On the issue of conversion

This morning I read disturbing news about an Afghan that converted to Christianity and now might be facing the death penalty for choosing a religion different from Islam.

A man could be sentenced to death after being charged with converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under Afghanistan’s shariah laws, a judge said yesterday. The trial is thought to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam will take four years after the fall of the Taliban.

Abdul Rahman, 41, was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada told Associated Press. The accused was charged with rejecting Islam. During the one-day hearing on Thursday, the defendant allegedly confessed to converting to Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, Judge Mawlavezada said. Source: [The Guardian]

What’s really disturbing about all this, in my opinion, is that this is happening in the supposedly post-Taliban era. It is no secret that those that covert to Christianity in the Arab and the Muslim world get harassed, but to be threatened with death is really horrendous.

Sadly enough, Jordan is another country where converts to Christianity will not only be ostracized, but will be also harassed by the authorities. To be fair, anyone changing religion in Jordan, whether from Islam to Christianity or vise versa, faces social ostracization. The difference, though, is that in the case of converting to Christianity one can expect to spend some time behind bars as was the case with a Jordanian couple I blogged about last year.

Ask Samer and Abeer. Last September Jordanian security police connected to the country’s Mukhabarat, or intelligence agency, showed up at the couple’s home unannounced. They arrested Samer and detained him overnight. Samer’s crime: coming to faith in Jesus Christ 14 years ago. Originally a Muslim, Samer over the years since his conversion has been questioned several times by security police but never detained. This time, the police turned him over to the Islamic courts. The judges convicted Samer of apostasy. In a Nov. 23 decision the court decreed that his identification papers must be changed from "Muslim" to "no religion;" that he had forfeited any inheritance; that his marriage to Abeer is now illegal and therefore he is not entitled to custody of his son.

The US State Department 2005 report on religious freedom in Jordan also mentions this issue :

Members of unrecognized religious groups and converts from Islam face legal discrimination and bureaucratic difficulties in personal status cases. Converts from Islam additionally risk the loss of civil rights. There is no statute that expressly forbids proselytizing Muslims. However, Shari’a courts have the authority to prosecute proselytizers.

I’m fully aware that this topic is very controversial so I’m not going to say much besides reiterating what I said last year: In my humble, unbiased opinion I think that if Jordan intends to tread on a truly democratic path, then its citizens should be given the basic right of practicing a religion of their own choosing.

Published
Categorized as Religion

By Natasha Tynes

I’m a Jordanian-American journalist, writer, and media development professional based in Washington, DC.

57 comments

  1. Natasha,
    Thank you for shedding light on this, I think it is an important issue we need to address in the Arab/Muslim world.
    About a month ago, I was watching Mahmoud Said as he interviewed a religious scholar. I don’t recall the guest’s name, but I was pleasantly surprised when he said Sharia does not call for killing of converts from Islam (AlReddah). As expected, Said changed the subject and moved on.
    The thought that someone should be killed for leaving Islam is incredibly illogical and, to me at least, seems to be contradictory to Islam’s core message. But it was interesting to see someone actually say it and on Arab TV.

  2. This is a very sensitive issue that draws a clear line between religion and secularism. Although Jordan and some other muslim countries seem to be semi-liberal thay can never allow conversion from Islam to Christianity since this will inflame the public. I think this is one of the most disturbing issues in the philosophy of Islam which I, as a non-religious muslim find hard to came to terms with. Personal rights to embrace any religion is a basic human right and this shows the limits of tolerance.

  3. if someone cared to actually read the sharia laws they would discover that God makes it impossible for men to punish men with the penalty of death. if someone care to actually analyze sharia instead of taking everything at face value they would discover that in Islam Allah swt places Himself as the ultimate judge of all things and the dealer of all punishments, and allows sharia law only to operate as divine laws which seek to protect a society, a community, an ummah. with regards to apostacy or adultry or any other law that has the maximum punishment of death, it is used as a last resort. the circumstances for this aghan to be dealth this penalty according to the sharia have to be so extreme, or detailed, that if someone actually cared to read the sharia they’d discover that 99% of these people do not fit the description.
    sadly no one does
    because the media doesn’t lie
    and also people are generally stupid. sharia should be taken more seriously if people wish for it to be applied. otherwise we’re just putting water in the gas tank of a ferrari.
    i just wanted to throw my 2 cents in before any potential Islam bashing takes place. but if anyone wants to get critical about it feel free to email me through my blog.
    thanks

  4. See how Algeria today issued a law banning any form of spreading any religion but Islam. Moslem seem to be very scared and emotional against loosing any moslem. On the other hand, not a single European or any country in the world seems to treat its Christian citizens the same. You go and believ in what you want, we are not scared to loose any to any religion; everyone is to give an account before God one day, and not before any human or government. I like how Dr. Wafa Sultan expressed her opinion, go and google her name and read.

  5. Tash, This is the first time ever i actually post any comment on your blog although i enjoy reading it a lot. There will be no Islam bashing as someone posted , but there will be the issue of i guess having some sort of respect for other religions and their beliefes. I strongly appose your publication of this issue on this blog. This will only further damage people’s idea and thoughts of Islam when it hasnt been explained proparly. I am sure many christians would be feeling the same if not more strongly about converts to Islam, not to mention many many stories of people dis-owning their own children that we have witnessed throughout our growing up together . I think that before posting anything as critical as this issue , a lot of information and a lot of research needs to be done so people who are not familiar with The Islam religion will not misunderstand the whole concept.. .I think enough Islam bashing has been going on for too long especially with the latest digusting publications that its time to stop now. If everyone is to have the freedom of what or who to worship then i suggest we leave the issues of discussing religions alone as some sort of respect for different people and their different beliefs.

  6. Muna, I think it is very important for Natasha to post this, especially as a Christian myself. The said couple are dear friends of mine, and to have watched what they went through was appalling. And as of this week, it is happening with another family.
    I hope no Islam-bashing goes on as well. When Muslims begin to dialogue on these issues, as both Nas and Batir are, instead of burying them,
    progress can be made.

  7. Kinzi,
    Thank you for your comment.As i have mentioned before, many Christian friends were also caught up in the fight againest them from their families when they converted to Islam. I strongly think that issues like that are still not dealt with proparly by christians too in this part of the world. The only progress that will ever be made is when Islam is not stereo-typed and when chrisitans can dialouge this as well and not bury the issue. Enough said for me…out of my respect of freedom of religions and worships , this is where i choose to stop.
    Muna

  8. Okay, lets not even go with wafa sultan, because to think that only one religion, and no other religion preaches hate is an ignorant comment to make. goes to show you education does not always make us openminded.
    lets face it guys! all religions and cultures at one point in time have been used toward evil, and i repeat, USED!
    Religions are suppsed to be peacful. It is their implementation for personal or political gains that ruin them. As marx says it best, religion is a means to seperate societies.
    And you guys, let us not forget how America came to be. Those who came to America on the Pinta, santa maria, and i know there was another one boat, came here to practice their religion freely, because they were being persecuted in Britan. Hello, do we not remember Martin Luther? oh, and the same people who felt persecuted and came to the new land, went ahead and forced the natives to practice christianity, and if they didnt, they were massacered. Hello, does the word mission ring a bell to anyone – how about manifest freaking destiny.
    Oh, and how about the poor salem witch trials.
    And, oh yeah, remember ads in the newspaper for job openings and apartments, where at the bottom they would state: “Jews / Blacks / Irsih catholics/ need not apply.”
    So everyone getting ready to bash Islam and think their own religion is all high and mighty should think again. Give it time, history will pass, and I am sure the next big religion will be the new enemy.
    And for anyone reading my comment thinking i am muslim, well you are wrong. I am a catholic so blah blah blah.

  9. Well I also happen to know a Jordanian girl who was totally abandoned by her family just for the reason of converting from Christianity to Islam.
    Natasha, you are right! This is a controversial issue. But one small note, if you are trying to shed some light on a certain religion by focusing on a small group (example at the start of my comment), then try to be more objective by looking at the bigger picture.

  10. Linda, does your religion preach hate? If you really know your religion, or care for it!

  11. I don’t understand why this has to turn into a fight of Muslim against Christian. This is becoming typical of how we as Arabs have failed for the past several decades. Its always Muslim against Christian, Palestinian against Jordanian, Lebanese against Palestinian, Khaleeji against Syrian etc…
    Why can’t we look at this subject objectively. My question to practicing Muslims is what are the consequences of a Muslim leaving their relegion according to the Sharia law and do you agree with it or not?
    And my question to Christians would be, how do you feel about a Christian leaving his/her relegion and becoming Muslim, what do you think the consequences shoulud be?
    How about inter relegious marriages?
    Lets try to discuss not turn this into a bash party. All that Natasha did was report a news item that she came accross.
    So if you all would relax and have fun I think it would be much better.
    Cheers
    Fadi

  12. Hey Muna,
    Thanks for taking the time to post your comment. You should do this more often. You are right that changing one’s religion in Jordan is a major taboo whether it was frm Christianity or Islam or vice vera. If you read my post one more time, you will notice that I mentioned this:
    “To be fair, anyone changing religion in Jordan, whether from Islam to Christianity or vise versa, faces social ostrasization. The difference, though, is that in the case of converting to Christianity one can expect to spend some time behind bars”
    Muna I look at this issue as a basic human right that is missing in my country that I love and care for a great deal. Do you really believe that the authorities should interfere when people change their religion. Do you think the authorities should interfere in someone’s personal choice.
    Muna,
    It is not easy to discuss issues that might give Jordan a bad name. But Muna there is no perfect country and we as citizens that love our country should be the ones who instigate positive change.
    I do not look at this issue as a religious issue but rather as a legal issue that should be amended. If those who converted from Christianity to Islam in Jordan were put in prison and harassed by the authorities then you will see a similar post condemning this act. It is all about a basic human right.

  13. Abdallah,
    Thank you for your comment. I suggest your read my post one more time since I have already said that conversion in Jordan as a whole is a taboo. This is what I said in the post
    “To be fair, anyone changing religion in Jordan, whether from Islam to Christianity or vise versa, faces social ostracization. The difference, though, is that in the case of converting to Christianity one can expect to spend some time behind bars”
    Thank you.

  14. Ok, some persepctive.
    If someone wants to leave a religion, he/she should not be killed for it, especially in the 21st century.
    Sure, ostrasize them, disown them, whatever, no one can really control that. But killing them? That should be where the line is set-up and erected.
    I do understand that it is an islamic rule to kill apostates, especially after trying to get them to reverse their decision 3 times. It’s a rule. But many islamic rule are not followed these days (plucking eye-brows is haram. How many Unibrow women do you see in Sadi?), so why not this one?
    As a muslim I welcome anyone who wants to join my faith, and I also welcome anyone who wants to leave it. You can’t claim that there is la ikrah fel din and that you don’t coerce people to believe, especially when there is a death sentence hanging on the heads of people who may want to leave it.
    Think of it this way: How many of you would be up in arms if-oh let’s say Israel- decided to execute a jewish man because he wanted to convert to Islam? Now think of this guy and tell me, why is he getting killed again?
    Let this man go and don’t judge him. That’s God’s job!

  15. At some point of my life I realized I’m peacefully convinced with Christianity or Islam, do i have the right(FREEDOM) to choose what faith i think is better for me? If yes, thank you my society for giving me my freedom and treating me as an equal mature human who can decide his faith, if not, can anybody please tell me why you taking my freedom away from me, does anybody here have a fair reason why I can’t choose my faith? Either tell me your fair reason please, or just stand up for my freedom as a human to choose. And thank you Natasha for making an effort to give me my freedom, it’s a small step in the right direction.

  16. “And my question to Christians would be, how do you feel about a Christian leaving his/her religion and becoming Muslim, what do you think the consequences should be?”
    The only consequence should be that the person becomes a Muslim. And if later, he or she changes his mind and wants to convert back, again the only consequence is that he becomes Christian.
    His friends and relations may laugh at his ideas and beliefs, because people should be respected but their beliefs and ideas should not. All beliefs and ideas are open to criticism and mockery. That is how we learn and move forward.
    Any sane person will say “I think my beliefs are correct, but I know that others disagree, and I may be wrong.”

  17. I dont think this is just with Islam. You tell me what would happen if a Jordanian Christian, for instace, announced to his family that he is going to convert to Islam?
    I have heard of this happening, and the reaction from family and society is little different than it is in the opposite circumstances.
    Having said that, I dont think this is an issue that should be dealt with in a legal manner. These issues have as much to do with cultural issues as anything else. I read an article a while back where a Christian girl was murdered by her family because she wanted to marry a Muslim guy.
    It is a lot more about cultural mindsets than anything else. If it was Buddhist and Catholics in the Middle East the same problems would be there. Culture……that is the problem.
    Besides, historically it isnt that much of an issue. Missionaries have been in the Middle East and other Islamic lands for hundreds of years and have gained very few converts. It is really just a non issue, save for the few people it effects.

  18. Don
    Thanks for your reply to what a christians reaction would be to any christian changing relegion.
    I still would like an answer to my other question. What does Sharia law say regarding a muslim changing their relegion and what do you guys think the consequences be for a muslim changing relegion?
    Cheers
    Fadi

  19. I may be called an “Islam basher’ for this. (I’m not, but the series of events starting with the Indonesian schoolgirl beheadings, through the Pakistani church massacre, through the cartoons, through Samara, to this have made me beg moderate Muslims to stop by my site and answer a long series of questions that will hopefully let me understand where they are coming from, and why i should accept their view of Islam rather than the one I seem to see every week or so in the news — and these things are happening, not being made up.)
    I want to ask why, when Muslims hear a complaint, one of the first things they do is act like five year olds ‘Mommy, the Christians do it too, nyah, nyah.’ When it is true, it’s usually something they did hundreds of years ago. (I’m an atheist, btw, NOT a Christian)
    In this case, though, there’s no comparison. As a bisexual man, I have known many gay men and women who have been disowned by their parents. Yes, it is painful, and sometimes they feel the pain through their entire life. But there is a difference between this and being put in jail, being FORCED to divorce your spouse, and, in the Afghani case, being sentenced to death.
    Nas makes an interesting comment about HIS interpretation of Sharia law. And I do not know what his background is as an Islamic scholar. Here’s another interpretation, from the (admittedly very conservative and Wahabist) site
    “Islam Q&A”
    “66. Make no excuse; you disbelieved after you had believed”
    [al-Tawbah 9:65,66]
    What you have to do is to remind this slanderer and advise him, and warn him that all his good deeds are to no avail, and that if he does not repent, he will meet Allaah when he is guilty of major kufr.
    Tell him that the punishment that he deserves in this world is execution, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever changes his religion, execute him.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3017. ”
    According to the site
    (Responses are composed by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid, a known Islamic lecturer and author. … All questions and answers on this site have been prepared, approved, revised, edited, amended or annotated by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid, the supervisor of this site.)
    The cite is
    http://63.175.194.25/index.php?ln=eng&ds=qa&lv=browse&QR=65551&dgn=4
    As for Muna’s response, the fact is that this isn’t something Natasha made up, or found in an obscure, little known journal. This story has appeared in newspapers and on tv around the world, and almost every blog I read has mentioned it. Besides, SOMEONE MAY BE KILLED BECAUSE OF THIS! Saying ‘Shhhh, sweep it under the rug, because it might make people think badly of Islam” doesn’t make sense to me. (And no Christian parent I know of would kill their child or want them killed by the government for converting.)
    Natasha, as I said on SM, keep up the great blog.

  20. Prup
    You ask a lot of good and interesting questions.
    But if I may allow to say that you are throwing a whole bunch of issues into one pot which doesn’t make it fair.
    The very first thing is that some people need to understand that not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs. So I hate to say this that not all Muslims share the same culture and not all Arabs share the same culture.
    Now to point out all what the Muslims are doing to the christians is quite unfair. You need to look at the same time at what the Christians are doing to the Muslims. Its both ways.
    I am a Christian by the way and a very strong believer, however, I do think its only right to evaluate things objectively.
    There are things I like about Islam and there are things I dont like.
    But to take all the negatives and say this is Islam is unfair. To point to all the bad people in Islam and say this is Islam is just like pointing to the right wing christians in the US and say this is Christianity.
    As I’ve mentioned on a previous post on Natasha’s site, I do believe that most people that are against Islam need to stop and take a look and see how fanatic Islamic sactions came to exist. Why do they do what they do. How can we overcome these challenges.
    Its very easy to point fingers but its not so easy to analyze the causes behind a messed up situation.
    Looking at both sides as a Christian Arab, I think there are Muslims doing horrible things to Christians and there are Christians doing horrible things to Muslims. I don’t think I need to give examples.
    My own believe is if you don’t like someone else relegion don’t practice it but don’t force your beliefs on others.
    Cheers
    Fadi

  21. there are different ways to handle this issue. I don’t think it’s a major problem in Jordan however the very few people who are concerned about get really hurt.
    It’s difficult to make a law against the wishes of most people. I believe that most Jordanians are not comfortable with the idea of a person leaving Islam and they don’t want it to be legalized. Therefore, a law which allows people to do so might make most people angry.

  22. What! This is considered CONTROVERSIAL! I am so apalled. Are you saying there is a single Muslim in the world who would DEFEND this?! I just don’t understand how ANYONE could support such a moronic and wicked law. Even if this man said he was a Muslim again; do they really think God can be tricked? Doesn’t He know what is in the hearts of men? I’m reminded of a hymn I love:
    “Know this, that every soul is free
    to choose his life and what he’ll be
    for this eternal truth is given
    that God will force no man to heaven
    He’ll call, persuade, direct, aright,
    and bless with wisdom, love and light;
    in countless ways be good and kind
    but never force the human mind
    Freedom and reason make us men.
    Take these away, what are we then?
    Mere animals, and just as well;
    the beast may think of heaven or hell”.

  23. Hareega
    I find your comment offensive and racist. You are speaking as if all of Jordan are Muslims.
    While Christians are only a small minority, it is a very influencial and virant element of the Jordanian society.
    Also how do you know what most people want and don’t want in Jordan, you don’t know, I don’t know, we don’t know. A person’s relegion is determined before he/she is born, a child in Jordan is raised being taught to believe that you are what you are born as. This applies for both Christians and Muslims.
    In addition, I am just as uncomfortable with a Christian leaving Christianity as you are with a Moslem leaving Islam, however, to say its a illeagle for a Muslim to leave Islam doesn’t make any sense.
    What good is it for a person to say I’m a Muslim or say I’m a Christian without believing in that relegion.
    We need to stop thinking of relegion as a persons identity becuase faith is what defines relegion. If a person doesn’ thave the faith in that relegion they might as well say I’m not Christian or I’m not Muslim or I’m not Jewish etc…
    Cheers
    Fadi

  24. Religion this … religion that … religion who … religion what
    When are you people going to face the facts?
    This whole situation has nothing to do with “religion”.
    It is POLITICAL ISLAMIC DOCTRINE PEOPLE … and all other political systems can change and adjust … except Islam because it’s GODS politcal agenda?

  25. Okay, can I just point out the fact that there are many different people in many different religions. Some people are extremely radical and others not so much. There is good and bad in every religion (as well as any other kind of organization). There are those who believe that their way is the only way, while others accept people for who they are. For example, a man who called himself a Catholic went into an abortion clinic and killed everyone in there because he felt that abortion was wrong and evil. Make sense to anyone? Yet, I know many Catholics who are not against abortion. That was the best example I could come up with right now. I definitely am not trying to spark any kind of debate. There are some wonderful, accepting and loving Christians as well as Muslims, and Jewish people, etc. Also, there are some who are intolerable of others. There’s good and bad in everything. I look at it this way and please correct me if I am wrong. From what little I know of the Islamic faith, I understand that it is a peaceful religion. I do know that Christianity also preaches love and peace. I consider the Muslim terrorists to be on the same scale as the KKK who consider themselves Christian. Both are people with a warped sense of life and what it is all about–neither reflecting the true meaning of the religions at hand.

  26. Well I do agree that this is not an issue of Islan vs. Christianity, although there will be people from both extremist sides trying to frame it that way…as they always do. First let me preface my comment with a disclosure that I am an American who is a Christian. I lived in Turkey for 3 years and am engaged to a Turkish Muslim. Now I would venture to guess that an absolute majority of Muslims are against the penalty for apostacy, but somewhere along the lines we have all failed at communicating along racial/cultural/religious lines and there grows a misunderstanding and a lack of trust on both sides..which extremists exploit (on both sides)…..as a personal experience I have nothing but good experiences….whether it was living in Konya or the more liberal Istanbul…I never had any problems living there as an American or Christian……obvioulsy that is not the case everywhere as prejudice continues in almost every society. So yes I agree that this is a freedom issue and a human right issue for all of us….a person should be free to choose whether a Christian or muslim…just as he should be free to Choose whether a sunni or alevi..this debate should not be exploited by those who wish to further the chasm between all of us. So when these injustices are done as with the beheadngs of the school girls in Indonesia, I will continue to speak out against them. Just as I will about the honore killings of Palestinain Christian families or rasicm or Islamophobia arises. And I will continue to celebrate my relationships with the Muslims that are around me. To me what makes this a great world..is our differences….let us keep speaking out about injustices togther and fight against those who wish to divide us.

  27. As a Dane I’m completely shocked.
    How on earth can this be considered a controversial issue?
    This is down right illegal and must be stopped immediately at all cost.
    I’m astonished to see how carefully Natasha goes about this subject but she is of course living in a Muslim country and she has to be careful about what she says.
    Islam seems to be its own biggest enemy as no criticism, real debate and development is allowed – hence its inability to exist in a modern democracy with free speech.

  28. Gorm
    Your comment shows a lack of understanding of Eastern cultures, not only Muslim countries but Eastern cultures in general. You have to be sensative to people’s views. I’m all about expressing your own views, however, you should do so with taking others feelings into consideration.
    Of course in the West its not any better, even though people try to say it is. The way I look at it and I will speak mostly for the US and the UK, since I lived in those 2 countries. You are free to say what you want as long as its the “right” thing to say. Remember the guy that was wearing an anti-war T-shirt and was arrested in the US, where is the freedom of expression or freedom of speech in that. Need I give more examples, because I sure can including some that I’ve experienced myself.
    I think Islam can and does exist in modern societies. I think fanatic Islam just like fanatic Christianity has no place in Western or Eastern culture.
    Cheers
    Fadi

  29. The Muslims believe that apostasy is treason since they consider Islam to be, not a religion, but a “complete way of life” (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostasy_in_Islam#Reasons_for_the_death_penalty). Hence, they elected the rulers in Afghanistan and they are enforcing their own law(or their interpretation of it). Isn’t this Democracy after all (“government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system”)?
    Or are all our words a pretty farce and we, instead, are only interested in subjugating the world upon Western liberalistic ideals?

  30. I think all of this is just promoting and creating more and more divisions inside the Arab nation. We are always thinking about the Jordanians against the Palestinians against the Egyptians againt the Iraqis etc. We have to realize that all of this is trivial and get back to our roots…lets blame it on Zionists and Jews. Seriously. A muslim converts to christianity, so the jews obviously paid him to sow divisions in the Ummah and make Muslims look bad when we chop his head off. Just trying to make the world forget our long, wonderful and peaceful history.
    And comparing contemporary fanatical Islam to the fanatical Christianity of the 13 century is not a good idea, considering they are 700 years apart and the West has dealt with their fanatics.

  31. Jen and Fadi and JAck and Gorm ….
    What we are discussing is not whether or not someone should be allowed to convert. Religion is a personal thing and I strongly believe that it’s a personal matter.
    What we’re disucssing is the laws governing that. We don’t live in a perfect world , and Jordan is for sure not a perfect world. Conversion is an extremely sensitive issue even for Muslims who almost don’t practise their religion. I believe that the society needs to change before we can come up with laws by which a Muslim can declare in public that he is leaving Islam.
    There are a lot of Muslims who are agonists or athiests but they don’t dare declare that in public. Even if the law allowed them to convert or clearly state their faith I don’t think they will.
    Fadi man i read my comment again and i don’t know what is offensive in it? Man do you live in Jordan?? Do you think if somoen in Zarqa for example converted to Chrisitianity would people be Ok with it? Can he walk safely in the street wearing a cross for example?

  32. Hareega
    If you don’t find your comment offensive, I suggest you take another look at it. And thats the whole point, a Christian should feel comfortable walking down the street in Zraq or in Amman or where ever in Jordan wearing a cross without having to feel threatened. No I don’t live in Jordan anymore, I do frequently go to Jordan and I never had a problem saying I’m Christian anywhere in Jordan.
    You made a good point that society needs to change, but how does society change if people don’t start chanign, all it takes is one person, one incident to change the status quo.
    Shukri, was the message you posted a joke or were you serious? I can’t possibly see how you could blame this on the Jews or the Zionists. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things that the Zionists can be blamed for but this, come on, this is only blamed on the pure ignorance.
    Cheers
    Fadi

  33. MUNA, I don’t know if you will be back, but…
    I know Jordanian Christians who faced the ostracization of their families for becoming Muslims. My neighbors in Hashmi considered killing a daughter who married her Muslim lover, but knew they wouldnt’ get away with an ‘honor killing’ sentence, it would be treated the same as any other murder.
    I myself was disinherited when I converted to Christianity (from secular American materialism, not Islam). Do you think Jordanian Christian families are just going to sit back and say “ok”? Do you think they should?
    My point is: Christians who convert to Islam are not forced to divorce, denied their rights as parents or legal rights as adults by edict of their nation.
    ABU SINAN, foreign involvement/coersion isn’t what has made the Muslims I ran into choose to follow another faith. Imagine, they investigated on their own, had a vision, or were fed up with the faith they were born into probably not unlike you when you converted to Islam. The reason this is a big issue, and will become bigger, is there are precedents being set in the power workings because there ARE so many of these kind of folks in Jordan. From what I have heard, there are Muslims in every church in Amman. People fear what is happening in Algeria will happen here, and are taking steps to prevent it.

  34. I find the view expressed by Fadi that things are ‘not any better’ in the West odd to say the least.
    A search on Amazon for ‘lies Bush’ retrieves several titles. The best known of which, is, I believe, ‘The Lies of George W. Bush.’ When it is possible in the Middle East to publish a book with the title ‘The Lies of (select the name of any Arab leader/president/king),’ or when the author and publisher of the above mentioned work are arrested, thrown into jail, tortured etc.,
    THEN say that things are no better in the West.
    When in the Middle East works of islamic and Christian apologetics as well as Bertrand Russell’s ‘Why I am not a Christian’ and Ibn Warraq’s ‘Why I am not a Muslim’ are all equally freely available with no one needing fear for his life for saying the ‘wrong thing’ THEN say that things are ‘not any better’ in the West.
    I could make similar points about literature.
    That an overzealous policeman or police action resulted in someone being arrested for wearing a t-shirt which said ‘the wrong thing’ (in the vicinity of a function where Bush was appearing? – what was the charge? – what was the sentence handed down?) does not prove anything.
    There is a difference and it is a considerable one.

  35. Kevin
    You are misunderstanding what I meant by saying that the views in the West are no better than the views in the East.
    I agree that there is more democracy in the West. I did not claim that there is democracy in the Middle East. There is very little. However, it is a shame when people are opressed for their views in Western countries that claim to be democratic. It is a shame when my house is wire tapped because of my ethnic background in a Western country. It is a shame when I’m stopped by a pliceman on my way to the bank because of the way I look. I can go on and on. But I don’t think I need to.
    To directly answer what you are trying to say Kevin, is there more democracy in the west? Yes for sure, no one is denying that. But is there just as much hatered in Western countries as Eastern countries, you can be damn sure there is.
    When the President of the strongest country in the world goes to war and invades a whole nation because he claims “God told him so”, what do you consider that? Isn’t that being fanatic?
    Anyway, I’m not trying to aruge who has more democracy East or West. However, I take it you are American, and having spent the majority of my life in the US, I can assure that the level of freedom you get in the US is dependant on your race, ethincity etc… You may choose to disagree but I’ve exprienced it first hand. I had expriences ranging from job discrimination to being unwelcomed at a public place such as a restaurante etc…
    So I’m sorry if you misunderstood my point, however, my point again is not East vs. West in terms of who has more democracy, but trust me when I say life in the West is not as great as you think it is.
    Cheers
    Fadi

  36. One more thing Kevin, a t-shirt that said “the wrong thing”? I think you need to decide are there lines that should be drawn when it comes to democracy, and if so where should they be drawn? I thought democracy at best is when you can tell your leaders you don’t agree with their actions that are harming the whole nation if not the whole world?
    I hope I’m not saying “the wrong thing”
    Cheers, Fadi

  37. I think the real issue is that Islam is considered by muslims as “way of life” and above all things on this earth. Other religions are a set of beliefs which one can adhere to if one wishes. This fundamental difference is causing havoc. Staunch muslims cannot comprehend why on earth should there be another “path” to God when Islam already exists.
    The concepts like democracy, freedom of speech and individuality, secularism etc are alien to Islam. These things, they say, defeat the very purpose of Islam.
    I think Islam should make fundamental changes to interpretations somewhere and this will enable it to coexist peacefully with the rest of the cultures and accept other belief systems.

  38. To those of you like Shukri who are arguing that ‘this is a cultural matter, and that this culture should be respected,’ let me give a little History lesson. (Many Americans will find this trite, and I apologize to them, but I think it needs to be said.)
    I will be 60 in June. When I was growing up, the Southern States — mostly those that had been slave states before the Civil War — had LEGALLY ENFORCED rules of segregation.
    Many people know of the fact that blacks were not allowed to go to school with whites, and, thanks to Rosa Parks, many people know that blacks had to ride in the back of buses, that they could not ride in the ‘white sections.’ But it was far wider than this. Blacks couldn’t play in the same playgrounds as whites, or be on sports teams with whites. If they were allowed in theatres or movies, there were black-only sections they had to sit in. Lunch counters wouldn’t serve blacks — and this was partially because if they did, whites wouldn’t go there.
    Perhaps the most powerful image was that even water fountains and public bathrooms were marked for whites and blacks.
    (And, of course, the facilities for blacks were the worse, and they weren’t maintained properly. But even if the black fountain was broken, the black bathroom was broken, they were still not allowed to use the white ones. And these laws WERE enforced, both by the police and by white citizens who’d take the law into their own hands.)
    The relevance is this. There were quite a few Southerners who defended these laws on the grounds that they were right, even using biblical arguments for them. Other Southerners knew they were wrong, but knew that if they opposed them they would suffer ostracism or worse. But, in the North, there were many conservatives who argued “maybe this IS wrong, but it is part of the ‘Southern Way of Life’ and it is not up to us to try and change it. Leave them alone, educate them, and they will slowly correct this.” (One flaw in this argument was that blacks were also kept from voting in the South, so they could not use political pressure directly to end segregation. And the whites would almost always vote for the more extreme supporter of segregation.)
    It took a combination of things, national laws — with at least shows of force to back up the laws, brave Northerners going down South and working with Southern blacks (some of whom were killed for trying), business boycotts, national media publicity, and almost two decades before these policies were discarded. It did work, but it only worked because the argument that ‘its their culture’ could not stand up to the argument ‘yes, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong.’
    I wonder what it will take to change these parts of the culture of Muslim states that are, simply, WRONG, no matter how deeply engrained and religiously sanctioned.

  39. It is my experience that the majority of Muslims who stop practicing do not convert to any other religion, they just stop believing in any religion all together. I dont think this will be a major issue in any country where Muslims are the majority, but agree it certainly does look bad, and it certainly does happen both ways.

  40. America did not have to struggle against a powerful force like religion. The Black-White issue was an idealogical one and over time it got sorted out (sadly at the expense of many human lives). But muslims have their religion to contend with. Any one poking a finger at Islamic rulings is considered blasphemous and liable to be executed. It going to be very very difficult for muslims to change from within. The whole setup is flawed, putting religion ahead of state precludes any negotiations and debate and hence changes.
    We are in a fix – if we go in and change things it is considered an invasion. If we sit back and turn a blind eye, the Taliban like regimes proliferate and breed terrorists. The world has one huge problem in its hands.

  41. Slash
    You by no means sat back and watched. Let me ask you who made the Taliban a force? Who made Bin Laden a force.
    Wasn’t the US that told the Taliban and Bin Laden to fight against the Un-Godly Soviets?
    Come on, Bin Ladin is Mad in USA, stop the bull for Gods sake.
    Do some research on the creation fanatic Islamic movements.
    Why were they created? Who backed them up?
    And for you to confuse things like that is just pure ignorance. Iraq during the Saddam days was no an Islami country in the sense of the Taliban are Islamic. What was the purpose behind invading them? To end terror? There were no terror cells in Iraq before Saddam was removed. Don’t get me wrong I have no liking to Saddam or his boys, however, we should not confuse things.
    This is not a war on terror, its a war of terror. Stop spreading hatered, because it is not your job to go and solve the problems of other countries. If you are so concerened about people being persecuted, go help the Palestnians who had their land stolen from them long ago and they continue to have their homes being demolished.
    Cheers
    Fadi

  42. This man will not be executed. Canada and Germany are watching this closely and the USA is also keeping a close eye.
    Best wishes Natasha. 🙂

  43. To Hareega–freedom of religion is a basic human right. Period.
    To Fadi–people are not arrested in the US for wearing anti-war T-shirts.

  44. To Fadi again,
    Whoa! Bush never said “God told him to invade Iraq”! Never, ever. Bush has said that he isn’t almighty himself and he believes in praying to a higher power for guidance. Uh…you know, the whole point of faith. Completely different. There are plenty of legitimate things to criticize Bush about…this isn’t one of them.

  45. Hadith Bukhari, volume 9, #17 is clear on the issue: Apostates must die.
    God save us from religion, please.

  46. Hmmm Fadi. The blame game again? Blame everything on the west. What was the purpose of invading Iraq? Well, my ignorant friend, Saddam was responsible for a decade long pointless battle with Iran, a basic shia-sunni-khurd clash, which resulted in MILLIONS of muslims dying (read about Khoramshahr). He then invaded Kuwait, again many died, he did have stockpiles of chemical weapons in 1992. If he was let to succeed in Kuwait the entire gulf would have been destabilized. Kuwait asked for help and they got it. Thats where the American presence in Iraq started. Had it not been for Saddam arrogance in invading Kuwait the US would never have stepped in to that country. I suggest YOU read up on some history.
    History also clearly shows that it was the Palestinians who forcibly occupied portions of Jerusalem where the Jews had been living for a thousand years before Islam came into existance. Read up my friend! And stop bashing the “west” for everything.
    The taliban was part of a force supported by the US against the Soviets. Bin Laden came in from Sudan from where he was kicked out because of his offensive tactics. He found the fanatical mullah Omar a fine ally. Now dont tell me that just because the US provided him weapons during the cold war that he has the right to become a terrorist. Currently Pakistan recieves military help, dont tell me that if they suddenly turn back on the US they arent to be blamed. A gun manufacturer sold the gun to a man. If he murders, is the gun manufacturer prosecuted?
    No amount of twisting and turning will help. Radical Islam is a threat and needs to be wiped out. Radical Christianity met its end in the 15th century. Sadly the muslims hardliners dont seem to learn lessons from that debacle.

  47. People put too much emphasis on doing what they think god wants rather than doing what is best for their fellow man.
    This self-centred egoism is responsible for the various hideous relgious ideologies currently plaguing the world today.
    We are here not to please god, but to evolve and help each other to better lives. All we have on this planet is each other as god will never intervene to help or destroy us. That, we can and will do, all by ourselves without any devine intervention.
    “Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.” — Volatire

  48. Slash,
    Where did Fadi blame the West for everything? And since when has he become an Islamic apologist? I suggest you not jump to conclusions. The Isreal/Palestinan issue is not as simple as Jews lived here for thousands of years..so everything is fine and everything that Isreal does is legit (discolsure..I am actually a supporter of the state of Israel…so Fadi and I probally disagree on this, but that does not mean the state of Isreal is above rebuke). I do believe there is a lack of understanding amoungst all different cultures and beliefs. It does no one any good to fall back into our tribal mindset of us against them. Islam is not the enemy. It is the ignorance of these ideas of not accepting others into the fold. Intolerance has been a plague on humanity since the beginning of time. It did not begin with Islam. It exists in every culture and every country (including America). And to play the “well its worse in Islam” is a lazy argument and counterproductive. Does it matter who killed more people Mao or Stalin…does it really matter their country? It was an injustice and a crime..therefore it should be condemmed and should be allowed to be used as a tool of dividing people. this execution for apostacy is not supported by the Muslim masses. And progres or change does not happen overnight (that is not an excuse… just human nature)….we don’t wake up one day and change our thoughts…it happens over time…unfortunately…it took our country far too long to accept everyone as equal under the law……so let us work togther to object to human right absues such as this and not let extermists frame this issue as clash of the civilizations

  49. Mathew
    Thanks for your comments.
    Slash
    On the issue of Palestine/Israel. Read any boook you want including your Tora, it tells you that the Cannanites are the original inhabitants of the land, after all it is the land of Canaan. And the Palestinians are the direct decendants of Canaan.
    Regardless of what you believe, my own family’s home was demolished by the Jews in 1948 and my family was left homeless. We’ve come a long way since then, however, we will never forget, we forgive but we will not forget. And I assure that Justice will come at the end for the Palestinians.
    I would like to assure all of you that the peace of the world depends on the peace of Jerusalem. That is peace that is based on JUSTICE. Not Israel torturing humans, demloshing homes, practicing policies of ethnic cleansing, that has gone on long enough. The world should learn by now that the Palestinians will never go away. Its our land we love it too much to let go. The Israelis must come to the conclusion that they have to coexist with the Palestinians and stop their terrorism against us.
    I would like to also point out that just because violence is committed by a government or a country that doesn’t make it legit, and that is the worse type of terrorism.
    I don’t blame the West for everything, but Yes I do blame the UK originally for the loss of our land to the Jews, and now I do blame the US for the suffering of the Palestinians. Look at how much of US tax money goes for military Israeli programs and home demolishons.
    Lets stop fooling ourselves and try to make peace not spread more hatered.
    I suggest check out the following websites for education: http://www.adc.org and http://www.aaiusa.org
    Cheers
    Fadi

  50. Jen
    Your very own Pat Robertson made the comment amongst others that Bush told them that God told him to invade Iraq. Ofcourse the White House denied it. Surprise surprise.
    And you don’t need to tell me about my faith because I choose to use my faith to make peace not war.
    Cheers
    Fadi

  51. Fadi: Im sorry to hear about your experiences…. its sad. I really dont have much to say.
    You are right. It was the Canaanites who owned the land initially and the Israelites invaded and occupied it because they felt they were pagan worshippers. Quite an idiotic thing to do by todays standards: who is pagan and who is not very subjective and no one has the right to judge another persons beliefs and religion. We do have these discussions many times regarding land possesion issues and in some ways I too am affected by these – and when you give it a great deal of thought it becomes clear that looking at the past is not a wise thing to do. Because if we do then where do we stop? For example even the Canaanites appeared some time in history replacing the original inhabitants of that land – and if one interpolates you need to look at our prehistoric ancestors and see which hunting pack of Neanderthals occupied that land. If you go beyond that we need to check which colony of bacteria occupied which pond and so on !!
    The past is not the basis and can never be. Its the present – where we live in and the future, that counts and an amicable settlement has to be arrived at… easier said than done though ! Perhaps we havent really evolved yet… sadly our hunting pack mentality still dominates !

  52. Slash
    Thanks, I apprciate your comments. You have gained my respect by admitting the truth.
    Peace
    Fadi

  53. The death penalty should be abolished at all costs. Nations that still retain it do not deserve any legitimacy.

  54. Why is this topic controversial? Only because it concerns Islam. Otherwise it would be a ‘no brainer’ affecting at most the people and families involved.
    Islam, however, cannot tolerate either freedom of conscience or freedom of speech. That is a problem that will not go away, and that means trouble – big trouble – in the future for all of us. When I look at Islam I see hate and anger, and I do not see any possibilty of change. Where it dominates, Islam oppresses women, other religions, gays, jews, and even other Muslim sects.
    The cartoon issue and the case of the afhgan convert demonstrate this clearly. I feel sorry for you young people, because bad times are coming. I have no problem with many Muslims individually, but I dislike Islam and I certainly don’t respect Islam’s great prophet.
    I have read the hadiths, and it is not a pretty picture. The life of Mohammed is not a very nice story – it is filled with horrible deeds. I won’t go into detail but you can be sure I known what I’m talking about. If I cannot criticize certain things Mohammed did, then there can be no hope of avoiding a conflict, at least with this old man. If Muslims consider Islam’s prophet to be a great moral example, there can be no hope of harmony as far as I’m concerned. The only possible excuse is that Muslims know less about the life and actions of their dear prophet than I, and I find that hard to believe.
    I really don’t think there is any chance of avoiding a major conflict, in 5 to 10 years (not counting the minor riots). At best we can be honest, brutally honest, about these issues. What will probably happen is that right wing parties in Europe arise and they will match Islamic hate with Western hate, angry word for angry word, blood for blood, murder for murder. A lot of innocent people will get hurt. Who is to blame? People who are not honest, people who are afraid to listen to things they don’t want to hear, and people who are afraid to say the things that need to be said.
    Sorry about this post. It is not nice but it is necessary. You people take care, think about these things, enjoy life, and hope I am wrong. I will not get mad if I’m wrong.
    John Kactuz

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