Hugh Fitzgerald: “There Is No Compulsion In Religion”


Qur’an 2:256 — “There Is No Compulsion In Religion” — is one of the two Qur’anic verses most often quoted by Muslim apologists. (The other verse is a carefully abridged version of 5:32, which seems to denounce killing, but in its full version, is addressed not to Muslims but to the Children of Israel, and far from denouncing killing, explains when killing is justified.)

In Islam there are two kinds of “compulsion in religion”:

The first is the compulsion to convert felt by non-Muslims. Unbelievers subjugated by Muslims are given three options: death, conversion to Islam, or permanent status as “dhimmis,” allowed to live and even to practice their (non-Islamic) religion, but subject to a host of onerous conditions, including payment of the Jizyah. Not all Unbelievers over 1,400 years found  the dhimmi condition endurable; some converted to Islam in order to escape what for them is the unbearable status of dhimmi.

The second kind of “compulsion in religion” is that directed at Muslim apostates, who leave Islam for another religion — almost always Christianity — or for no religion at all. In a famous hadith in the most trustworthy Hadith collection, that of al-Bukhari, Muhammad says “Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him.’” Sahih Al-Bukhari (9:57)

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Recently there was a reminder of that “compulsion in religion” in a story from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

An elderly Iranian Christian woman has endured ten days of intensive interrogation by intelligence officers and been forced to go to an Islamic religious leader to be “instructed.”

Ruhsari Kamberi, 65, was one of five women converts from Islam arrested from different church groups in Karaj, close to Tehran. The whereabouts of the other four are not known at the time of writing.

Three intelligence officers arrived at Ruhsari’s home early one morning before Christmas 2018. They searched the rooms and seized mobile phones, Bibles and other Christian material before detaining her for questioning.

According to a local source, “Ruhsari was interrogated from morning until evening for ten consecutive days.” The wife and mother was finally released when bail of 30 million Toman (around £5,500) was paid.

She was taken before a prosecutor to answer charges of “acting against national security” and forced to go to an Islamic religious leader to be “instructed” and “offered the opportunity to return to Islam.”

Friends of Ruhsari say she is extremely distressed and request that fellow Christians pray for her and the four other women arrested asking that, “God will help all Christians who are arrested and interrogated in Iran to stand firm in the faith,” and that “those people responsible for the mistreatment of the women and the violations of their rights will repent of their actions”.

The Ministry of Intelligence in Iran, an Islamic Republic, particularly targets converts. As apostates from Islam, Christians are viewed as traitors deserving death (for men) and lifelong imprisonment with beating (for women) according to the Shia version of sharia law followed in Iran.

This is one small episode showing the hysterical response to apostasy by the mighty Islamic Republic of Iran. This one inoffensive elderly lady, having chosen to become a Christian, became the object of a full-court press by the authorities. The police raided her home, to find and remove incriminating material, literature such as a Bible, and other written material — a missal? A Christmas card? A picture of Jesus? — and also took away her phone, so that she can’t communicate with fellow Christians. Clearly she was someone who needs to be watched.

Taken into custody, she was then sentenced to ten days of nonstop “re-education” to try to persuade her to return to the One True Faith of Islam. What better way to demonstrate the excellence of Islam than by subjecting an elderly lady from morning to evening, without respite, for ten days of incessant anti-Christian and pro-Islam propaganda? She was finally let out on bail of 5,500 pounds, which is more than the average annual salary in Iran. Was this 65-year-old woman a threat in any way to Muslims or to Islam? Did she engage in anti-Islam proselytizing, or was her conversion hardly known to anyone else? How did her reading the Bible, and her belief in the divinity of Christ threaten, the 80 million Muslims in the mighty Islamic Republic of Iran?

She’s been subject to mental torture. She’s had to pay a year’s salary in order to be released on bail, but her case is not over. There is more mental and physical torment torment to come. And if she does not revert to Islam, as a female apostate she faces a sentence of life imprisonment. (In Iran only male apostates can be sentenced to death.) How is that for “compulsion in religion”?

The next time you attend one of those Ask-A-Muslim-Anything events, and you are earnestly informed by your hosts that “there is no compulsion in [the Islamic] religion,” bring up the case of 65-year-old Ruhsari Kamberi in Iran. Telling her particular story will make the suffering of apostates less abstract for your audience of fellow Unbelievers. Ask whether the police raid on her house, and the seizure of her Bible and other Christian material, and the ten days of dawn-to-dusk “re-education” she had to endure, and even the large sum, the equivalent of a year’s salary in Iran, that Ruhsari Kamberi had to post as bail to obtain her temporary freedom, constitute “compulsion.” Enjoy the discomfort of your Muslim host, as he tries to defend the indefensible. That should throw a well-deserved spanner in the works.

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