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Morocco softens blasphemy law

June 2017

Morocco’s High Religious Committee (HRC) has decreed individuals who leave Islam should not face the death penalty for apostasy. This ruling reverses the classical sharia legislation that has stood since medieval times.

According to a Barnabas Fund statement, this ruling is all the more significant, given that the same HRC issued a book just five years ago, containing fatwas which affirmed the classical sharia position that a Muslim who changes his or her religion should be punished by death.

In their 2017 document, entitled The way of the scholars, the HRC argued that Muhammad and his early followers killed apostates only for political reasons (because they were traitors to the nascent Islamic community), not for religious reasons.

The HRC supported this stance with examples of the words and actions of Muhammad and other early Muslim leaders, showing that apostates were only punished when they posed a security threat. They also pointed out the Quran speaks only of apostasy being punished in the afterlife, not in this life.

According to the statement, it is more than 700 years since anyone of recognised stature within the mainstream global Islamic community has taken this stance publicly.

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