even for a media that advocates press freedom, there are limitations. i had written this story last year, having interviewed a Muslim evangelist in Penang, my hometown. i was amazed at the things he said, of how comforting and inclusive his words were, and if only all religious clergies (including the christians) were as tolerant as he was, this earth definitely would be a much nicer place to live in. so i wrote a story but it did not see print even in one of the most liberal news websites as malaysiakini.com. this was despite the fact that the clergyman had supported his statements with Quaranic verses. The editor said:
"…I got your email this morning. With the little religious background I have, this is the first time that I heard about it. That's the case, give me time to countercheck with several ulamas on this matter, and I will get back to you. Probably it's true, you wouldn't know. But let me check with before we proceed with the story…."
you can of course guess what happenned next: NOTHING.
anyway, here's the article, un-edited, and un-published:
Scriptures allow Muslims to renounce Islam, says Muslim Evangelist
Susan Loone, Penang, September, 2005
Contrary to what is being practised in Malaysia, there are avenues in the Quranic scriptures which allow a Muslim to renounce his or her religion, said an Islamic Evangelist in Penang recently.
Speaking to Malaysiakini, Noor Mohamed, who is the Islamic Propagation Centre International Malaysia secretary, said that if someone wants to leave Islam, “God will never force you [to stay]”.
He quoted chapter 4:137 which stated that “Those who believe, then reject faith, then believe (again) and (again) reject faith, and go on increasing in unbelief,- Allah will not forgive them nor guide them nor guide them on the way”.
He recited chapter 10:99 which said that “If it had been thy Lord's will, they would all have believed,- all who are on earth! wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!
“There is no mention of death penalty as a punishment for apostate throughout the Quran. It is considered as an un-acceptable preposition but that is for Allah to deal with his servants in the hereafter,” Noor said.
However, he explained that the current practise in Malaysia where it was unlawful for a Muslim to leave his or her religion was “constitutional and political”.
He clarified that the issue of appostasy in Islam was “political” as it was brought about by PAS as a vehicle to sideline Umno, the main party in the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.
“That will be their trump card to challenge Umno to implement the death penalty on apostate which of course will be rejected by Barisan Nasional as we practice freedom of practicing religion(s) in this country,” Noor said, when interviewed in his office in Bukit Gelugor.
“On that strength, this government will be labelled as Un-Islamic and that will be the bait PAS will use to discredit Umno,” he added.
Meanwhile, Noor explained that it was provided in the Malaysian Shariah Law that a Muslim [ man or woman] cannot renounce Islam but if they did, it will be classified as an act of breaking the Muslim Law and will be put in prison for a certain period after which they will be classified as apostate and sent to rehabilitation centres.
He argued that this was a strategy where it gave the ruling government some control mechanism in place to handle the issue in order to neutralise and refute PAS’s allegations that UMNO was not moving a candle on the subject of apostasy.
But according to Noor, who is also the principal consultant of Competence Development Centre Asia Pacific, a management training provider, this law raises some questions.
“I have asked this question before – that if you have a law to prohibit people from leaving your religion, then it would reflect that something is wrong (with the religion)”.