11 February 2008

Egypt - One Step Forward and Two Steps Backwards

A news piece out of Cairo. The Supreme Administrative Court in Egypt has recognized the right of Muslims to convert to Christianity. Well, maybe not that far-reaching as the ruling only applies to Christians who converted to Islam and after consideration and reflection want to change back to their original Christian faith.

This is interesting for a number of reasons. First, Egypt had always applied an interpretation where once someone had converted to Islam there was no route of return no matter what your previous religious faith may have been. This concurs with many traditional interpretations of the Koran which considers apostasy to be a grave sin. Nevertheless, the Koran itself (at least my understanding) deos not proscribe a specific punishment for this sin.

However, I guess if we were to look at it from a legal point and try and decipher what the punishment might be we could look at the response of the Prophet and his followers to see how apostasy was dealt with back in the time of the formation of Islam.

It seems pretty clear that the punishment for apostasy was severe, it was death. So, it is fair to say that the decision in this case is a departure from those very traditional views and teachings. However, it is not all peaches and cream for those wanting to revert to their former religious beliefs as their respective identity cards must note that they are formers converts to Islam who have since converted back to a previous faith.

This condition is problematic as it seems to provide a perfect opening for authorities to discriminate against and victimize individuals converting back to their original beliefs. Hence, one step forward and two steps back!

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