Heartening news from Morocco: apostasy from Islam is no longer punishable by death. This is a revolutionary ruling with far-reaching consequences for the spread of Islamism. But the ruling (which may have been adopted in response to US pressure) pushes back against a central tenet of Islam and remains controversial. Morocco World News reports: (with thanks: Michelle)
The High Religious Committee has backtracked on a previous ruling
Casablanca – Morocco’s High Religious Committee has retracted its Islamic ruling stating that apostasy is punishable by death and has decided to permit Muslims to change their religion.
The High Religious Committee in charge of issuing Fatwas (Islamic rulings) released a book in 2012 where it articulated its position on apostasy and argued that a Muslim who changes his or her religion should be punished with death, drawing on a widespread jurisprudence tradition.
Recently, however, the same entity issued a document titled “The Way of the Scholars,” in which it backtracked on its position of killing apostates. Instead, it redefined apostasy not as a religious issue but as a political stand more closely aligned with “high treason.”
The view that the apostate should not be killed in Islam is not a new one and can be found in the teachings of Sufyan al-Thawri in the first century AH. The scholar reviewed historical situations where the prophet Mohammed acted on the ruling, as opposed to the times he did not order the killing of the apostates. He concluded that killings occurred for political purposes and were not decisions based on religion. The apostates could, theoretically, disclose the secrets of the then fragile Islamic nation.
The reasons behind Morocco’s High Religious Committee’s change in position are not different from those advocated by Sufyan al-Thawri. Their newly released statement says:
“The most accurate understanding, and the most consistent with the Islamic legislation and the practical way of the Prophet, peace be upon him, is that the killing of the apostate is meant for the traitor of the group, the one disclosing secrets, […] the equivalent of treason in international law.”