Contact: Kevin Fahey, Institute on Religion and Public Policy, 202-835-8760, Fahey@religionandpolicy.org
WASHINGTON, May 9 /Christian Newswire/ -- A new apostasy draft bill has been sent before a standing committee in Pakistan's National Assembly. If passed, the Apostasy Act 2006, adopted in first reading by the parliament and tabled by the six-party Islamic alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal or MMA, would sentence to death all Muslim men found guilty of leaving Islam. Muslim women would face life in prison for the same crime.
The draft bill goes into great detail over qualifications for conviction of "offenders".
Section 4 of the bill states that testimony by two adults accusing someone of leaving the Muslim faith, or a confession by the accused, is all that is needed for conviction. However, in some courts throughout Pakistan testimony by non-Muslims is prohibited.
In Section 5 the apostate is granted 3 to 30 days to renounce his or her conversion and return to Islam. The section also stipulates that the initial rejection of Islam can still be punishable by up to two years incarceration, despite recantation. The death penalty becomes mandatory if a person converts from and returns to Islam more than three times.
In addition to life in prison or death, offenders yield all properties in their name to Muslim relatives and forfeit custody of any minor or biological child under their care.
Denounced by many in the minority religious community in Pakistan, including the Archbishop of Lahore, the draft bill would commit Pakistan as one of the world's worst violators of fundamental rights.
Institute on Religion and Public Policy President, Joseph K. Grieboski, reacted to the bill, stating, "This legislation is a clear demonstration that fundamental freedoms are of no importance to the National Assembly of Pakistan. Passage of this bill would usher in a new age of religious bigotry in a country that prides itself on being a strong and committed ally in combating global terrorism. Laws such as this would only serve to engender further extremist behavior. Being an alley of the United States is not only a matter of reflecting national interests, but a mutual respect for fundamental values."