Ex-Muslims mark International Apostasy Day

Legitimising vigilantes

One effect of having such laws is that they provide a veneer of legitimacy for the activities of religious vigilantes — either by initiating court cases or violently taking matters into their own hands.

Compulsory divorce

For Nasr Abu Zayd, a teacher of Arabic literature at Cairo University in Egypt, the trouble began in 1992 when he applied for a professorial post. The committee responsible for promotions considered three reports on his work — two of which were favourable. But the third report, prepared by the Islamist Dr Abdel-Sabour Shahin, questioned the orthodoxy of Abu Zayd’s religious beliefs, claiming that his research contained “clear affronts to the Islamic faith”, and the committee rejected his appointment by seven votes to six.

“Civil death”

In some countries defectors from Islam can be taken to the sharia courts (by relatives or others) and stripped of basic rights in the areas of marriage, inheritance and custody of children — a legal concept known as “civil death”.

Former Middle East editor of the Guardian. Website: www.al-bab.com. Author of 'Arabs Without God'.

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