KUALA LUMPUR: Prominent Turkish-born writer Mustafa Akyol has challenged Muslims who advocate punishment for apostasy to prove that their call is supported by the Quran.
Speaking at a forum organised by the Islamic Renaissance Front, he also said laws against apostasy were self-defeating, resulting in hypocrisy and a negative view of Islam.
“There is no verse in the Quran that says people who abandon the religion must be punished in this world,” he said. “The Quran says they will go to hell if they die as apostates, but it doesn’t say they must be punished now.”
Akyol also cast doubt on the authenticity of a prophetic tradition that calls for the death of Muslims who leave the faith. He said the hadith surfaced about four centuries after the Prophet’s death and scholars had questioned its authenticity.
He attributed the ban on apostasy in the early history of Islam to political reasons and said those who continued to support it were doing so to silence critics.
“At best, an apostate becomes a munafik and such laws will end up giving a more negative perception of Islam.”
“Munafik” is a term used in the Quran to refer to hypocrites.
“In Muslim societies where there is no ban on apostasy, do you see Muslims leaving Islam in droves?” asked Akyol, an award-winning journalist who has been critical of both Islamists and secularists in his home country.
He said apostates had told him that they left Islam and stopped respecting it because of authoritarian interpretations of the religion.