Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, March 31, 2006

Senate group holds Islam, Christianity and World Order briefing

March 31, 2006

Washington, D.C. – The Congressional Working Group on Religious Freedom and Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom held a briefing today to reflect U.S. and British views on religious freedom, pinpointing the recent case of Abdul Rahman, the Christian convert who faced the death penalty for apostasy until international pressure secured his release on Monday. The two speakers who addressed the issue were the Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Nazir Ali, a member of the House of Lords; and Michael P. Moreland, Associate Director for Domestic Policy at the White House.

Dr. Ali said that Islamic civilizations could not have flourished without participation of Christians and Jews. He added that Islam is not a theocracy and Shari’a is not meant to be a legal system, but rather a compilation of laws that God has given Muslims on how to live. Speaking of Rahman’s case, the Bishop said the death penalty has rarely been used as a legal mechanism to prosecute religious conversion, and there are no punishments detailed in the Quran for apostasy.

Since Bush took office, there has been a significant increase in “faith-based community efforts,” Moreland said. There is a special council now on religious rights in the Department of Justice. Internationally speaking, U.S. efforts to promote religious freedom are channeled through the Commission of Religious Freedom. Moreland said that it is a “long and hard task to change the way the world feels about religious freedom, but our efforts are on their way.”

During the question and answer period, Dr. Ali said that many philosophers of Islam have agreed on the need for an evaluation of laws governing apostasy and that more issues should be dealt with through proper interpretation of the Quran. Referring to the problem of jihad (from an inward spiritual struggle to attain perfect faith, to a political or military struggle to further the Islam) he says, “Where progress has been made, it is now being undone, in places like Egypt.”


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