Fight for freedom for Muslims
William Wilberforce fought against slavery and the slave trade. Mahatma Gandhi fought
for freedom from colonial oppression. Martin Luther King had a dream that all would be
treated equally regardless of skin color. Nelson Mandela won the battle against a
dehumanizing political system. These men were leaders of movements for freedom.
Today we need yet another global freedom movement: freedom for Muslims. People in every culture and nation are religious. Any student of history and humanity knows this. Thus religious liberty is extremely
important because it pertains to people everywhere throughout time.
We also know that human dignity and religious freedom are intimately related. Or as a verse in the Koran
says: There is no force in religion. However, the problem is that Islam, to a large extent, is built upon fear and compulsion. There is, above all, no freedom to leave Islam.
In the spring of 2009 there was a discussion on an Arabic website about two apostates in Algeria. A man and his daughter had given up on Islam and become followers of Jesus.
The father said that Islam filled him with fear and anxiety, but Jesus gave him peace of mind and
peace for his whole being. The daughter felt that Islam treated women as mere servants and
mistresses. As a Christian her human dignity was restored and her womanhood respected.
Algerian Muslim leaders quickly condemned these apostates called for them to be killed.
This is only one of tens of thousands examples. Those who leave Islam run a risk of
being killed by the state, their family or other Muslims. Ex-Muslims in Europe face this
danger as well. One billion Muslims have less religious freedom – in one significant respect
– than Christians who live in the Muslim world. Christians are allowed to abandon their
faith and become Muslims, but Muslims do not have the right to change religions.
Laws in the Sudan and Malaysia ascribe the death penalty to those who leave Islam.
According to Egyptian laws an apostate will have his / her marriage annulled, lose custody
of children and lose inheritance rights. Laws in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and Iran are less
clear but apostates are persecuted and may be killed. There are severe punishments for apostates in
Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Yemen: annulment of marriage, loss of social
and economical rights, even loss of citizenship. The law against offending
“Turkishness” has been used by Turkish authorities against those who have left Islam
and Pakistan has a strict law on heresy. Is this what is meant by “there is no force in religion”?
Those who leave Islam may lose their jobs, may be killed by relatives, risk being tortured,
are denied access to higher education, may be evicted from their homes. This is a daily reality from Jakarta to Johannesburg, from Senegal to Sweden. This article is not against Muslims or anti-Islam.
No, quite on the contrary: It is for Muslims, for their freedom, for their right to religious freedom. One billion Muslims should be treated with respect and be able to enjoy this freedom which is about protecting human
dignity.This is why we need leaders and movements – like those mentioned above – who can fight
for everybody’s right to have a faith, to manifest it, and to change it. This is a foundational pillar in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, article 18.
We are demanding freedom for Muslims everywhere. It is about their human dignity, it is about their human right.Mats Tunehag December 17, 2009