Cases dealing with apostasy in Islam—whereby Muslims who convert to other religions are tortured and executed—are on the rise and need to be acknowledged for what they are: one of Islam's most visible attempts to suppress the human conscience—a phenomenon that has dire implications beyond religious freedom. Consider these two recent stories. First, from Somalia:
A kidnapped Christian convert from Islam was found decapitated on Sept. 2 ... Juma Nuradin Kamil was forced into a car by three suspected Islamic extremists from the al-Shabaab terrorist group on Aug. 21, area sources said. After members of his community thoroughly combed the area looking for him, at 2 p.m. on Sept. 2 one of them found Kamil's body dumped on a street. The kidnapping and subsequent manner of murder suggests that al-Shabaab militants had been monitoring him, Christian leaders said. Muslim extremists from al-Shabaab, a militant group with ties to al Qaeda, have vowed to rid Somalia of Christianity.
According to a leader of the underground church: "It is usual for the al-Shabaab to decapitate those they suspect to have embraced the Christian faith, or sympathizers of western ideals. Our brother accepted the Christian faith three years ago and was determined in his faith in God. We greatly miss him."
Likewise, it was recently revealed that a Muslim father in Uganda trapped, starved, and maimed his teenage daughter, simply because she embraced Christianity—that is, simply because she attempted to follow her conscience. When she was finally rescued six months later, she "was bony, very weak, and not able to talk or walk. Her hair had turned yellow, she had long fingernails and sunken eyes, and she looked very slim, less than 20 kilograms [44 pounds]." Details follow:
Susan and her younger brother, Mbusa Baluku, lived alone with their father after he divorced their mother. In March 2010 an evangelist from Bwera Full Gospel Church spoke at Susan's school, and she decided to trust Christ for her salvation. "I heard the message of Christ's great love of him dying for us to get everlasting peace, and there and then I decided to believe in Christ," she said from her hospital bed. "After a month, news reached my father that I had converted to Christianity, and that was the beginning of my troubles with him. Our father warned us not to attend church or listen to the gospel message. He even threatened us with a sharp knife that he was ready to kill us in broad daylight in case we converted to Christianity."
When she refused to recant, "he locked her up in a room of the semi-permanent house for six months without seeing sunlight. The younger brother was warned not to tell anyone that Susan was locked up in a room and was not given any food."
Susan's brother, still young and not fully indoctrinated in the things of Islam, smuggled scraps of food to his sister, though "most days she could only feed on mud"; he also dug a hole under the door, pouring water through it, which she was forced to lap "using her tongue."
These two cases are not "aberrant" or "misrepresentative" of Islam. For starters, even if one were to accept that al-Shabaab in Somalia are "extremists," we find that "the transitional government in Mogadishu fighting [against al-Shabaab] to retain control of the country treats Christians little better than the al-Shabaab extremists do. While proclaiming himself a moderate, President Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed has embraced a version of sharia that mandates the death penalty for those who leave Islam."
He probably embraced this "version of sharia" as there is no other version: all four recognized schools of Muslim jurisprudence mandate death for apostates. (Meanwhile in Lala land, the New York Times advocates sharia in America.)
As for the Uganda anecdote, Susan's father actually opted to follow the most lenient form of punishment allowed for apostasy: while Islam's three Sunni schools of law condemn the apostate to death, the Hanafi School "progressively" advocates beating and imprisoning females until they see the "error of their ways" and return to Islam.
Likewise, though Susan's father was arrested, he was "quickly released," doubtless because the authorities recognized that he was only upholding Islam.
Such is the potential fate of all Muslim converts to Christianity wherever Islam is strong. Thus, a Christian pastor in Iran remains behind bars, where he is being tortured and awaits execution for refusing to recant Christianity. Even in onetime Christian Norway, a Muslim convert to Christianity was tortured with boiling water and told by fellow Muslim inmates "If you do not return to Islam, we will kill you"; if deported to his native Afghanistan, he risks death by stoning for leaving Islam (note again the agreement on the penalty for apostasy between individual "fanatics" and Muslim governments).
To all the relativists out there, they have but one question to ask themselves: where is the other religion that kills defectors? There are none; only gangs, not religions, exhibit such a "mafia" mentality—hence the argument that Islam is more a political system than a religion.
Finally, it should be noted that Islam's suppression of individual choice is not limited to forcing Muslims in far off places to adhere to Islam; rather, the enforced denial of the human conscience in a billion or so people has negative, if unspoken, implications on a global level.
Raymond Ibrahim, an Islam specialist, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.