Well, here is a case of apostasy in a country full of hardline mullahs, that was once ruled by the Taleban.
Abdul Rahman, an Afghan, converted to Christianity about 15 years ago while working with a Christian aid group helping refugees. Recently when he attempted to take custody of his children from his wife, she and her family members dobbed his conversion to the religious courts.
The Sydney Morning Herald report said that Syariah (Islamic) laws calls for the death penalty for apostates unless they convert back to Islam.
I am not too sure about forgiveness for a repentant apostate, not according to our own Judge Mohd Shukor of the Syariah High Court. In the Malaysian case of Nyonya Tahir, even though she was eventually allowed by the Syariah court to be buried as a Buddhist, the Judge quoted from the tale of Sheikh Abu Sujak in the Book of Kifayatul Akhyar:
"Barang siapa yang keluar daripada Islam, ia diminta bertaubat tiga kali. Jika bertaubat, dan jika tidak, dia dibunuh, dan tidak boleh dimandikan, tidak boleh disembahyangkan dan tidak boleh dikuburkan di perkuburan orang Islam"
which translates roughly into:
"Whoever leaves the fold of Islam, that person will be asked to repent 3 times. Whether that person repents or doesn't, that person is to be killed, and [his corpse] not to be washed [in accordance with Muslim rites], nor prayed for, nor buried in a Muslim cemetary."
Therefore a repentant apostate - repentant obviously meaning he/she returns to the fold - would still be executed, according to the Book of Kifayatul Akhyar.
Afghan Muslim clerics have vigorously called for Rahman to be put to the death for rejecting Islam. They are resentful that the USA and other western nations have been applying pressure on President Hamid Karzai to have the man spared.
What had occurred in the usual heavy-handed American way had been President George Bush and the US State Department issuing statements that the US expected Afghan officials to honour the universal principle of freedom in the case of Abdul Rahman. It didn’t help when Australia, Germany, Italy and other countries that have deployed troops in Afghanistan have also voiced their concerns.
These western pressure [or interferences, depending on who one is] have provoked senior Muslim clerics into demanding that the man be executed a.s.a.p, and threatening to kill him by vigilante action if President Karzai caved in to Western pressure.
The judge presiding over the prosecution of Abdul Rahman has vowed that his rulings in the case will not be influenced by international pressure, but in his declaration has shown he's under pressure from the mullahs. Does this mean he will inevitably pass the death sentence on the hapless accused?
The case will define the struggle between President Karzai, very much beholden to the Americans and their wishes, and the religious hardliners who dominate the Afghanistan's courts.
Afghanistan conservative judges, nurtured under the Taleban for years, have constantly threatened to close television stations that aired material they deemed indecent, as well as charged journalists for publishing material they declared blasphemous. But Karzai has quietly refused to implement their rulings or had engaged in closed-door dealings and compromises with them.
But a member of the country's main Islamic organisation, the Afghan Ulama Council said: "The Government are playing games. The people will not be fooled. Cut off his head!"
Sure as hell doesn’t look good for Abdul Rahman. While I am against concepts such as apostasy - which belonged to a period of medieval war where apostates were potential traitors to a nation's or clan's war struggle - let alone the death penalty for apostates, I believe that some sensitive and quiet handling would have achieved better results for the poor bloke. But trust the USA to blunder into the fray in its usual arrogant manner without understanding local sensitivities.
The Americans have virtually ensured the judge’s verdict will be a guilty one with the death penalty passed down. And President Karzai must right now be pulling out whatever’s left of his few hairs, cursing the Americans for its blatantly insensitive, thoughtless and unproductive interference into Afghan affairs.