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Morocco: Death Penalty for Apostasy

from the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco - CEMM

Thursday 25 April 2013, by siawi3

‎‎Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco CEMM مجلس المسلمين السابقين بالمغرب‎‎.
April 20


This week Morocco’s Higher Council of Religious scholars (CSO) published a collection of fatwas from 2004-2012. It contains a fatwa that calls for the death penalty for Muslims who renounce their faith. The CSO is the only institution in Morocco entitled to issue fatwas and they represent the official Islam in the country. The scholar’s edict was published on Tuesday 16 april in the Arabic daily journal “Akhbar al-Youm” and the ‘Ulema said, that Muslims who leave their faith “should be condemned to death”.

Morocco’s penalty code does not explicitly prohibit apostasy and article 3 of the constitution wants to guarantee the freedom of religion, although the law also states that “anyone attempting to undermine the faith of a Muslim or convert him to another religion” risks six months to three years in prison” and a fine between 100-500 dh (Penal code article 220).

Morocco is quite a special case if you want to ask for secularism in the constitution. So is the Moroccan king seen as direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, what gives him a double legitimacy as the head of the state in the constitution and as a religious leader.

…a little excursus in Islamic law: Moroccan Islam follows the law school of the Malikites. Because I am dealing a lot with the subject in my papers, I would like to give you a little insight (at the moment I am writing about Legal Pluralism in Islamic Law in the History, Legal Pluralism means that more than one body of law is applied). We should have a little look on the sources and the history of Law – it is quite complicated to understand, but I would like to give you a short overview. The problem is that Shari’a law doesn’t allow apostasy. Once born as a Muslim, you have to stay Muslim, even if you wanted to convert to Buddhism/any other Religion or, as we can see, claim yourself an Atheist.

It is clear that Islam knows since its first century the application of different laws. That was the case when a Muslim could choose the “qadi” (judge, jurist), to which he wanted to go. We call that nowadays “Forum Shopping”, when you choose the law system that pleases you the most in a certain situation. Every “qadi” used to follow one of the different Islamic Law schools, let’s take here only the example of the Sunnite schools (Hanafi, Shafi’i, Hanbali and Maliki). These Law schools know actually only minor variations through doctrinal differences. So if the person in need for a judge was used to follow a Maliki court but found an advantage for himself in a certain situation in Hanafi Law, he could choose the Hanafi court.
In some cases this could even mean the choice between life and death: for instance if you choose to leave to Islam, you will be punished with death. Traditionally the person accused of blasphemy is given the chance to repeal and to return to Islam. The Hanafi, Shafi’i and Hanbali schools require the judges to spare the live of a heretic, who decides to return to the fold of Islam. The Maliki Law instead calls for the capital punishment, regardless of repentance.

The Law in the Islamic countries has been in general modernized and codified, but as all the Muslim countries (that means states with a Muslim majority with the only exception Turkey) either recognize the Shari’a as a source of legislation or as state law, the problem for heretics remains today the same. Apostasy is punished with death (in constitution and practise, beheading for instance in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan) and in other countries with imprisonment or corporal punishment (as the case for the Moroccan constitution).

Even if the Moroccan constitution is not bound on a fatwa, one should not underestimate the psychological influence of such official edicts. I am waiting for the reactions of the international human rights organisations and hope that many people will read the news for being aware of the consequences of the official publication this week.

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