U.N. receives Muslim ‘apostasy’ petition

By WND Staff

A major international petition calling on Islamic leaders to allow Muslims to convert to another faith was presented to the United Nations.

The petition, signed by 88,890 people from 32 countries, says “Muslims who choose to convert to another faith” should be “free to do so without having to face a lifetime of fear as a result.”

Under Sharia, or Islamic law, Muslims who convert to another faith and refuse to repent must be put to death.

The British charity Barnabas Fund presented the petition to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour July 28.

The group said it launched the petition a year and a half ago on behalf of Muslims who “face serious persecution and massive prejudice in many countries around the world” because they choose to leave Islam.

A Barnabas Fund representative also met at the Palais des Nations in Geneva with Ambassador Mike Smith, chairman of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and Soli J. Sorabjee, chairman of the U.N. Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

In addition to the signatures, 92 members of the British Parliament last year signed a motion that “supports liberal Muslims, human rights campaigners and others who are calling for an end to cruel traditional punishments for apostasy.”

The Barnabas Fund acknowledges the tradition is upheld and taught by most Muslim religious leaders around the world. But it notes a reformist interpretation that claims an apostate can be put to death only if he also is a danger to the Islamic state.

Traditionalists insist, nevertheless, every apostate is a danger to the Islamic social order and has committed high treason.

Some schools of Sharia teach the death penalty should be applied to women as well. Other punishments prescribed by Sharia include annulment of marriage, removal of children and loss of all property and inheritance rights.

In countries such as Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia, converts have faced imprisonment, death threats, torture and beatings. Some have been executed, and others have died in prison or disappeared. Barnabas also notes converts often face widespread hostility and aggression from their own families and communities even in more moderate Muslim countries and in Western nations where Muslims are a minority

The Barnabas Fund says that while hundreds of letters have been sent to the Muslim Council of Britain urging a constructive dialogue on the matter, it believes not a single response has been received.

Hundreds of letters also have been sent to the main regional heads of British Christian denominations with virtually no response.

“Many privately acknowledge the terrible suffering of apostates and admit to the gravity of the situation, but are unprepared to speak out publicly,” the group says.

The British government, according to Barnabas, has produced “very non-committal replies appearing to dismiss the plight of those labeled as apostates as something which does not concern them domestically since ‘Sharia law does not apply in the UK.'”

But Barnabas points out that in April, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed of the extremist Islamic organization al-Muhajiroun issued a fatwa condemning the Muslim Labour party peer Lord Ahmed of Rotherham as an apostate because of his calls for greater integration of Muslims into British society.

“When even members of its own government are the victims of veiled threats as apostates surely this is an issue the British authorities must deal with both seriously and publicly,” Barnabas says.

The Barnabas Fund’s international director, Patrick Sookhdeo, said, “It is a tragic day when so few politician or religious leaders can be found who are prepared to stick their necks out by simply publicly affirming the most basic of human rights to change one’s religion, something that has been enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for over 50 years.”

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