Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Freedom to Believe by Patrick Sookhdeo

Freedom to Believe: Challenging Islam’s Apostasy Law,
Patrick Sookhdeo, Isaac Publishing, 2009, 179pp. 

Article 18 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights commits subscribing nations to uphold freedom of religion, including the freedom to change one’s religion. While such a freedom is not recognised under the Old Testament, where apostasy attracts the death penalty, the Christian faith recognises that people should be free to choose their religion and even change their faith without compulsion or fear of intimidation.  The only weapon that the Church of Jesus Christ possesses to spread and maintain the Christian faith is the message of the gospel.

Having said that, the Church’s record on freedom of religion has been somewhat patchy. Augustine of Hippo misguidedly read Jesus’ words in the Parable of the Great Supper, “compel them to come in that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23) as a justification of the use of force in religion. Episodes such as the Spanish Inquisition and the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre are a blot on the history of Christendom. While those events happened under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church, Protestantism is not altogether without blame. Infamously the heretic Michael Servetus was burnt at the stake in Calvin’s Geneva. However, nowadays it is almost universally recognised that the use of force to impose the Christian faith is totally incompatible with the teaching of the New Testament. Christians therefore have no problem at all with the concept of freedom of religion. The freedom we require to practice our own faith we gladly extend to others.

Such is not the case with Islam, where apostasy, blasphemy and heresy are often punishable by death in predominantly Islamic regimes. In this book Patrick Sookhdeo, himself a Muslim convert to Christianity examines the roots of Islam’s apostasy law and reflects on current practice in the Islamic world.  The Qur’an seems to sanction the killing of apostates. The hadith makes the position clearer sometimes suggesting that the apostate should be killed instantly without even being given an opportunity to repent. The five main schools of shari’a law differ on the details, but all are agreed that sane adult males should be put to death for apostasy.

The author documents alarming instances of how the apostasy law is applied in Muslim regimes today. People who turn from Islam to other faiths and those who embrace deviant versions of Islam are subject to the deprivation of their rights, harassment and persecution. Some are even put to death. A small number of Muslim voices have called for people to have the freedom to leave Islam, but they are in the minority. Patrick Sookhdeo rightly argues for reform, urging the abolition of all penalties for apostasy in the Islamic world. The Barnabas Fund of which Dr. Sookhdeo is International Director exists to give aid and support to the persecuted church. Order from PTS Christian Bookshop


* An edited version of this review will appear in a future edition of Protestant Truth

4 comments:

Gary said...

How about going back to your previous format, Guy? My computer still seizes up. I'd stop reading but don't want to deprive you of almost half your readership...

Exiled Preacher said...

I've asked Google about this problem. Hopefully they'll fix it soon, so please be patient. Why not subscribe to the blog feed by email and get the content in that way?

Gary said...

'Cos I don't know how...

Exiled Preacher said...

On the right-hand side of the blog there are various features like, "Pages" and "Blog Archive". Under "Blog Archive" you will find the "Exiled Preacher Syndication" widget, with an invitation to 'Enter your email address'. Do that, click on the "Subscribe" button and you will automatically receive blog updates by email.