Islamic Council Proposes Death Penalty for Apostates in Morocco
The Supreme Ulema Council in Morocco, a body of Islamic scholars headed by King Mohammed VI, published a fatwa in the Arabic-language daily Akhbar al-Youm this week declaring that Muslims who renounce their faith "should be condemned to death," International Christian Concern reports. Christians are concerned that the edict, which has sparked controversy in the country, will be used to "harass" and "harm" the church if approved. The Supreme Ulema Council, the only institution entitled to issue fatwas in Morocco, reportedly drafted the edict in April 2012, but only recently published it. Mahjoub El Hiba, a senior human rights official in the Moroccan government, denies that the government received a fatwa on apostasy, as Akhbar al-Youm had claimed. Yet media reports on the fatwa have provoked strong reactions from rights activists and religious minorities, including Christians, in the country. "There's a lot of confusion and discussion in Morocco right now about the fatwa," said a pastor near Marrakech. "We fear that if the fatwa is approved, the government will use it to harass us and even arrest us during our meetings and the fundamentalists will have an excuse to harm us." While apostasy is illegal in many Muslim countries and punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, Moroccan law does not directly prohibit it. Article 220 of Morocco's Penal Code does state, however, that "attempting to undermine the faith of a Muslim or convert him to another religion" is punishable with six months to three years in prison.