Thursday, May 26, 2005

Defending the rights of apostates

In Islam one of, if not the, worst crimes possible is that of being an apostate, a person who leaves the Islamic faith. In orthodox society apostasy is punishable by death. So long as countries that rule by Islamic law treat unbelief as a crime the people there will never truely be free.

With that in mind, I recently came across two speeches delivered to the UN which address the rights of apostates. This one, by Ibn Warraq, shows the contextual basis for the mistreatment of apostates under Islam and points out that laws criminilizing disbelief and discriminatory treatment of apostates are in violation of international law.

The second, by Azam Kamguin, argues that not granting freedom of religion is tantamount to complete elimination of free thought, and argues that change can not be affected in Islamic society so long as people are not allowed to question orthodox beliefs.

The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible. We must win the right to criticize the religion without fear of retribution. Criticism, free speech, is the foundation of an open society. We need to criticise and use reason to solve our problems.

No comments: