Why Do So Many Muslims Want to Kill Apostates?

According to a poll by the Pew Research organisation the following percentages of Muslims in the following countries favour making Sharia the “Law of the land”:

According to the same poll, the percentages of those specific Muslims in those specific countries who feel that Muslims who leave the faith should be killed are:

That is to say, 42% of Russian Muslims support making Sharia the law of the land and 15% of that 42% support the death penalty for apostasy, and so on for every other country.

To put these percentages in perspective, I went on CIA World Fact Book, found the percentage of people of each country who are Muslim, then worked out the actual number of Muslims who - according to the poll - support making Sharia the law of the land, and then worked out the actual numbers of those Muslims who think killing people who decide they don’t want to be Muslim anymore is the right thing to do. The results are not encouraging:

At every possible opportunity (such as when the Muslim population of a country was given as, say, 80.5) I rounded down.

So, how many of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims support the death penalty for apostasy? It’s impossible to say, because Pew didn’t poll every country in the world with a Muslim population. For instance, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria, Somalia, Syria (obviously), UAE, and numerous others were not included in the poll. I’ve also excluded Muslim populations in Western countries like Britain where, according to a BBC Poll 36% of 16-24 year old Muslims and 19% of Muslims aged 55+ also favour the death penalty for apostasy. All I can say for certain, is that, of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, an absolute bare minimum of 316,764,924 verifiably the death penalty for apostasy. The real number is obviously considerably higher.

Not only that, but the Pew Poll only gives figures for Muslims who (a) want apostasy to be a capital crime and (b) want Sharia as law of the land. There are no figures for Muslims who want apostasy to be a capital crime but who, for whatever reason, don’t want Sharia as law of the land. In other words, the raw numbers for the above countries are all too low, to greater or lesser degrees.

The poll also (obviously) doesn’t include actual Jihadists. There are about 200,000 Muslims fighting for ISIS. I think it’s safe to assume that they all support the death penalty for apostasy. Same for Boko Haram (10,000 fighters, approx), Al-Qaeda, Hamas, the countless “Martyr’s Brigades” and many others.

The question for debate is this: Why is this such a popular position? Is it purely theological? Is purely cultural? Is it a mixture of the two? Or is there some third factor that’s to blame?

Just to give you a quick example calculation:

The population of Russia is 142,423,773. The percentage of Russians who identify as Muslim is 10-15%. Let’s lowball it and say 10%. 10% 142,423,773 is 14,242,377.

According to Pew, 42% of Russian Muslims support making Sharia the law of the land. 42% of 14,242,377 is 5,981,798. 15% of Russian Muslims who support making Sharia the law of the land also think the death penalty for apostasy is appropriate. 15% of 5,981,798 is 897,269.

I then performed the same calculation for every other country on the list. All figures come from Pew and the CIA World Fact Book, which I hope we can all agree are unbiased sources.

This should say verifiably support the death penalty for apostasy. Stupid five minute edit window…

I have no theory as to why, but the numbers you present are truly horrifying.

Consider the reach of radical Islam. Perhaps less than 1% of all Muslims are active jihadis. But for the movement to be so widespread and virulent, it must have active support from a fairly large segment of the Muslim population. Then there are those who only support radical Islam passively. What percentage of the Muslim world falls into either of the latter two categories?

Yeah. I’m really, really hoping I’ve made a mistake with the maths.

Islamic-majority nations have not generally tried to separate religious principles of church from secular principles of state. Most Muslim-majority nations have built their public law upon what are perceived as tenets based on the Qur’an and the Hadith. Among those tenets is a protection of Islam itself.

As such there is a long tradition of equating opposition to Islam as treason. The more open opposition to Islam is, the more hostile the response. Practically speaking, Jews and Christians (people of the book, meaning they accept Old Testament traditions) have a higher elevation in Islam than do atheists or believers of other paradigms.

At the bottom of the rung are people who began as Muslims and then rejected Islam–the apostates.

Even in Muslim-majority countries, formal death penalties–where they exist on the books–for this are not carried out en masse. On the other hand, they don’t usuallly need to be, since the threat alone is enough to encourage apostates to remain pretty much under the radar.

You can think of apostasy in Islam as treason toward the religion. On paper (i.e. the Qur’an and Hadith), Islam as a religion is about as open and welcoming to those who do not toe the religious line as is the Old Testament (see Joshua).

Support for the Qur’an and Hadith teachings as current, plain-text guidelines for how to build a society is relatively high among Muslims. As such, support for what are perceived as sanctions against apostasy is also high.

I don’t generally like the “… but Christians used to do it, too!” retort, but… Christians used to do it, too. If you live in the west and find the culture in Islamic countries too dense to penetrate, just look back at your own culture’s traditions 500, 600 years ago. And considering that Islam is about that many years younger than Christianity, one wonders if that is a coincident.

It would also not surprise me if the actual practice of killing, or punishing, Christian apostates ended long before the folks in Christian countries agreed that doing so was not acceptable.

I suppose then the question becomes why are so many Muslims so far behind? Many of these specific Muslims have access to 21st century communication. Many of these specific Muslims also have the advantage of knowing much more about the world than medieval Christians. It’s no surprise that people living in primitive times held primitive beliefs, but many of these specific Muslims don’t live in primitive times. Back in the middle-ages, when people just “knew” that floods and earthquakes and outbreaks of plague were Gods punishment for tolerating heretics, the death penalty for apostasy was more reasonable. After all, if you “knew” that God would destroy your village if he found an atheist in it, you’d do everything you can to make sure he didn’t find one. Many of these specific Muslims don’t have that excuse. So what gives?

Once again… why do fundamentalist Christians in the US think God sends hurricane to punish us for legalizing SSM? Please don’t be so blind as to think that many westerners, especially Americans, don’t think God still plays a role in everyday events.

The behavior we are seeing today is simply well within the spectrum of “normal” human behavior.

It’s not my culture, it’s a culture that went extinct hundreds of years ago. All those Christians who used to do that that you’re talking about are dead, and I do not carry their sins just because they were my ancestors twenty generations back.

No, the culture didn’t go extinct. It just changed. And where did I say anything about those of us still be alive being responsible for what our ancestors did.

I think they believe that because they believe (correctly) that God has deemed homosexuality to be an abomination. I don’t believe that, of course, but that is what the Bible says. The belief of some Fundamentalist Christians that God sends hurricanes to punish gay people is easy to understand when you consider what these fundamentalists believe. In other words, faith is to blame. Would you agree with that?

However, the more interesting question is why don’t these same U.S. Christian Fundamentalists want apostates to be killed while over three hundred million Muslims around the world do? What is the difference that makes the difference?

Given the requisite beliefs, any behaviour can be deemed normal. Look at Scientology.

To be fair, have you seen any polling results for Christians who think apostates should be killed?

Perhaps I should have been more clear that I was talking about human societies, not individual humans. Would a society that killed every newborn child be considered “within the spectrum of normal human [societal] behavior”?

I had a good look but I couldn’t find any. If you’ve got some I’d be genuinely interested to see them.

Fair point. Not all behaviours can be considered normal. However, the latitude for what can be considered a normal belief is pretty wide. Human sacrifice was considered normal in Aztec society for many years. Moreover, given what they believed, this appalling behaviour was quite easy for them to justify.

Your total of apostate hating Muslims is 383.7 million. That’s over 20% of all Muslims.

And yet the politically correct don’t see a correlation between this and the violence.

Actually, the real percentage is considerably higher. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, UAE, and numerous other countries with moderate to high Muslim populations weren’t included in the poll. Nor were Muslims in Western European countries, such as the UK (where 36% of 16-24 year old Muslims and 19% of Muslims over 55 support the death penalty for apostasy). Also not counted were Muslims who do support killing apostates but don’t (for whatever reason) want Sharia imposed as the law of the land in their respected countries, and, obviously, active Jihadists.

So 20% is an extremely low-ball estimate.

But not that much of “the violence” is about apostasy. And none of the violence directed against the US or other Western Countries is related to that.

that’s a bit of a disconnect. You think the violence directed at blasphemic western infidels is somehow different?

I think the point of the op is that the religion of peace doesn’t seem very peaceful given the hate in their hearts over someone leaving the religion. Doesn’t that fall under the non-peaceful column?

The answer isn’t hard to find. Huston Smith’s book The World’s Religions is a standard text in college comparative religion classes. Smith bends over backwards to be polite as possible and portray every religion in a positive way.

He puts it straightforwardly, though, that Islam more than any other religion requires its believers to shape society in a certain way, via law. The Prophet Mohammed instructed his followers, on many occasions, that certain things were crimes and deserved specific punishments. Jesus never did that, nor did the Buddha or Lao Tse. The Jewish Torah does have considerable passages about law and punishment, but over the millennia Judaism has modified the Torah through the Talmud and other interpretive works.

Some people wonder why Islam has never sprouted a more secular and humanistic interpretive framework, or expect that it must do so soon. But secularism and humanism are outgrowths of Judeo-Christian civilization. There’s no particular reason to believe that Islam will follow the same path.

None of that has anything to do with the post I was responding to. And I’ve never called Islam “the religious of peace”, so I don’t need to defend that.