Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On Beheadings

Gary Fouse

Raymond Ibrahim has written an article on the latest beheading video that is going around the Internet. What makes this video especially interesting is that it is not just an isolated video, rather it is part of a TV commentary by  a controversial talk show host, Tawfik Okasha on Egypt Today. Okasha is an opponent of the Egyptian revolution and a presidential candidate as well. In addition, there has been some controversy over where the incident actually took place. According to the TV report, it happened in Tunisia, and the victim was an apostate who had converted to Christianity. Tunisia had been considered heretofore as a "moderate" country when it came to religion, and, of course, was the first country to initiate the so-called Arab Spring. Some are taking issue and claiming that the incident occurred in Iraq or Syria, while some claim that the victim was a  Shiite, or that the reason for his killing was that he was guilty of some sort of treason like collaborating with the Americans. You can read those claims and Ibrahim's response at the bottom of the article.

I will leave it to the reader to decide if he/she wants to view the incident at the below link. It is extremely graphic.

The question of death for apostasy from Islam came up when I attended a sharia workshop recently at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. During a  break, I got into a conversation with imam Muzammil Siddiqi, leader of the Islamic Cneter of Orange County, on the subject of death for apostates. Siddiqi was one of 100 prominent Islamic leaders who had been sent a Freedom Pledge in 2009, written by Nonie Darwish and others, which asked these leaders to sign a pledge that American apostates should not be harmed. Siddiqi never signed it or responded. When I asked him about it, he said he had never received it. I then asked him more about whether apostates should be punished by death according to hudud sharia. His answer was that some (people) said yes, but that as far as he was concerned, if someone wanted to leave Islam, let them leave. I then pressed him as to what should happen to an apostate who not only left Islam but publicly criticized it as had Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. "Aha", he replied. This would be tantamount to treason and gave as an example a Muslim who fought with the Russians in Afghanistan.

Treason, according to Siddiqi.

Indeed, Siddiqi may have a point. It seems to some Islamic leaders, clerics, etc, mere apostasy is enough to merit a death sentence, while others, such as Siddiqi say (at least to non-Muslim questioners and audiences) that as long as an apostate does so quietly and merely leaves, that person should not be subject to death. Yet, if the apostate also criticizes Islam that constitutes treason.

Nor is Siddiqi the only Muslim I have raised this with. I recently had a discussion with a Saudi acquaintance, who is a lawyer in Saudi Arabia and wants to study law in the US. We got into a discussion on sharia, and I asked him about the apostate question. He confirmed that apostasy is a capital offense in his country, but that the apostate would be given three opportunities by a judge to recant before an execution would be carried out. He also stated that if a person simply left the religion and didn't tell anyone, he would not be harmed. Yet, if the person spoke out on his or her conversion and criticized Islam, that would be treason-the same word Siddiqi used in my conversation with him at LMU.

These are all interesting points to consider, but it still leaves the question hanging out there. In the video, a young man is beheaded as one of his executioners reads holy verses.


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