It's been for me a week with a nasty cold. I find the physical misery conducive to doing a lot of thinking, but not writing. A little suffering is humbling and opens one's mind, but for a moment it also holds one back from the strength and determination to do much with the renewed respect for the greater world of which one is but a humble servant. Still, I plan to try and make it down to the library tonight (the atrium of the central Vancouver branch, in front of Blenz coffee), as every Thursday, 7-9pm, to meet with my Covenant Zone friends.
I know we are going to be discussing what it means to covenant with others in the cause of freedom and Western values. On my mind right now is the fate of a young man in Egypt who wants his conversion to Christianity recognized by the state, for various legal reasons. The overwhelming opinion, even among the educated in Egypt, seems to be that this young man deserves death for causing a public scandal by attempting to have his identity papers changed to recognize his new faith.
3 famous imam have pronounced themselves against [Mohammed] Hegazi. The first is Imam Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a big expert in his field, who cites dozens of references from the first centuries and concludes that Hegazi has to be killed because the group is in danger and the group takes priority over the individual. The idea is: if this person begins to speak and says that he is happy to be Christian, and smilingly appears in photos with a Gospel in his hands, this is intolerable and is non-Muslim propaganda, which is officially allowed neither in Egypt, nor in other Islamic countries. And since Hegazi is spreading Christian propaganda, he must be killed.One element of what it means to covenant in the cause of freedom is to make promises to hold faith with those who want to be free while living under the most oppressive of social systems that now threaten all of us in this global village. The dissidents of the Muslim world need a support network in the West and this is something I want to get my colleagues talking about. How do we get people in Vancouver to pay attention to cases like this and to make a stand for freedom? How do we encourage a whole new era of public commitments and thus protect against dhimmitude? Don't hear much about the Mohammad Hegazis from Western "human rights" organizations and the liberal media? Maybe it's time for someone to start a new kind of human rights organization. Why not contact us to talk about it?
Suad Saleh, Muslim judge and dean of the Faculty of Islamic Science at Al-Azhar University, has stated: yes, in matters of faith there is no compulsion, but Hegazi is spreading propaganda and thus the law must be applied. The judge advises that the apostate be given 3 days to repent and reconvert to Islam (istitâbah), then "apply the law" (i.e. execution).
The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr Ali Gomaa, Egypt's highest religious authority, stated to the Washington Post last June that apostasy "should not" be punished by death, eliciting numerous reactions from Al-Azhar. After many people expressed their approval for a death sentence, he retracted in a confused matter and his stance is still today unclear. On the surface, he wanted to reassure the West by using ambiguous wording, like the one that goes: "Apostasy is to be punished when it represents fitna or when it threatens the foundations of society."
Instead, as we have said, there is no punishment in this world for the apostate according to the Koran. But the imams rely on one of the Prophet's hadith of Islam handed down by Ibn 'Abbas: "Kill the one who changes religion." And they rely on the fact that Mohammad applied this punishment to Abdallah Ibn al-Azhal who, to avoid being killed, had sought protection in the Kaaba shrine, but Mohammad ordered his companions to kill him.
To all this must be added the reaction of Hegazi's and his wife’s parents. Questioned by Islamic judges, his father denied that his son converted to Christianity. His mother began screaming hysterically: "My son is dead, there will be no relation between us until the judgement day!" Ali Kamel Suleiman, the father of Zeinab, Hegazi’s wife, was more explicit. He declared to the independent daily al-Dustûr: "Bring me my daughter in whatever way possible, even dead." In our Egyptian mentality, this means: kill her, or bring her to me alive and I will kill her.
I would also like to point your attention to a story detailing how Catholic students are being forced to wear the Islamic veil in Indonesia. Once Sharia law is imposed in a predominantly Muslim area, everyone is pressured to comply.
But there are countless stories we could link of people suffering under the totalitarian Islam of today. Will the West try to hide from the third-world victims of Islam in an attempt to assuage its own "white" guilt, or to isolate and protect itself from the Jihad and Sharia? Or will we find the nerve and resolve to continue to engage Islam and demand it change? Why do we even believe that change in the Islamic world is possible? That, of course, is the question at the centre of endless debate in the blogs, including this one. For those who want to know why I think we have no choice in this nuclear-tipped global village but to confront the Islamic world - starting by making promises to stand with the lonely dissidents, the Christian converts, and other lovers of freedom - and in their name, boycott, isolate, and otherwise pressure a totalitarian world to change, you can find me in the Covenant Zone where all genuine commitments to real thinking and exchange are welcome.