Apostasy bill would require death for leaving Islam


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A new draft bill before a committee of Pakistan's National Assembly would require men who leave Islam to be put to death. Women convicted of "apostasy" would be sentenced to life in prison.

Under the Apostasy Act 2006, the testimony of two adults that another person has left the Muslim religion — or a confession by the accused — is all that would be needed for conviction if the bill is adopted into law. The accused would be given up to 30 days to renounce the decision and return to Islam, yet even then still could be punished by up to two years in prison. All property belonging to an offender would be forfeited to Muslim relatives as well as custody of their children.

The legislation was adopted in its first reading before the parliament but tabled by the six-party Islamic alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, according to Joseph K. Grieboski, president of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy.

"This legislation is a clear demonstration that fundamental freedoms are of no importance to the National Assembly of Pakistan," Grieboski said. "Passage of this bill would usher in a new age of religious bigotry in a country that prides itself on being a strong and committed ally in combating global terrorism. Laws such as this would only serve to engender further extremist behavior."