PBD Podcast controversy: What is the punishment for apostasy?
A recent episode of the popular PBD Podcast hosted a “religious roundtable” for the discussion of Islam and Christianity. Among the topics discussed: the punishment apostates should face according to Islamic scripture and jurisprudence.
As a result of this discussion, some Islamic sources have been quick to push back against claims made in the podcast that the prescribed punishment for apostasy from Islam is death. This was a major point of contention for the Christian side, but much to the chagrin of certain writers, not repudiated but rather confirmed by the program’s Muslim guests.
The most common complaint among those who claim Islam prescribes “no worldly punishment” for apostasy is that arguments otherwise seemingly contradict the oft-cited “no compulsion in religion” passage (Quran 2:256). This unfortunately does not erase the existence of numerous other exhortations to lethal violence against those who first embrace and then reject Islam, as recorded in the various hadiths and attested by all four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence.
This is one thing that fundamentalists understand. Those who wish to prevail over religious militancy must understand it as well.
Hijab bill: Iran doubles down
Jamileh Alamolhoda, wife of the Iranian president, has continued her tour as the steadfast woman defender of the oppressive regime’s increasingly draconian hijab and chastity mandates targeted at women. As the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner explains, the bill
vastly increases jail terms and provides for crushing fines on women and girls who do not obey the compulsory dress code. In that context, the Bill also targets vague notions of promotion of “nudity” or “indecency”.
And, as NPR reports, Alamolhoda has again defended this law on a recent trip to New York for the annual UN meeting:
She asserted that many Iranian women support the head coverings, and she defended a crackdown on protests in which thousands of people were detained, hundreds killed, and several executed for participating in the uprising, according to human rights groups.
This may not yet even be the end of it. As noted in USCIRF’s 2022 report on religious freedom in Iran, last year a whole host of totalitarian measures was floated as a possible response to purported moral iniquity:
In August, IranWire reported that the headquarters for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice published a 119-page document titled Hijab and Chastity Project detailing the government’s hijab policy and calling for stronger measures of strict enforcement. The document called for, among other measures, the introduction of surveillance cameras to monitor and fine unveiled women or refer them for “counseling”; fines for designing, importing, buying, or selling “vulgar dresses”; and a mandatory prison sentence for any individual who questioned or posted content online against mandatory hijab. The document declared the project’s most important goals to be “cleansing society of the pollution caused by nonconformance with Islamic dress codes,” “building a model of an Islamic society in regard to chastity,” and “preserving values and the fight against cultural invasion.”
The Qur’an desecration controversy spreads further into Europe
Amid Denmark’s recent push to criminalize scripture burnings in the country, several MENA countries have set their sights on a new target they allege to be equally blasphemous: the Netherlands. A far-right political figure in the country recently tore and stomped on the Qur’an in a demonstration in the Hague, and Egypt and Malaysia have taken advantage of the act’s inflammatory crassness to condemn such acts, once again, as excepted from the principle of free expression. Egypt went as far as to demand what would amount in practice to a blasphemy law—similar to the law Denmark is already considering.
Also condemned were fresh Qur’an desecrations in Sweden. In this case, Jordan and Iran joined the chorus. Spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Nasser Kanaani, had particular audacity in framing the most recent incident as “a move which runs counter to the principles of human rights.”
Would Kanaani consider spying on women to determine whether they are violating veiling requirements a violation of the “principles of human rights”? It doesn’t seem likely.