A Christian group in the UK will launch a series of safehouses for converts from Islam who face reprisals from their communities for their faith. The group, Christian Concern, says that there are at least 1,100 former Muslims who are at risk, but there could be up to 3,000. Reprisals can range from social ostracism to threats, violence and even the risk of death.
One man, Nissar Hussain an ex-Muslim from Bradford, had has his car torched. He told reporters: “we are broken people. I have given up on the Anglican church and independent churches. We are in a no man’s land: we are completely and utterly isolated.”
Under strict sharia law, leaving the faith, or apostasy, is forbiden and carries the death penalty. Although most families in Britain are not willing to got that far, many who change their religion face discrimination, social ostracism, threats and sometimes violence. One Braford man who left Islam had his car tocrched.
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern said 'The penalty for them at best is to be cut off from their family; at worst they face death. This is happening not just in Sudan and Nigeria but in east London. The government has failed to deal with the rise in anti-Christian sentiment.'
The news comes as global outrage grows over Sudan's recent decision to execute a pregnant Christian for apostasy, 0n the grounds that her absentee father was a Muslim and therefore she had left the faith.
The issue has become more prominent in the UK since a landmark case in january of an Afghan man who was granted religious asylum in the UK as an atheist. His lawyers successfully argued that his atheism posed a threat to his life in Afghanistan.
According to a 2007 report entitled The Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam, apostasy is punisable by death in 11 Muslim countries. The report was published by the Council of Ex-Muslims, a UK group that campaigns for the religious rights of those who have renounced Islam.
In a response to the Sudanese apostasy case, former Archbishop of Cantebury Lord Carey called on Muslim leaders in Britain to formally acknowledge a person's right to change their religion as they see fit.
A former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, commented "It is entirely unacceptable in this country that these people should not be protected by the law. Everyone here must be free to believe what they like or not to believe and we must all be committed to that as common citizens"