Morocco deems apostates should not be killed

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.”

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