A Muslim who decides to leave Islam is often in fear of their life. The Islamic schools of law, supported by the Qur'an and hadiths, speak of the punishment that should be meted out. All the main schools of Islamic law prescribe the death penalty for men who leave Islam.
For people in Muslim nations who convert to Christianity, this is a real issue. Barnabas Fund, an organisation that works with persecuted Christians, often in Muslim majority nations, organised a petition called 'Right to Justice' in 2003, to call on world leaders and Muslim leaders to "take a strong lead and act vigorously to insist that all governments ensure religious liberty and safeguard the rights of Christian and other religious minorities. The government must demonstrate that the persecution of Christians and the restriction of their religious liberty is unacceptable wherever it takes place." They were also concerned about the death penalty for apostasy.
They collected more than 100,000 signatures and the petition has been presented to world leaders.
In May 2008, Patrick Sookhdeo warned against circulating inflated figures of Muslim conversions to Christianity. (more details below)
This is not just an issue overseas. In Australia, people who leave Islam can also be under threat.
The Australian part of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international group that wants to see the Islamic caliphate established, has released a Draft Constitution. The General Rules, Article 7 c says
"The State implements the divine law on all citizens who hold citizenship of the Islamic State, whether Muslims or not, in the following manner:
c. Those who are guilty of apostasy (murtad) from Islam are to be executed according to the rule of apostasy, provided they have themselves renounced Islam. If they are born as non-Muslims, i.e., if they are the sons of apostates, then they are treated as non-Muslims according to their status as being either polytheists (mushriks) or People of the Book."
People should have freedom of religion - including the right to change their religion, as detailed in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Apostasy in Islam
The following detailed article (14 pages) on apostasy in Islam has been written by Rev Dr Patrick Sookhdeo of Barnabas Fund - he is a former Muslim and now part of the Church of England in the UK.
Islamic Teaching on the Consequences of Apostasy from Islam
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo - 3rd July 2007 - FEATURED ARTICLE
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. [UDHR]
The right to religious freedom, including the right of individuals to change their religion, is taken for granted by most people in the West. However, in Islam all schools of law (madhhahib) agree that adult male apostates from Islam should be killed. The majority of Muslim jurists claim that apostasy from Islam is a crime carrying the God-prescribed penalty of death. Therefore, while conversion from other religions to Islam is welcomed and actively encouraged, Muslims who leave Islam for any other religion must be sentenced to death (unless they repent and return to Islam).
According to criminal law in the Islamic legal system (Shari'ah), the state must impose mandatory punishments (hudud, singular hadd) for certain specific crimes which are claimed to be committed against God and his rights, and apostasy (rida, irtidad) is often included in this list. These crimes make up a separate category in Shari'ah criminal law as they are the only ones to have divinely mandated obligatory prescribed punishments which cannot be changed in any way by humans. Apostasy is thus viewed as a very severe crime for which God himself has prescribed the death penalty.
The death penalty for converts from Islam has nevertheless generated much debate since references to apostasy in the Qur'an, the primary source of Islamic law, are rather ambiguous. The hadith (the authoritative traditions recording the sayings and deeds of Muhammad) are therefore the main source used to justify the Shari'ah punishment of death for apostates. ...."
Danger of circulating inflated conversion statistics
Exaggerated Convert Figures Could Cost Lives:
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, Barnabas Fund... GENERAL NEWS - 14th May 2008 "Converts from Islam to Christianity are increasingly concerned about a number of reports in recent months which have cited astounding statistics on conversion. It is true - and a matter for thankfulness to God - that more Muslims are now coming to Christ than at any other time in history. However, they are not converting on the vast scale alleged in some reports. These false reports, often initiated by non-Christians and then circulated by Christians, are a matter of grave concern, not just for those who love truth and accuracy, but also for the many individuals whose lives are being endangered by the publicity given to the exaggerated figures. . .