Updated 6:08 p.m. ET
(CBS/AP) Worldwide Muslim anger over a film mocking Islam’s prophet continued to spread Thursday, prompting President Barack Obama to issue a warning to countries where Americans may be in danger. President Obama, speaking at a re-election campaign rally in Golden, Colorado, said his administration had been in contact with other governments “to let them know they’ve got a responsibility to protect our citizens.” The president also said on Thursday: “I’ve directed my administration to do whatever is necessary to protect all Americans serving abroad”. American diplomatic offices everywhere have seen their security beefed up, and there are contracted aircraft being kept on the runways in major cities so that they can ferry out evacuated personnel.
The spreading violence comes as outrage grows over an obscure movie made in the United States called “Innocence of Muslims” that mocked Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. The first of the protests against the film began in Cairo, Egypt, outside of the U.S. Embassy there, on Tuesday. Protesters rushed embassy grounds, taking down and tearing up the American flag flying at half-mast in commemoration of 9/11 before security forces turned them away.
FULL ARTICLE FROM CBS NEWS (INCLUDING VIDEO CLIP)
An Iranian Christian pastor who refused to renounce his faith after being sentenced to death for apostasy has been released from prison.
Youcef Nadarkhani, 35, was released from prison on Saturday and reunited with his family after a court in the northern city of Rasht, the capital of Iran‘s Gilan province, acquitted him of apostasy, which carried the death sentence under Iran’s Sharia law.
“Nadarkhani was acquitted of apostasy but instead charged with acting against the national security and therefore sentenced to three years in jail,” a reliable source in Rasht, who asked not to be named for fear of government reprisal, told the Guardian. “But because he had already served three years in prison, he was allowed to go home.”
It is believed Nadarkhani’s lawyer argued in court that Iran was a signatory to international treaties requiring it to respect freedom ofreligion.
Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 for converting at the age of 19 to Christianity from Islam, his parent’s religion. Although he insisted he was never a practising Muslim, Iran considers the religion of a child to be that of his father. Those who convert to other religions risk arrest or even execution for apostasy.
FULL STORY FROM THE LONDON GUARDIAN
Washington (CNN) - Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian charged with leaving Islam, has received a local trial courts final verdict, according to sources close to his legal team, and may now be executed for leaving Islam.
Jodran Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, said he was informed on Monday by the pastor’s legal team that the final execution order had been issued. At this point, said Sekulow, the pastor could be executed without the legal team’s knowledge.
The White House issued a pointed statement on Thursday, strongly condemning the reports and renewed calls for Iranian authorities to release the pastor.
“This action is yet another shocking breach of Iran’s international obligations, its own constitution, and stated religious values,” stated a release by the White House. “The United States stands in solidarity with Pastor Nadarkhani, his family, and all those who seek to practice their religion without fear of persecution-a fundamental and universal human right. “
FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN
In Iran, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani faces the death penalty for the “crime” of leaving Islam as a teenager and converting to Christianity. A translated Iranian Supreme Court brief from 2010 states that 32-year-old Nadarkhani “is convicted of turning his back on Islam, the greatest religion, the prophesy of Mohammad at the age of 19.” While there is widespread public outcry of support for his specific case, some are speaking broadly about the punishment for apostasy. Many — Muslim and non-Muslim — mistakenly believe that Islam supports this barbaric practice.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Islam prescribes absolutely no punishment for apostasy. If one were to assume that Islam prescribes some sort of punishment for a person who chooses to leave Islam, that would invariably mean that Islam forces one to be a Muslim against their will. But chapter two of the Holy Quran emphatically denies this possibility, stating “there shall be no compulsion in religion.” This is an unambiguous declaration protecting freedom of conscience and choice.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST
In 1948, most of the world’s Muslim-majority nations signed up to theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights, including article 18, “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” which includes, crucially, the “freedom to change his religion or belief”. The then Pakistani foreign minister, Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, wrote: “Belief is a matter of conscience, and conscience cannot be compelled.”
Fast-forward to 2011: 14 Muslim-majority nations make conversion away from Islam illegal; several – including Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Sudan – impose the death penalty on those who disbelieve. The self-styled Islamic Republic of Iran has sentenced to death by hanging a Christian pastor, born to Muslim parents, for apostasy. At the time of writing, Youcef Nadarkhani, head of a network of Christian house churches in Iran, is on death row for refusing to recant and convert back to Islam.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)