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Preach to the choir
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Crux of the matter
Speak of the devil
An act of faith
As anyone who’s studied religion knows, in general believers detest apostates far more than unbelievers. After all, unbelievers might still be made into believers and might just be ignorant of the belief system of the religion. Apostates, on the other hand, were once believers who were fully invested in belief but then actively decided to reject the religion.
Science-Based Medicine[1]

Apostasy is a term generally employed to describe the formal renunciation of one's religion — especially if the motive is deemed unworthy by one's co-religionists. Apostasy is almost universally condemned as far worse than simply being an unbeliever, as one has had the One True Way and abandoned it. In some Islamic states, apostasy is a capital offense.

Apostasy should not be confused with heresy, which is essentially keeping with the same religion, but altering the interpretation of it rather than flat-out abandoning it or turning to a different faith; nor with schism, which is a rejection of the power of the established authorities of a religion, without necessarily disagreeing with them on matters of belief.

The term can also be loosely applied to any belief system, including political beliefs. Oddly enough for the negative connotations it receives, the term originates from the Greek "apostatēs", which roughly translates to "runaway slave".[2]

Countries where apostasy is illegal[edit]

Worldwide laws against apostasy

Other Islamic countries not listed here may have laws that, while not specifically outlawing apostasy, may make it illegal if laws on blasphemy and "insulting religion" are applied broadly.[3] Extrajudicial measures against apostates may also be taken when there is wide support in a country against apostasy, such as in the case of Egypt and Pakistan.[4]

  • Afghanistan – illegal (death penalty)[5][3][6]
  • Brunei — punishable by death (Section 112(1) of the Sharia Penal Code[3]
  • Comoros[5]
  • Egypt – annulment of marriage in one case, a two-year prison sentence in another,[3] but 88% of Egyptian Muslims support the death penalty for apostasy[5]
  • Iran – illegal (death penalty)[5][4][3]
  • Jordan – Islamic courts have the power to void a person's marriage and/or inheritance based upon a conviction of apostasy[3][5]
  • Kuwait – Apostates can have their marriage and/or inheritance annulled.[5][3]
  • Malaysia – illegal (for ethnic Malays) in 5 of 13 states (fine, imprisonment, and flogging)[5]
  • Morocco – not specifically in the penal code, but "in April 2013, the Supreme Council of Religious Scholars issued a religious decree (fatwa) that Moroccan Muslims who leave Islam must be sentenced to death." The Supreme Council is constitutionally recognized as the sole arbiter on religious matters.[3]
  • Maldives[5]
  • Mauritania – illegal (death penalty)[3][5]
  • Nigeria – illegal in 12 of 37 states (death penalty)[5]
  • Pakistan – apostates are vulnerable to various legal and extralegal punishments,[3] but the majority (62%) of Pakistanis support the death penalty[4][5]
  • Qatar – illegal (death penalty)[5][3]
  • Saudi Arabia – illegal (death penalty)[5][3]
  • Somalia – illegal (death penalty)[5]
  • Sudan – illegal (death penalty)[5][3]
  • Syria – possibly illegal in al-Assad's fiefdom state[5] but certain death if you're in the ISIS-controlled area[3]
  • United Arab Emirates – illegal (death penalty)[5][3]
  • Yemen – illegal (death penalty)[5]
  • The United St...nah, we're kidding. For now.

If one tabulates the populations of the aforementioned countries given directly in the above links, the total number of people living in countries where apostasy is illegal is a little over 772 millions compared to a total world Muslim population of 1,800 millions. That is, a population equal in size to 42.9% of all Muslims are residents of those countries.

New religious movements and cults[edit]

Adherents are usually free to leave new religious movements or cults, in part because such movements do not have the power to prevent this.

Some scholars, like the prominent American religious scholar J. Gordon Melton, while acknowledging the diversity in new religious movements and their adherents, make sweeping negative generalizations about the reliability of the testimonies of people who leave new religious movements and criticize them.[7] This false generalization is probably due to their experiences and observations during the great American cult wars during the 1970s and 1980s.

See also[edit]


  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 Laws Criminalizing Apostasy in Selected Jurisdictions by Hanibal Goitom (May 2014) Library of Congress.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Majorities of Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan support the death penalty for leaving Islam by Max Fisher May 1, 2013 Washington Post.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 Laws Penalizing Blasphemy, Apostasy and Defamation of Religion are Widespread November 21, 2012 Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life
  6. Death could await Christian convert: U.S. lawmaker: Christian-conversion prosecution 'outrageous' Wednesday, March 22, 2006; Posted: 1:03 a.m. EST (06:03 GMT) CNN
  7. For example: "Ex-members, even those with righteous complaints, tend to reconstruct their experiences — ambiguous situations at worst — into totally negative encounters. They tend to demonize the leaders and turn the members into zombielike followers. Harmless comments are recast into sinister threats, group jargon into conspirational fantasies." in Finding Enlightenment : Ramtha's School of Ancient Wisdom (1998), ISBN 1-885223-61-7, Beyond Words Publishing, p. 164

External links[edit]