Of Apostasy and Blasphemy in Islam

For the past few years, the apostasy and blasphemy laws in Muslim-majority countries have made a number of rounds in the media, feeding talk shows both abroad and at home with much sensationalism and debate, but little satisfying or reliable substance. The laws are projected to look barbaric, particularly via certain, recent and decidedly un-Islamic political events. Islam comes out looking fascist and inhumane – for those of us who think the laws are even related to Islam, and are not the arbitrary inventions of “The Mullahs”. Quality scholarship on the Quran, the life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Seerah) and Islamic Legal Theory (Fiqh) is certainly available in Arabic, but is not yet easily accessible in English. So naturally, confusions and misconceptions abound, particularly among the English-educated class of Muslims.

Apostasy and blasphemy do indeed have a place in Islamic criminal law. Does that mean they should be removed entirely for the sake of the protection of the innocents of non-Muslim minorities? Should Muslims remove the idea of blasphemy from their countries, merely because they are made a mockery of by states who themselves criminalize what they feel is blasphemous to their government with life imprisonment?
 
The fact of the matter is that the blasphemy laws actually protect all inhabitants of the state, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. It is tragic that the deaths of innocent non-Muslim minorities should be commodified as a means to push the idea that religion should be separated from the state, when in fact it is the only thing that can protect them. The solution is not to do away with laws that ensure our security and sovereignty, but to implement them properly, and to penalize those who abuse the law.
 
The document below attempts to explain some of the hows and whys, and most importantly the context, related to the existence of Islam’s blasphemy law, in a way that hopefully most of us can easily relate to.

 

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