baha’is, be disbanded.
In Yemen, an Islamic society, the constitution does not recognise any other religion barring Judaism. This is why the trumped up charges against Haydara are, in most part, for “insulting Islam”, “apostasy” and urging Muslims to “embrace the Baha’i religion”.
As an official from the ministry of justice toldRudaw, “The Baha’i faith is not recognised in the constitution, the tradition or by Islam. Therefore, it is a forbidden religion. If a Yemeni renounces his religion and declares himself a Baha’i, this is a crime to be tried at court.”
The authorities in this case, or rather the Iranian-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis who seized the capital in 2014, have also alleged that Haydara is a spy for Israel and an Iranian citizen who crossed into Yemen in 1991 using a false name.
This accusation has been refuted time and again by his wife, Elham Muhammad Hossain Zara’i, during her long fight for justice, but her appeals to have her husband freed have fallen on deaf years. More so, she has submitted documentation, which shows that he was born in Yemen in 1964.
The sentence has been met with protests by international human rights groups. Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director, said:
“The Houthi authorities must immediately quash the death sentence against Hamid Haydara. He is a prisoner of conscience who has been tried on account of his conscientiously held beliefs and peaceful activities as a member of the Baha’i community. This sentence is the result of a fundamentally flawed process, including trumped up charges, an unfair trial and credible allegations that Hamid Haydara was tortured and ill-treated in custody. It is also part of a wider crackdown on critics, journalists, human rights defenders and members of the Baha’i community that is causing entire families to live in fear for their safety and the safety of their loved ones.”
On January 11, UK’s minister of state at the foreign office Alan Duncan responded to a question about the death sentence in the House of Commons. Duncan said that though Haydara isn’t a British citizen, the “indignation at what is happening and our wish to try to defend his interests and see him released” would not be diminished.
He highlighted how the United Nations Human Rights Council had in a resolution in September 2017 called for the immediate release of all Baha’is in Yemen imprisoned for their religious beliefs. As of now, five other Baha’is are in detention….