MOROCCO: No More Death Penalty for Defection from Islam, Religious Committee Rules

RABAT FEBRUARY 8, 2017(CISA) – The High Religious Committee of Morocco has retracted a previous ruling that made apostasy from Islam punishable by death.

Previously the committee known as the High Council of Ulema, which holds the responsibility of issuing Fatwas (Islamic rulings), had stated that defection from Islam merited death penalty but has since retracted its position, reported Italian Avvenire Newspaper February 8.

In a document titled The Way of the Scholars, the committee defines apostasy not as a religious issue but a political one.

“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,” it says.

Apostasy is described as something that in the earliest period of Islam was punishable for its political consequences – those who fled Islam might disclose the secrets of the nation to its enemies.

The context of apostasy and its punishment, the committee suggests, was predominantly pragmatic and political. Such tensions are no longer relevant to most cases of apostasy, it says.

The committee noted too that in various instances the Quran speaks of apostasy being punished in the life to come, but not in this present life.

Around 99 percent of Moroccans are Sunni Muslim with around 20,000 Catholics and 2,500 Jews living in the country.

Moroccan Christians have previously spoken up for their faith and challenged the harsh anti-apostasy laws, despite the threat of persecution.

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