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Ex-muslims face threats and violence for leaving Islam

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In this piece, Christian Concern's Islamic Affairs Director, Tim Dieppe, writes about the dangers facing Muslims in the UK who leave their faith.

A documentary will air on ITV next week which highlights the dangers facing Muslims in the UK who leave their faith. The film interviews ex-Muslims, some of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. It shows that many ex-Muslims face extreme discrimination, ostracism, psychological abuse and violence as a result of leaving Islam.

The film focuses on those who have become atheists, following the work of the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain which is a support group for those who have abandoned their faith. One former Muslim recounts how when she told her mother that she didn't believe in God any more, her mother said: "You can't tell anybody else because they'll kill you, we are obliged to kill ex-Muslims."

In saying this, her mother was repeating the standard Islamic teaching regarding apostasy in Islam. This is taken from various statements in the Qur'an and from the Hadith. From the Qur'an, Muhammad said:

"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." Qur'an 4:89 (Yusuf Ali)

Or again:

"O Prophet, fight against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be harsh upon them." Qur'an 9:73

This teaching is even more explicit in the Hadith, where Muhammad is reported as saying:

"If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him." Sahir Bukhari 52:260

And again:

"Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him." Sahir Bukhari 84:57

The classic manual of Shafi'i Islamic jurisprudence, The Reliance of the Traveller, affirms:

"When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed." Reliance of the Traveller O8.1

In fact, all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence agree on the death penalty for apostasy, as do classical Shiites.

This is why it is perhaps not surprising to find that the film exposes a number of British Bangladeshi imams, described as mainstream figures in society, who have called for the execution of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh. The danger for ex-Muslims outside the UK is even greater, with apostasy carrying the death penalty in a dozen Islamic countries. Several atheist bloggers and intellectuals in Bangldesh have been brutally attacked with machetes by Islamist gangs.

At Christian Concern, we set up Safe Haven, a couple of years ago, in order to provide practical help and support for those leaving Islam. As a result, we are in touch with a number of former Muslims in the UK who have been threatened with, or suffered actual violence for converting to Christianity. We have been able to help them and their churches with security advice and emergency accommodation where necessary. Only last weekend, I was at a gathering of Muslim background believers, many of whom have suffered in various ways for leaving Islam. One man was badly beaten by his five brothers with baseball bats after he became a Christian, and left for dead. Miraculously, he was able to walk out of hospital the next day, to the amazement of the doctors and nurses involved. Another woman has been threatened with a knife by her father and has not returned home for some months now, even though her belongings are still there. It is so important for converts to know that they have somewhere to turn for help when they leave Islam - that the church will be there for them.

The good news is that many brave people are leaving Islam, some of them for atheism, others to become Christians. There is a real harvest out there as Muslims can now easily investigate what Islam teaches on the internet and assess for themselves whether it is true. Christians should unashamedly proclaim the gospel and demonstrate that they are prepared to help those who convert. This documentary will helpfully raise the profile of honour violence against ex-Muslims in the UK. We pray that the government will recognise that this is a real issue and take action to help protect converts from Islam in the UK.

Related Links: 
Exposure: Islam's Non-Believers (ITV Press Centre) 
Exposure: Islam's Non-Believers (Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain) 
"Failure across the board" to protect Christian converts from Islam (Premier) 
Safe Haven (Safe Haven)