WorldNetDaily Distorts Islamic Center Imam's Speech To Claim He Thinks Apostates "Must Be Jailed"

››› ››› TERRY KREPEL & SEAN EASTER

WorldNetDaily misleadingly attributed the statement "apostates against Islam must be jailed" to Imam Abdallah Adhami, suggesting that Adhami was expressing his own view. In fact, Adhami -- who was recently named as an adviser for the proposed Islamic center near the World Trade Center in New York City -- was discussing the historical view of apostasy in Islam, not modern interpretations.

WND: "Ground Zero Imam" Said "Apostates Against Islam Must Be Jailed"

WND: "Those Who Leave Islam And Preach Against The Muslim Religion Must Be Jailed," Imam Said. From a WorldNetDaily article by Aaron Klein, headlined "Ground Zero imam: 'Apostates against Islam must be jailed'; 'You do not have the right to spread this conviction, lest you pollute others'":

Those who leave Islam and preach against the Muslim religion must be jailed, declared the imam who has become the new face of the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in New York City.

"If someone leaves the din, leaves the path privately, they cannot be touched. If someone preaches about apostasy, or preaches their views, they're jailed," stated Imam Abdallah Adhami in a November lecture obtained and reviewed by WND.

Adhami was discussing the Quranic view of apostasy, or Muslims who decide to leave the Islamic religion. [WorldNetDaily, 1/23/11]

In Fact, Adhami Was Discussing Historical View of Apostasy

WND Cherry-Picked Statements From Lengthy Response. Klein's article contained only a few statements taken from an approximately 10-minute-long response to a question about "what Sharia said about apostasy and how we should deal with that today." Among other points Adhami made in his answer:

  • "The right to leave my religion and still be subject to God's grace is like the discourse between the Calvinists and the Arminians about whether God's grace applies to someone who doesn't believe in salvation, remember? How they -- that was something that was -- so for the Muslims, actually, because there is no concept of salvation, that -- but you have to remember something else. This is post-Reformation Christian discourse that is asking this question, 'Am I subject to God's grace if I reject God's grace?' In Islam, in the Quran, theoretically, if you look over the Quran from cover to cover, you literally have the right to the choice to reject God's message. The only thing that you do not have the right to do is to spread this conviction, lest you, quote unquote, pollute others. In every religion prior to Islam, apostasy was to be executed, regardless of whether you were a public or private apostate. Islam came with a revolution. It said if someone is an apostate -- and I know that, again, this is a call, a clarion call to competence, not the clichéd answer, "Oh, apostasy was like that because the Muslims had to execute people because it was a new religion, and if you left Islam it meant" -- that's a very temporal answer. And it means, well, what about now? If you left Islam, nothing happens? The Muslims are 1.3 billion people; they are not going to be hurt by a few thousand leaving.

"So make the argument not something temporal, but why don't we make the argument based on the Quran and the path of the prophet, peace be upon him. And in essence, you will find something revolutionary in the Quranic addressing of this issue and in how it was implemented by the companions of the prophet as well. The Quran distinguishes between public and private apostasy. If someone leaves the din, leaves the path privately, they cannot be touched. If someone preaches about apostasy or preaches their views, they're jailed. I'm telling you about the official canonical position, not the variations and not the -- yes, many jurors said they have to be killed -- but, the position of the state was the position of Imam Abu Hanifa, which -- who thought they must be jailed so that to -- so that they are contained. Don't kill them, but don't allow them to interpollinate the thoughts of others and, and so forth."

  • "So the question of apostasy in the prophetic tradition had to do with whether it was public or private and because it was so -- and because there's so many examples of people intervening on behalf of those who had apostatized, and the prophet forgave it. Very famous example where Uthman, the third caliph, intervened on behalf of a relative who had apostatized, and the prophet allowed it. The prophet let go -- you know, he released the person from prison. [...] The fact that Uthman was allowed to intervene on behalf of an apostate means that the ruling about apostasy in a private realm is not from a legal perspective 100 percent definitive. So therefore, there is some equivocation about what the position is and therefore, as a jurist, you have to -- you have a legal obligation to not be definitive about something that Sharia left a question mark about."
  • "There are a lot of issues that are brought up, in my opinion, by us as Westerners in order to, as we say, psych out the Muslims, so to speak, and at the same time use that question as a foil to our own self-definition. So, by the grace of God, honesty and competence in the service of our tradition is ultimately what would bring more solace."

From what Klein identified as "a November lecture" given by Adhami:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much for a very interesting talk. You've spoken at length about tolerance and about accepting differences, but you've also spoken about how treason in almost all religious philosophical traditions is a major for problem for many [unintelligible] to deal with. I was wondering what in your opinion what Sharia said about apostasy and how we should deal with that today.

ADHAMI: OK. The question of apostasy has two perspectives. There is the -- of course, when we grow up in the West, we have different kinds of apostasy that are not called as such. So for example, we have cultural apostasy, and the only difference is we call a cultural apostate a dweeb, at least in the U.S., we do. So a cultural apostate -- this is a real phenomenon. A dweeb is somebody who has -- who doesn't have the latest model of gadget that everyone else does -- you know, sort of, you know. I don't know if the definition has changed; I haven't been out much for the last two years because of an injury. But I think, relatively speaking, the notion of cultural apostasy is very fascinating as an antidote, not as a major discussion. I know that's not what you asked. But let's put that aside but keep it in mind for a moment. Let's put a cognitive bookmark and come back to it.

Apostasy, amazingly in Quranic language, it means to abandon something that you belong to. So literally, it treats the Quran, treats the religion of God as one entity, and it has many prophets who basically taught the same things with different Sharias, right? And God says in the Quran [speaking Arabic]. God chose for each people a different quote-unquote Sharia, a different path. The same prophets, the prophetic message is the same, but the Sharia is different. So the Quranic definition of apostasy, or ridda, literally is abandoning God's law or God's path. Now, in that is a very empowering and very ennobling definition because it treats the person as inherently righteous, inherently sinless, inherently pure.

The concept of apostasy today is -- you asked for my personal opinion, and again, as a Westerner, I can sympathize with a very secular angle to this question for a very simple reason. The right to leave my religion and still be subject to God's grace is like the discourse between the Calvinists and the Arminians about whether God's grace applies to someone who doesn't believe in salvation, remember? How they -- that was something that was -- so for the Muslims, actually, because there is no concept of salvation, that -- but you have to remember something else. This is post-Reformation Christian discourse that is asking this question, "Am I subject to God's grace if I reject God's grace?" In Islam, in the Quran, theoretically, if you look over the Quran from cover to cover, you literally have the right to the choice to reject God's message. The only thing that you do not have the right to do is to spread this conviction, lest you, quote unquote, pollute others. In every religion prior to Islam, apostasy was to be executed, regardless of whether you were a public or private apostate. Islam came with a revolution. It said if someone is an apostate -- and I know that, again, this is a call, a clarion call to competence, not the clichéd answer, "Oh, apostasy was like that because the Muslims had to execute people because it was a new religion, and if you left Islam it meant" -- that's a very temporal answer. And it means, well, what about now? If you left Islam, nothing happens? The Muslims are 1.3 billion people; they are not going to be hurt by a few thousand leaving.

So make the argument not something temporal, but why don't we make the argument based on the Quran and the path of the prophet, peace be upon him. And in essence, you will find something revolutionary in the Quranic addressing of this issue and in how it was implemented by the companions of the prophet as well. The Quran distinguishes between public and private apostasy. If someone leaves the din, leaves the path privately, they cannot be touched. If someone preaches about apostasy or preaches their views, they're jailed. I'm telling you about the official canonical position, not the variations and not the -- yes, many jurors said they have to be killed -- but, the position of the state was the position of Imam Abu Hanifa, which -- who thought they must be jailed so that to -- so that they are contained. Don't kill them, but don't allow them to interpollinate the thoughts of others and, and so forth.

What's fascinating about this is that this is also true of people who would today -- I don't know how to label it properly, but it would be poets who engaged in unorthodox thought, poets who were -- who had an erotic twist to their literature, who had a sexual twist to their literature. What happened to these people? What's remarkable about the Sharia's dealing with these people is, they were never censored. There was no censureship, and they were not censored from anything other than -- I'm mixing between two things because -- there's censorship, right, and then there is censure, which is punishment. So, I'm talking that there was neither. There was neither censorship, nor was there censure for these people. What's the proof is that today, 1,200 years later, we have the most riveting anthology of erotic poetry completely intact with [unintelligible] too, to people like Abu Nuwas, to people like [unintelligible] who during their time caused a lot of headaches for people, but the state did not allow them to be censored because this is the -- this is their, this is their quote-unquote right to creative expression. This is their right as long as they didn't get open, public audiences to preach this. And there's no more eloquent testimony about this rather -- other than the fact that the anthology of Abu Nuwas still exists until today. Many libraries all over the world would have it, even without buying it in full.

So the question of apostasy in the prophetic tradition had to do with whether it was public or private and because it was so -- and because there's so many examples of people intervening on behalf of those who had apostatized, and the prophet forgave it. Very famous example where Uthman, the third caliph, intervened on behalf of a relative who had apostatized, and the prophet allowed it. The prophet let go -- you know, he released the person from prison. What's unique here -- remember, the prophet is a legislator. This is not, "OK, we like this man, we're going to let your guy go." You can't do -- there's no favoritism here. The fact that Uthman was allowed to intervene on behalf of an apostate means that the ruling about apostasy in a private realm is not from a legal perspective 100 percent definitive. So therefore, there is some equivocation about what the position is and therefore, as a jurist, you have to -- you have a legal obligation to not be definitive about something that Sharia left a question mark about. And talk about something, divine foresight. Sharia left question marks about things that may become problematic in the future. And sometimes not even problematic; sometimes useful things, like the question of music. Sharia stayed non-definitive about this question because eventually the Muslims would pioneer music therapy to heal people in mental health wards. The fact that there was a quote-unquote debate between the jurists on -- you know, music is questionable, music is semi-not liked or disliked or however -- did not impede the fact that there is scientific progress that needs to happen in order to take care of people.

So I think -- is there something else you asked about apostasy? In terms of its implementation, we already answered that question. Yes, in terms of historically, there is even something very unique -- and I don't have the full answer to this -- but in the historical chronicles, there was somebody who was called the apostate prince. And he was actually the head of a municipality in Mamluk, 9th century Cairo. And Ibn Iyad an-Hanafi, actually, in his historical chronicle -- and it's shocking. He's called the apostate prince. And the first question anybody has is, how come they didn't kill him?

So again, I really appreciate this question because it highlights something -- the cognitive bookmark that we put, we're going to draw that back just to close this. There are a lot of issues that are brought up, in my opinion, by us as Westerners in order to, as we say, psych out the Muslims, so to speak, and at the same time use that question as a foil to our own self-definition. So, by the grace of God, honesty and competence in the service of our tradition is ultimately what would bring more solace. Thank you. [YouTube, accessed 1/24/11]

Adhami Wrote Article Headlined "The Right To Change One's Religion"

Adhami: "No Prophet Was Ever Given The License To Pass Judgment Over The Faith Of A Human Being -- As The Qur'an Repeatedly Reiterates, Judgment Is Ultimately With God Alone." In an article for Common Ground News Service headlined "The Right To Change One's Religion," Adhami called for religious tolerance, writing, "We need to acknowledge and affirm that diversity and difference are part of the divine intent for creation":

No prophet was ever given the license to pass judgment over the faith of a human being - as the Qur'an repeatedly reiterates, judgment is ultimately with God alone. Hence, constructive service of our sacred traditions lies in showing their relevance as a vehicle of infinite creativity, not in demoting them to preoccupation with judgment of contemporary culture.

We need to acknowledge and affirm that diversity and difference are part of the divine intent for creation -- that we were made as nations and tribes so that we may "learn about and be enriched by the ways of each other" (Qur'an, 49:13). Provincialism and relativism will always challenge diversity -- especially when the latter is disguised as tolerance; and not because people are inherently incapable of living together, either.

We need a renewed devotion to the truth, and to seeking it freely through our established non-sectarian, scholarly institutions. Thomas Jefferson exhorted: "truth is ... the proper and sufficient antagonist to error." It is only through respectful free argument and debate that ideologies can be judged and challenged on their own merits.

The reformation that is direly needed -- across the entire globe -- is the honest reassessment of the original sources of all our oppressive cultural myths and tyrannical modes of thinking.

As Muslims, we need to establish a higher barometer for what constitutes competence in the service of the scholarly disciplines of Shari'a. This would equip us with greater clarity and confidence and prevent us from thoughtlessly demonstrating in passionate protest every time a passing wind seems to challenge our faith.

As religious leaders of all faiths, we need to acknowledge our responsibility for much alienation and estrangement among the faithful around the world. This would begin to re-establish the credibility of our institutions, which would eventually re-ignite the religious imagination of the masses.

Lastly, we need a renewed commitment to focus on an ethos of compassionate, selfless service as a public trust; and this is certainly more becoming of the example of the Blessed Messengers that we claim loyalty to. [Common Ground News Service, 10/23/07]

Conservatives Falsely Attacked Adhami's Predecessor

Adhani Replaces Rauf As Islamic Center's Imam. Adhani's appointment as senior adviser to the Islamic center, called Park51, signaled "a diminished role for Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf as he embarks on a global tour to promote interfaith dialogue." [The Wall Street Journal, 1/14/11]

Conservatives Smeared Rauf. Among the false and misleading attacks conservatives used to attack Rauf:

  • Washington Times columnist Jeffrey Kuhner baselessly smeared Rauf as an "unrepentant militant Muslim." In fact, Rauf has condemned terrorism and has been widely described as "moderate." [Washington Times, 8/6/10] Other conservatives baselessly portrayed Rauf as a "secret radical." [Media Matters for America, 8/17/10]
  • The right-wing media attacked Rauf's State Department trip to the Middle East to "discuss Muslim life in America and religious tolerance" by falsely claiming he will use the trip as a "taxpayer-funded fundraising jaunt" to finance construction of Park51. In fact, the State Department made clear that fundraising of any kind is prohibited during the trip, and Rauf has previously participated in this program, first under President Bush. [Media Matters for America, 8/11/10]
  • Fox News' Sean Hannity falsely claimed that Rauf said that he "wants America to be Sharia-compliant" and that he is in favor of "shredding our Constitution and putting Sharia law as the law of the land in America." In fact, Rauf has written that that the "American political structure is Shariah compliant," just like any other political structure that "upholds, protects, and furthers" the "God-given rights" of "life, mind (that is, mental well-being or sanity), religion, property (or wealth), and family (or lineage and progeny)." [Fox News, Hannity, 8/12/10]
  • Glenn Beck falsely claimed that Daisy Khan, Rauf's wife, said that "all Americans hate Muslims." In fact, while discussing the strident opposition to the center, Khan said that hatred for Muslims in America is a cause for concern. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 8/24/10]
  • Blogger Pamela Geller grossly distorted portions of a 2005 lecture by Rauf to falsely suggest Rauf is an "extremis[t]" who "supports homicide bombers" and supports the "elimination of Israel." The Drudge Report and Rush Limbaugh subsequently trumpeted Geller's report. [Media Matters for America, 8/23/10]
  • Walid Shoebat falsely claimed that Rauf "wrote the N.Y Times that Israel will be Judenrein (free of Jews)." [WorldNetDaily, 9/3/10]
Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Religion
Network/Outlet
WorldNetDaily
Person
Aaron Klein
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.