The New York Times notices the Islamic death penalty for apostasy, wonders if Obama will incur it

The New York Times notices the Islamic death penalty for apostasy, wonders if Obama will incur it

Well over a year after I wrote about this possibility, and six months after Washington Post “journalist” Perry Bacon completely misrepresented my position in order to blame me for the “Obama is a Muslim” rumors, and many many months after the whole world has been discussing this issue from all kinds of angles, the New York (aka New Duranty) Times discovers that Barack Obama, having been raised a Muslim, may face angry Muslims saying he should be put to death as an apostate.

It’s interesting to note how forthright the Times is in saying that most Islamic jurists agree that death is the sentence for apostasy. Did they acknowledge that during the Abdel Rahman case?

“President Apostate?,” by Edward N. Luttwak in the New York Times, May 12 (thanks to all who sent this in):

As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran his mother’s Christian background is irrelevant.Of course, as most Americans understand it, Senator Obama is not a Muslim. He chose to become a Christian, and indeed has written convincingly to explain how he arrived at his choice and how important his Christian faith is to him.

His conversion, however, was a crime in Muslim eyes; it is “irtidad” or “ridda,” usually translated from the Arabic as “apostasy,” but with connotations of rebellion and treason. Indeed, it is the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder (which the victim’s family may choose to forgive).

With few exceptions, the jurists of all Sunni and Shiite schools prescribe execution for all adults who leave the faith not under duress; the recommended punishment is beheading at the hands of a cleric, although in recent years there have been both stonings and hangings. (Some may point to cases in which lesser punishments were ordered — as with some Egyptian intellectuals who have been punished for writings that were construed as apostasy — but those were really instances of supposed heresy, not explicitly declared apostasy as in Senator Obama’s case.)

It is true that the criminal codes in most Muslim countries do not mandate execution for apostasy (although a law doing exactly that is pending before Iran’s Parliament and in two Malaysian states). But as a practical matter, in very few Islamic countries do the governments have sufficient authority to resist demands for the punishment of apostates at the hands of religious authorities….


Luttwak misses one possibility, which I explained here last year: as far as I know Obama has never explained when exactly he left Islam. This is a crucial point, for according to Islamic law an apostate male is not to be put to death if he has not reached puberty (cf. ‘Umdat al-Salik o8.2; Hidayah vol. II p. 246). Some, however, hold that he should be imprisoned until he is of age and then “invited” to accept Islam, but officially the death penalty for youthful apostates is ruled out.

In any case, it’s good to see the Times actually admitting the reality of Islamic law, instead of peddling the comforting fictions we usually see from them.

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