In one of Hemant’s recent posts, he talks about an Economist article which mentions that no fewer than eight Muslim countries currently have the death penalty for apostasy, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. This got me thinking that it might be worth putting together a comprehensive summary of which countries still have such barbaric laws in effect.
I’m going to use Wikipedia as my main source here, because this is just a blog post, though if I ever turn this into something less ephemeral I’ll go check all of Wikipedia’s sources. I’m also going to list only countries that have the death penalty for certain crimes, when of course a lot have other punishments for them even if you can’t get the death penalty.
Apostasy: According to Wikipedia, punishable by death in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. That’s actually eleven countries, more than the Economist claimed. And yeah, Afghanistan is on the list, even though the US supposedly waged a war there to free the country from religious fundamentalism. In one case, an Afghan convert to Christianity escape execution only after intense pressure from the international community.
Blasphemy: According to Wikipedia, punishable by death in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. That means in some countries, it’s a distinct advantage not to be born into a Muslim family or ever convert.
Homosexuality: According to Wikipedia, punishable by death in Iran, Muaritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalialand, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen. The law also seems unclear in Afghanistan and Iraq–in the latter case, one report claimed that a Ba’athist-era law prescribing the death penalty for homosexuality has not been changed, even though Paul Bremer had ordered it changed. Uganda may soon join the list of countries that have the death penalty for homosexuality, as initial reports that that provision would be removed from the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill have been questioned.
Adultery: Wikipedia is sketchier here on the actual law, but says that people have in recent times been stoned to death for adultery in Afghanistan, Iran, Mali, Pakistan, Somalia, and Sudan. The really horrifying thing is that these laws are sometimes applied to rape victims: there are reports of rape victims being executed in Iran and Somalia. Rape victims are frequently charged with adultery in Pakistan, and though it appears the death penalty has never been applied, in at least one case a victim only narrowly escaped that punishment. In another case in Afghanistan, a rape victim was charged with adultery and was only pardoned after agreeing to marry her rapist.
Virtually all of these the countries listed above are Muslim countries, with the exception of Uganda, which is heavily Christian, and Nigeria, which is split between Muslims in the north and Christians in the South.
There’s a lot to say about this, but I’ll just point out one irony: as Ed Brayton has documented at such great length, right-wing Christians in the United States have engaged in a lot of scaremongering about Sharia law coming to the United States. Such scaremongering is ridiculous, not because Sharia would be a-okay, but because it has no chance of happening here.
But the laws that horrify these Christians so much are mostly straight out of the Old Testament, which fundamentalists believe to be totally without error. The OT even has a law that would, in some cases, have a rape victim to marry her rapist, as appears to have happened in Afghanistan. Fundamentalists will argue that such laws were part of the old covenant and do not apply today, but I wonder if they really buy that rationalization deep down. Do they really believe there’s nothing absolutely wrong with those laws, and the problem is just that God doesn’t want them applied today?