Recently I read a news article in the International Herald Tribune concerning Islam. According to the news, a Malaysian Supreme Court denied a woman the right to convert from Islam to Christianity. (For reference, read it here.) Apparently, Muslims cannot marry outside their religion, and that woman wants to marry her Christian fiance. Since deconverting from islam carries punishment, she has no other choice but to seek refuge in another country, preferably a country without a Muslim majority.
This is unacceptable. This is a violation of the worst kind. To refuse a person the rights to her own beliefs and worship is despicable. In response to this intolerant tyranny, I wrote a letter to the "Letters to the Editor" section of the International Herald Tribune. Here is a copy of my letter.
Regarding your article "Malaysian court refuses to recognize Muslim’s conversion to Christianity"(May 30), I was absolutely shocked and horrified at this blatant disregard for human rights in one of the world’s "most progressive and modern Muslim democracies". Denying a person the right to think private thoughts or choose private religious worship is at odds with the concept of modern ethics. To say that civil courts cannot interfere in religious matters undermines the concept of constitutional democracy.
A child born to Muslim parents has an overwhelmingly high chance of being considered a Muslim, whether with its consent or not. That child is a Muslim forever, with no prospects of changing his status even when he wishes otherwise when he grows up. Where else in our discourse is this acceptable, to deny a person the right to change his beliefs?
In the past, it was acceptable to punish apostasy and heresy, to hold racial prejudices, and to deny women’s rights. Fotunately, our concepts of morality and human rights progress with the times, and we can now look back on those archaic worldviews with a clearer understanding. Islam is still obviously lagging behind with regards to human rights, and it must modernize itself to regain respect from the rest of the modern world.
Alas(or should I say as expected), my letter did not get printed. Perhaps the editor thought I was too harsh on Islam, but I did my best to keep a calm tone.
Religious authority has its limits, and Islam has repeatedly stepped over it countless times since its conception. If you use the threat of punishments to force people to believe your religion, doesn’t that make your religion less respectable? If you force half the population to cover their faces, doesn’t that say something about the abilities of your god? If god had wanted women to cover their faces, he would have created them with flaps of skin for that purpose in the first place. This makes the Creator in Islam either a remarkably incompetent Creator or a wonderfully forgetful one. "Oops, I wanted womens’ faces to be covered, but I already created them with their beautiful faces showing. Hmmm. Never mind, I’ll write some rules in my holy book later."
Islam is a religion that is based on violence and intolerance. If you don’t believe me, go to any web-based Koran and search for the word unbeliever. (Here is an example.) I do not care if I anger people with my letter or my blog post. It’s time to stop hiding behind "respect for religion" and to come out and say it out loud. This is not right. This is the 21st century, not the 7th, and it’s time to start behaving like modern homo sapiens, not Bronze Age myth believers. There are billions of oppressed men and women in Islamic countries, both intellectually and morally oppressed. The world has to start saying that it’s had enough.