Somalian academic gets death threats

Somalian academic gets death threats

In a recently published book about apostasy, Abdisaid Abdi Ismail set out to show that ‘Islam is the religion of humanity and mercy, and it values above all the life of human beings’. Hardliners now want him dead for … apostasy.

In an October interview with the Somalian website Sabahi, Adbi argued that “there is no religious justification for killing people for apostasy”, and this was the basis for his book The Rule of Apostasy in Islam: Is it True?

He said:

My view regarding apostasy is that there is no punishment for apostasy in this world. The punishment is in the hereafter and it is between the individual and God.

Religion News now reports that he is being branded as “Somalia’s Salman Rushdie” – a reference to the British-Indian novelist whose book, The Satanic Verses, provoked worldwide Muslims protests and a fatwa from Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989.

Since the book’s launch, Ismail says he has received death threats, and warnings not to return to Somalia where his wife and three children still live. He has also been branded a devil and infidel on social media, with radical clerics calling for the banning and burning of his book.

He had traveled to Kenya to publish the book, since he could not find a willing publisher in Somalia. He claims he was kicked out of hotels in Nairobi and Kampala, Uganda.

Every day, I fear fanatical supporters of Somali extremists here in Kenya and Somalia may harm me. I have been warned they may even try to kill me.

But Ismail is defiant, saying the threats will not stop him from expressing his opinion on crucial religious debates. He views this as a way of reforming Islamic thought in Somalia, and rehabilitating and reconstructing his war-torn country.


But Ismail admits the subject is controversial and he only began researching and writing about it after it became clear that there was nobody brave enough to confront it.

Ismail said the book furthers the growing voice of Muslim scholars, intellectuals and prominent clerics worldwide who are increasingly rejecting the abuse of Islam by extremist groups such as the Islamic State, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Somalia’s Al-Shabab.

What we need are secular states where there is democracy, justice and equality for all. Not theocratic ones where leaders rule by the name of God.

Ismail’s concern is that Somali Islamic militants, clerics and other extremist groups in Muslim-majority countries are applying apostasy as a political tool, branding those with contrary opinions as apostates who need to be killed.

He has watched fanatical groups such as Al-Shabab justifying the deaths of those who oppose their hard-line interpretation of the Koran by branding them apostates. Somali civil servants, national army officers, local or international non-governmental organisation officials, are considered devil’s spies who deserve death, he added.

I wanted to explain to my people the true meaning of apostasy in Islam.

Ismail said in the Sabahi interview:

What my findings led me to conclude is that the death penalty for apostasy does not have any valid argument in Islam even though it has been used for centuries for political purposes by ruling elites in successive historical Muslim regimes as a form of treason for Muslims who left the religion, because religion was an all-encompassing identity for people at the time.

Ismail, 50, a graduate of the Umm Al-Qura University in Saudi Arabia, somewhat naïvely added:

Frankly, I was expecting the book to create academic debate among scholars, but I never expected that someone would call for the burning of the book and declare the author an apostate.

10 responses to “Somalian academic gets death threats”

  1. 1859 says:

    A brave man trying to use a modicum of reason to alter fanatical interpretations of apostasy, is himself denounced as an apostate deserving death. Why is it religious fanatics hate reason? insight? discussion? debate? controversy? ideas? consensus? discovery? Are they so frightened of thinking they would rather exterminate all those on the planet who do think? Or is this just a power thing where they are using a religion – any religion – as a way to justify the brutality of what they do? Surely there can be no better proof that religion is a form of mental illness than this apostasy nonsense?

  2. Paul Cook says:

    When islam first began there was never any desire to convert people (who had been conquered by the sword). So what’s gone wrong?
    No one knows. But pure hatred and an infantile belief in a man who flew on a winged horse must be it. Today, if this religion began, would the fictional mohamed fly to heaven in a space rocket? I bet everything I own, and my life, he would.

    islam at its beginnings did not want converts as they paid less tax than kafir’s. Zakat for believers was much less.

  3. Brogue Heely says:

    Are you a loser,a failed worthless no hoper, an uneducated dimshit, a parasite with no interest in doing anything constructive, a self loathing hate mongering piece of trash? Then become an islamofacist thug.

  4. Maggie says:

    Quote: “Abdisaid Abdi Ismail set out to show that ‘Islam is the religion of humanity and mercy, and it values above all the life of human beings’.”

    Even Sisyphus would have known to give up on that task.

  5. Newspaniard says:

    Should I build my bomb shelter now? The invasion is well under way, the police know better than to prosecute. The politicians are converting to islam or paying jizya or just bending over with their trousers around their ankles. No point in going to another country, the islamic cancer is world-wide. Ho Hum.

  6. Har Davids says:

    A brave, but naive man, who should realize there is no valid argument for the existense of Islam (or any other religion). It doesn’t seem to bring out the best in us, and what’s the use of the watered-down versions?

  7. Vanity Unfair says:

    “What we need are secular states where there is democracy, justice and equality for all. Not theocratic ones where leaders rule by the name of God.”
    I suppose, though, that the trouble starts when the latter faction takes advantage of the former’s tolerance in order to make ever-increasing demands for recognition while, simultaneously, enforcing on its own adherents unthinking obedience to the minutiae of the only true religion (TM). The next step is to forbid escape from the religion under the threat of dire punishment yet encourage those from the other camp to join, often with unrealistic promises of benefits.
    Any interference is then portrayed as an unjustified and illegal interference with the freedom to practise the only true religion.

  8. gedediah says:

    How did he not see that coming? Naive indeed! Religions are belief systems with built in defence mechanisms. He just triggered one right there.

  9. John the Drunkard says:

    “When islam first began there was never any desire to convert people (who had been conquered by the sword).”
    Admittedly, the ‘no coercion’ line meant that actual belief wasn’t required, just complete obedience and protection payments in return for the privilege of not being killed.

    The most sanguine, Karen ArmstrongGuardian/Kumbaya singing interpretation must balk at the idea that the millions who suffered conquest in the first wave of Islamic imperialism actually ‘converted’ to a religion they had never heard of, in a language they couldn’t speak.

  10. Paul Cook says:

    @john the drunkard

    yes that is correct according to historical sources. Armstrong herself refers to this. I am not saying forced conversions did not occur, they did. But to begin with the Arabs took islam simply to conquer, and could not afford the lower (converted) zakat (tax) and kept the higher rates for subjects in their expanding empire.
    I do agree that under Ottoman rule forced conversion did occur and maybe about one million (christain) boys were taken and forced to convert, to make the Ottoman Janissary Coprs.

    I also agree with you about Armstrong, although I would have to say she is a great apologist for islam, probably because if she weren’t she’d be killed.

    One of her best lines is this:
    “Islam is a realistic and practical faith, which does not normally encourage the spirit of martyrdom or the taking of pointless risks. ”

    That bit seems lost on too many.