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.