Apostasy: Current Issues in Egypt & Iran

General August 13, 2008

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 491 |

Islam's founder, Muhammad, once decreed: 'Whoever changes his
Islamic religion, kill him.' (Sahih Al-Bukhari Vol. 9:57) This
hadith (saying of Muhammad) is the basis for Islam's law that deems
apostasy (leaving Islam) a capital offence. Islamic states generally
do not execute apostates but they do tolerate 'honour killings' and
the Sharia-enforcing violence of Islamic vigilantes. Because
religion is regarded as a state matter in most Muslim countries, a
person's religion is stated on the identity (ID) card. This then
determines what rules they must follow: for example, a woman with a
Muslim ID may legally marry only a Muslim man. This intolerance is
being questioned in places with more openness.

* EGYPT: An apostasy debate is presently simmering in Egypt over the
merits or otherwise of religious liberty vis-a-vis Islamic apostasy
laws. A group of Coptic Christians who converted to Islam for
pragmatic reasons (such as marriage or jobs), or were deemed Muslim
by official decree, are seeking the right to have their identities
restored as Christian. On 2 August 2007 Mohammad Hegazi (24) became
the first Egyptian-born Muslim to sue Egypt's Interior Ministry for
his right to leave Islam and be registered as a Christian. In
January the court ruled against Hegazi and declared that a Muslim
may not convert. Hegazi plans to appeal the ruling. Meanwhile, he
and his wife and baby daughter have been forced into hiding. Even
his own father has publicly threatened to kill him. Despite Hegazi's
trials, on 4 August 2008 Maher Ahmad El-Mo'otahssem Bellah El-Gohary
(56) became the second convert to launch a court challenge for his
right to leave Islam. Like Hegazi, he is acting not only for his own
right but for the benefit of his family: he also doesn't want his
daughter deemed Muslim.

* IRAN: Iran is a Shi'ite revolutionary police state. The only
apostasy debate (known to us) taking place in Iran is about whether
to make the death sentence for apostasy mandatory instead of
optional (at the judge's discretion). The draft Internet Crime Bill
which is presently being debated in the parliament will, if passed,
make apostasy and promoting apostasy (even through Internet articles
and weblogs) a mandatory capital offence on the grounds that it
harms the 'mental security' of society.

Meanwhile, on 30 July, Abbas Amiri (62) died in hospital after being
beaten on Sunday 27 July by police who raided his house church
meeting. His wife, Sakineh Rahnama, died on 3 August 2008 from a
combination of injuries sustained in the raid and heartbreak. On 29
July, 16 converts were arrested during a house church baptism
ceremony. Another convert, Mohsen Namvar (44), is suffering severely
physically and from memory loss after torture throughout June by
Iran's secret police trying to extract information on the church.
Upon his 'temporary' release, Namvar and his family fled Iran. This
was the second time Namvar had been tortured in detention.

Compass Direct also reports that Christians Mahmood Matin (52) and
Arash Bandari (44) have been jailed since their arrest on 15 May on
suspicion of apostasy. In June, a newly converted couple, Tina Rad
(24) and her husband Makan Arya (31), were detained and ferociously
beaten over four days leaving Rad unable to walk. Upon their release
they were threatened that if they ever again attended a house church
they will be charged with apostasy and lose custody of their 4-year-
old daughter. They are experiencing intensive persecution from
neighbours and family.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR --

* the Holy Spirit to open doors and windows into the Muslim world
and infiltrate Muslim hearts and minds with a hunger for
revolutionary love, tolerance and religious liberty.

* the converts named in this bulletin. In Egypt -- Mohammed Hegazi
and his family; Maher Ahmad El-Mo'otahssem Bellah El-Gohary and
his family. In Iran -- the friends and family of martyrs Abbas
Amiri and Sakineh Rahnama; refugee and torture victim Mohsen
Namvar and his family; prisoners Mahmood Matin and Arash Bandari,
critically ill; victims of persecution Makan Arya, Tina Rad
and their daughter. May God grant them peace, physical and
spiritual healing and deliverance. May their testimonies be
powerfully used by the Holy Spirit to convert their extended
families, their accusers, their jailers and fellow prisoners,
as well as to bring change to their respective societies.

'Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as
they beat him. . . . And when they came to the place that is called
the Skull, there they crucified him and the criminals, one on his
right and one on his left. And Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for
they know not what they do."'(Luke 22:63; 23:33,34 ESV)

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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APOSTASY: CURRENT ISSUES IN EGYPT & IRAN

In Islam, a person's religion is considered a state matter.
Muhammad, the founder of Islam, once decreed that whoever leaves
Islam should be killed. This hadith (saying of Muhammad) forms the
basis for Islam's apostasy law that deems leaving Islam (apostasy) a
capital offence. In Egypt two very courageous converts to
Christianity are suing the state for their right to have their
Christian status registered on their ID cards. This has sparked
considerable debate in Egypt about religious liberty. In Iran, as
repression is escalating horrendously, a bill before the parliament
would make the death sentence mandatory instead of optional for both
apostasy and the promotion of apostasy. Please pray for Muslim
converts to Christianity, some of whom have been detained, tortured
and even killed by Iranian police in recent months.

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
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RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.