A Liberal Argument For Screening Muslim Immigrants and Rejecting Many

We need Muslims. But many are too dangerous to let in. They’re too dangerous even in the nations where they are now. And it is a group issue, not just a matter of a few bad apples or of identifying who is misbehaving. We can flip the presumption of innocence and require potential immigrants to prove that they’re acceptable to us or they can’t come in.

But — spoiler alert — one bottom line is worth jumping to: While President Trump had authority under international law to exclude Muslims, President Obama oversaw a good enough system of vetting, so Trump did not need to exclude more, and it harmed the United States to try.

Promoting in the U.S. a positive image of worldwide Islam and Muslims is fine. Muslims can bring valuable perspectives and productive energy to the U.S., Muslims can make a positive contribution to the U.S. and thence to the world, many already do, we want more of everyone worldwide to do so, and we want more Muslims worldwide to do so. It helps the U.S. and we’re ready to pay them what they earn for helping us.

Still, we have to cope with crime and war.

Crime by anyone is subject to law enforcement. War by anyone is subject to peace enforcement. Faith doesn’t matter. Whenever a criminal or a war belligerent comes to our attention, we can attend to that person and their act with equal swiftness, equal certainty, and equal success. But many criminals and belligerents don’t announce themselves or their acts and we have to detect them and build our cases. We, as a society, have to use good advance information to predict where we will find criminals and belligerents. That information may not be consistent or of very high quality, but that’s not reason to do nothing about present dangers. If a house has bad electrical wiring and therefore a vital risk of fire, the fact that we know nothing about any other house is irrelevant to whether to do something about the house with the known risk. There are criminals and belligerents of faiths other than Islam and whose reasons are the same or other than those described here and preventing and stopping them is needed, but understanding the danger that’s described here is vital to our protection.

We need to secure ourselves. We need to help other nations facing the same problem solve it, for those nations’ sake if they want it, but also so it doesn’t come from their nations into ours. While Islam can be preserved, the harmful drive for purity, including the slaughters, must be curbed. It must be stopped for our safety, including the safety of most Muslims. It must be stopped so the world can grow a good chance at developing long, diverse, and accomplished lives.

This does not seem to be a problem limited to a few extremists, a few religious leaders, or a small sect or two. To say that some Muslims twist the faith’s teachings into something not Islamic is lame, if Islam has become what most members of the faith believe it is. Whether the Qur’an and the Hadith teach or support this or don’t, what matters for our safety and progress is what enough Muslims think Islam supports in modern times, and that’s definitely dangerous.

Triple Thump

Three characteristics combine to make their danger unique. Separately, no single one of them matters much. Together, they create a monstrous threat.

Popular belief in deadly violence to force people into the faith community, to adhere to its practices of the faith community, and to stay in it is widespread among Muslims. Many other Muslims oppose deadly force for conversion into the faith but, nonetheless, enough practice it and departure from Islam is treated by enough as ground for killing the departing persons so that frequent application or threat of deadly force is the responsibility of the faith community. All of the more populous faiths have people with similar beliefs; but such people are not as common within their respective communities and, because of their low numbers and percentages, they tend to be limited in their reach. The lower-population faith communities may have people with similar beliefs, too; some communities definitely do. But those communities are, in fact, smaller and thence, as a percentage of the world, less effectual. Not so with Islam.

The sheer size of the Muslim faith community, being one of the largest in the world, makes even a fairly small minority dangerous. In some nations, almost all human beings are Muslims. Because someone planning something that would likely be vigorously objected to tends to look for support and protection within their own faith community (or family, ethnicity, gender, or some such), the faith community being large provides access to many more potential helpers. The largeness or national near-universality, or both, of the potentially supportive community often makes the difference in making a large project or many similar projects successful. The result is large-scale effects outside of the faith community, especially in other faith-defined (including allegedly faithless) communities. That means that almost all of the rest of us are in danger, either mortal danger or in danger of denial of aspirations and efforts in order not to be in mortal danger. Lessening the danger requires reducing how many people believe these harmful practices are good for them, reducing in any nation to nearly zero, so there would be too few to plan and execute according to these beliefs. That’s difficult. We probably don’t even have a way to get there.

The globalism of the Muslim mission to bring people into Islam and keep them appears to recognize no national boundaries. Some religious communities want dominance within a nation or several nations, or within their home community, while, elsewhere, not pursuing any notion that, while alive on Earth, they should bring all other communities into their faith despite opposition. Muslims, even nonviolent ones, tend to have a globalist view of who should convert to Islam and stay in it.

The Muslim faith community, because of belief, size, and globalism combined, is unique. With only one of these characteristics, we’d be safe. With all three present, we’re in mortal danger over time.

Immigration as Positive

Yes, It Is

Some Muslims come to developed nations that are not majority Muslim because of desires to participate in existing societies or because of contributions they can offer that do not require destruction of non-Muslims. Some come because they have been victimized too much in their old nations (perhaps because of discrimination of a kind we discourage or outlaw here), want to change their surroundings, and will try to be welcome here; and often that means they’ll contribute to their new nation.

But others come because they view all societies as simply addresses at which Islam can be reinforced or non-Muslims can be converted, and where not much else matters. If, to them, the ends justify the means, some will lie to gain entry and practice their bloodless craft.

We need to preclude the inhumane. We need to welcome the prospective contributors to the future we want.


If you’re likely to help invent the next cure for a disease, design the next transportation marvel, discover a black hole near Mars, create the next music that packs people into stadiums, or win the Nobel in economics, we need you. If you’re coming here for refuge as an asylee, officers will be interviewing you and looking into you more closely, so you’re not likely to turn anyone’s neck into machete juice; so, if you need refugee status, please apply. And we need you if you’re going to drive a taxi and put your kid into college where any of these achievements are likely, whether the kid does it in America or elsewhere in the world. Want to sell halal lunch from a cart? We’ve got plenty of customers to help you pay the tuition. If someone in your family wants to do this and you’re that person’s close supporter, you’ll likely be helpful, so, yes, you’re welcome to come help your family. Come on over. We’ll leave the light on for you. And if you tell us you pray five times a day, I’m like, where do you want us to build your mosque?

Stagnation slows any nation down. Sometimes, fresh blood helps. Refugees often provide exactly that. So do people from broken families and people who’ve suffered traumas, and they’re sort of like refugees in seeking somewhere more tolerable and in overcoming barriers that hold others back. When a refugee can select a destination, even internationally, compatibility is likelier. Nations can identify where fresh blood would be most productive, and especially welcome; maybe they can turn a desert into farmland or fill a city’s vacant homes. Colleges and universities often prefer applicants who have struggled to achieve because then they’ll meet academic challenges. Americans, including entrepreneurs and institutions, private and public, seeking solutions to problems hire many people who have gone through difficulties, including difficulties of discrimination, because they’ve overcome some barriers and likely will help their employers and colleagues solve more problems and discover and invent all over the place. People born into a society and raised by it often cultivate multiple interests and have less time for anything else; often they leave niches for new arrivals to fill. No nation can take every refugee; but we can absorb many.

We want you here. I’d like you anywhere in the world where you could produce, but I hope we have what you’re looking for in your intellectual and creative pursuits. Come.


The other side of the argument is probably generations old. In France, a large Muslim community is suffering high unemployment0a and has apparently many members who believe in strict enforcement of Muslim standards, even to the point of enforcement being deadly. The government has, it is said, required the recording of sermons and imposed other systems of monitoring that may be more intense than those usually instituted in the U.S.

Low employment may be due to invidious discrimination because of national origin or choice of faith, and invidious discrimination, especially that based on circumstances the person in question cannot control, mainly those of birth, should not be a ground in employment decisions.

But it may also be due to underqualification, such as undereducation, of many Muslims. Among new immigrants from developing nations and among people emerging from domestic constraints due to adverse discrimination, underqualification is common. But often that afflicts the second and third generations much less.

It can be worse. I don’t know if it is, but a possibility is that some mentors, such as some imams, are persuading some Muslims that tradition holds more value than does modernity, especially religious tradition vs. Earthly modernism, not because what is modern must be tested for validity and the testing would take time and other resources but because, regardless of testing, what is modern can never be trusted. The result may be that for generations education among followers of tradition against anything modern is limited to what is embraced within tradition, and that would produce underqualification of most of the undereducated graduates so that employers competing in the modern world can’t be competitive using their services and don’t want to hire them. The graduates can still be laborers; but only so many laborers are needed, while people with more advanced skills are also needed, those advanced skills are not taught to some Muslims, and that can result in severe underemployment.

The people who would be mentors discouraging modern education should be discouraged from entering nations and retarding national education, even if they do so only among Muslims. We want Muslims, like other people, to have access to the best education.

Pre-Trump Screening Worked

President Trump had wanted to tighten the vetting of Muslim immigrants. But I don’t think our personal and national security requires it to be tighter. The screening in place before Trump was elected in appears to have been sufficient. News reports generally describe attempts at terrorism or asymmetrical warfare by immigrant Muslims as rare. In part, that may be due to efforts to prevent or interfere with such attempts; the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said it “is investigating suspected HVEs [“Homegrown Violent Extremists” (i.e., “global-jihad-inspired individuals who are based in the U.S., have been radicalized primarily in the U.S., and are not directly collaborating with a foreign terrorist organization”)] in every state.”1

One study, authored by a professor and journalist and by three coauthors, said “the United States today is a hard target for foreign terrorist organizations, which have not directed and carried out a successful deadly attack in the country since .”2 The study said that, of individuals and small groups (like pairs) who were charged or who died and were reported as likely suspects, there were 469 individuals after , through ,3 and, with the 469, subtracting U.S. citizens and permanent residents left only 73 individuals, the 73 being those whose statuses were unknown, who were here on nonimmigrant visas or were eligible for visa-free travel, or who were refugees, asylum seekers, or illegal immigrants.4 While the date range underlying these statistics included nearly two and a half years of the Trump Presidency, only 60 of the 469 cases occurred in or later.5 The number of cases occurring since President Trump’s inauguration through the end of the study period is approximately proportionate for the length of the full study period, arguably slightly higher under Trump but not significantly so (12.79% vs. 12.55%). It would be possible to reanalyze the data at these URLs to disaggregate post–Obama events, charges, and suspects’ deaths and someone may have the time to do so.

The Cato Institute said, “[f]rom through the end of , 9 Americans have been murdered in attacks committed on U.S. soil by 20 foreign-born terrorists who entered illegally or as asylees.”6

Nor is this lesser level limited to terroristic acts. One study in ca. of honor killings in the United States estimated only 23 to 27 a year,7 and, in a population of over 300,000,000,8 that’s rare.

Why We Are Who We Are


Every nation has its most vital principles, its reason why anyone would help build the nation and keep it. It’s a lot of work and you don’t break your back over it merely because you happen to exist. And every nation is likely unique in its choice of principles.

Economics and politics are only part of the principles, but they’re everywhere.

You have to eat. Somehow, you try to meet that need. You try that through economics.

You have to have power within your community, which may be just two people or trillions of humans and other living beings. Even if you have less than anyone else, you have to have some in order to exert an economic possibility; or you die. Communities allocate power through politics.

We could debate whether a particular economic or political activity is necessary. For example, one could decide that one needs to collect enough food to eat today; or one could decide that one needs to collect enough food to eat all this week, even if there’s no likelihood of a shortage tomorrow, because you may need some margin in case of a future famine. But, with or without a margin, some minimum of economic and political activity is necessary.

After the Core

People, however, tend to be interested in more than economics and politics. And, at various points, various people decide they are adequately meeting their economic and political needs. When they do, they usually put their personal energy into other pursuits. Maybe they work 40 hours a week and sleep 8 hours a night. That would leave 72 hours a week for who-knows-what. That’s a huge hole to fill.

Choices abound: Religion, art, scholarship, contemplation, procreation, child-raising, tinkering, recreation, and doing nothing are all possibilities. A nation can become an economic powerhouse, an academic center of curiosity and world-renowned discovery, the center of the universe for a single religion’s certainty and secret questions, a safe haven for persecuted refugees, a comfortable spa for relaxing, or a quiet retreat for deep thought. And some have. Saudi Arabia may place greater emphasis on a named religion than Viet Nam does. Canada makes one set of choices; Israel, another; both do okay.

Pursuits may be critiqued by insiders and outsiders for their purity, with highlighting of impurities in how any pursuit is practiced. However, if purity depends on insulation from economics and politics, no pursuit can be pure. Compromise is necessary, but some practitioners can be closer to purity by distancing themselves more from economics and politics, such as by needing less economic and political support and therefore by devoting less time and energy to economic and political fulfillment.

Qualities also can be chosen.

How deeply people can challenge current knowledge without asking permission is one. Faithfulness tends to block those challenges. Intellection encourages challenges. Both make mistakes; tradition tends to preserve old stupidities while efforts at discovery and invention tend to introduce new stupidities. But onlookers find enough successes in both so that neither approach completely falls apart. The faithful usually find that faith still serves them well, and they override the mistakes they encounter. We know the faithful largely accept their faiths because religion has not lost much popularity through generations of birth, population growth, and some nations’ efforts to ban it. The inventors and discoverers make more mistakes than successes, but the successes are big enough that they pay for the many mistakes, and society likes the net gain. A society can choose between prioritizing faith adherence and prioritizing intellectual exploration, and can choose in degrees.

Forbidding greed or taking advantage of it is another choice, and also available in degrees. Greed can be leveraged to reward achievement by allowing personal gain from someone else’s appreciation, including profit, even large profit. It encourages more achievements and finances more efforts. Among people who want profits, profits can be increased by agreeing on media of exchange and prioritizing capital flows. Those can be done by building institutions and systems of communication, education, and law. That most notably would encourage commerce between strangers who otherwise would have little or no contact, like those at great distances, by creating systems all parties nonetheless trust. Rewarding greed, when done well, boosts discovery and invention and cultivates a nation’s economy.

The other side is partly that increased reliance on greed and economic reward can induce more players to enter and thus toughen competition for the same potential profits, but at the risk of people who face tougher competition failing. That risk can lead to enmity, even deadly enmity, between people who usually should cooperate in order to survive. If they can no longer support themselves, they must either change, die, or be taken care of.

A society could try to be entirely anti-greed, but I doubt it would go all the way. Even an anti-greed society might still leverage greed by certain institutions, such as popular religious recipients, or might define the recipients’ desire as not greed because it’s politically acceptable for them to receive large amounts.

These reward systems are slow to develop, even if one can copy a model already in use, because they can be hard to understand and apply. At a basic level, a society can decide if greed, or some greed, is manageable and worth supporting.

These aren’t the only selectable pursuits and qualities.

Fulfilling Everything

Given these choices, people, and therefore a society, can then organize a unique society around its agreed-upon aspirations and then do its best to fulfill all its goals. It can change when it wants (or has to) and it can act on its latest decisions. And Muslims, like other people, can decide where they’d rather live. If the U.S. attracts some Muslims and we agree, that’s fantastic.

Political Participation by Muslim Purists

Muslim immigrants don’t have to agree with everything American. Americans from generations born American don’t agree with everything American. Many Muslim immigrants may still oppose women driving cars, people marrying in the same sex or eating pork, or atheism and Christianity, so why should we let them enter just because they want to clean up greenhouse gases? Because we both gain.

Take a bad example. Some Muslims in the U.S. have objected to police surveillance of mosques, perhaps because the insincerity of surveillants’ Muslim practice pollutes and violates worship by everyone else and this is un-Islamic. But this at least borders on a call for sanctuary not granted to houses of worship for any faith community in U.S. If a Cosa Nostra Mafia member who’s a life-long more-or-less devout Roman Catholic burglarizes a store or murders someone, they don’t get sanctuary from the police by hiding in a church. The church is likely to hand them over to the police officer and thank the police.

But, yet, Muslims can protest news coverage and lobby Congress for Islamist goals. They can protest and lobby because America is good at discouraging everyone from swinging machetes through necks. The Muslim immigrants learn that they can speak their voices to live people instead of throwing stones at live heads. They probably won’t achieve some of their more medieval goals by lobbying and protesting; but they’ll learn which goals are achievable because those are goals on which more non-Muslims also agree, that being part of democracy. They may also, perhaps over a couple of generations, discover that they can be world-class architects while in a team with atheists and Sunday worshippers who are in same-sex marriages and raising children enjoying ham sandwiches while women drive Indy 500 machines screaming across the finish line,9 some of the architect’s team members specializing in lighting and water recycling, leading us, through their combined efforts, to usng our space better and more safely. During the two generations that it may take, while the progress is gradual, it still is progress. And, likely, some of the solutions these people create will be exported to nations, Muslim and otherwise, that find them beneficial.

This gets the Muslims out of nations where daggers are used to dice body organs, which we can say is objectively worse than begging Congress to go backward in time. We’ll have helped the world community, even if doing so leaves some overseas Islam purists wishing they could blow something up.

Far Away

Thousands of miles away and an ocean apart: That seems to give us safety. And it does, to a degree. Granted, Osama bin Laden dramatically showed us that distance may not matter and lots of other Muslims (and non-Muslims) have found American targets without coming here. But, still, an ocean is a barrier, as World War II demonstrated. World War II was its deadliest mostly outside the U.S.

But transportation for individuals and families is available and Muslims, like all sorts of other people, ask to visit and live here and establish themselves here. That’s when we need to know if their plans are helpful or hostile. Apply for a job and your work history becomes relevant. Try to rent an apartment and the new landlord wants to know if you get drunk and punch holes through walls. We can ask an immigrant what their life was like where they came from. Maybe we’ll be sympathetic to hard times. But also we need to know about the red flags that tip us off to what we may expect.

Danger far away may become danger near us.

Whether We Misunderstand Islam


We hear the gentle side of Islam. We hear it describing itself as a peaceful religion, and we hope that means mutual acceptance. It might not. In World War II, the Allies and the Axis Powers both battled to enforce peace, but incompatible kinds of peace: the Allies won and enforced peace on Allies’ terms, and I’m glad; had the Axis Powers won, they would have enforced peace on Axis Powers’ terms, and I’m glad they didn’t. World War II was not peacekeeping but peace enforcement, and Muslims seeking religious purity may be seeking peace enforcement on Islamist terms.

News reports, some of which are referenced below, suggest phenomena akin to small wars already going on, in partial descriptions of events. Someone in community A seriously harms someone in community B. A police-type response from community B would be to identify the perpetrator/s in community A and isolate and punish them, but sometimes that’s too difficult and yet punishment is demanded. So, community B responds by seriously harming people in community A even if the people thus harmed were not themselves responsible for the initial attack. That’s a war-like response, more typical of military methods than of police methods. The people harmed in community A reply that they’re innocent of the initial attack, and they’re likely right. But both sides, both communities, accept the principle of a community punishing another even if individual perpetrators are unknown to opponents and thus those individuals escape punishment. The rationale for community punishment is that it tends to induce community members to constrain the behavior of other members of their own community. It may appear to Muslims that being faithful to original sources makes a Muslim community relatively immune to interpersonal pressure against Islamic teachings while relatively secular-democratic societies are inherently weak and thus susceptible to corresponding pressure to accept Muslim direction, but that is likely a fatally flawed comparison. On a larger scale, in World War II each side bombed cities, including civilians, in pursuit of war aims, including surrender; and, eventually, one side surrendered. In that way, peace was achieved and enforced where World War II had been waged. Perhaps that is what some Muslims seek against other faith communities by engaging in community-on-community attacks. Perhaps that is the peace these Muslims seek, a peace entirely on Islamist terms.

Softer Side

Sufism is gentle. Members present that way and I don’t know of an exception. It’s nice when a spokester reminds us that the Sufi tradition is part of Islam and describes it. She’s likely right.

And many Sunni and many Shia likewise are glad to be with people who have other faiths, even when they don’t have to. We’ve confirmed in at least one poll that very many Muslims believe in tolerance for people of other faiths, especially faiths “of the book” (Christianity and Judaism sharing with Islam) but even of other faiths. Many practice it, too.

The more compatible Muslims may front for the less compatible. But, if fronting is not intentional, we shouldn’t drive the more compatible ones away. If we do, we harm ourselves, by driving away people who can and want to be part of expanding our good work. We need to neutralize the intentional fronters, the people who deliberately try (though nicely) to open doors for those who would harm us, including those who would harm our Muslim partners.

Other Faiths Compared

Every major faith community has its over-zealots who believe that everyone should convert to their faith, that nonbelievers should be killed to achieve unanimity of belief, and that secular education should be limited to that which is accepted by their theologies, preserving the leadership of religious leaders at the expense of limiting intellect to content approved by religious leaders and science to the ancient. Many Christians believe that Jews should convert or become dead.10 Catholics,10a Buddhists,10b and Jews10c all include over-zealots with excessive commitments in mind for nonmembers.

The major differences are in the numbers of over-zealots and what they’re willing to do now in the secular world. The Christians who believe Jews should be dead believe that will happen at the second coming of Jesus Christ and the second coming has been awaited for some two thousand years, so it’s not likely to be within the natural lifetime of any Jew living today, and I guess most Jews agree on the unlikelihood. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that the end of the world is coming in a few years and want conversions now, but they don’t chop heads off the disagreeing. Instead, from what I’ve noticed, they reinvestigate the coming end-of-the-world date and find that it’ll be a little later than they had thought, with a new update every few years or so. Orthodox Jews reportedly shun members of their own communities whom they consider insufficiently adherent, such as if they object to the ratio of religious to secular education in their schools for their children, but the ones offended by the objections don’t kill the objectors, and the objectors are free to leave with their children and live in other Jewish and non-Jewish communities (if not the Orthodox Jewish communities). I don’t appprove of the shunning or of a social need to move and I disagree with secular undereducation, but at least those who disagree stay alive. By contrast, too many Muslims support murder of people who disagree now.

I looked for similar attitudinal acceptance among members of other faiths, such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism, especially where members of any of these faith communities are not in widespread interaction with Muslim neighbors but are in widespread interaction with faiths other than their own. My first impression is that where some faiths are in widespread contact with Muslims and Muslims tend to be violent towards members of the given non-Islamic faith the non-Islamic faiths’ members may have views on relevant violence similar to those of their Muslim neighbors and with similar popularity, but if few Muslims are their neighbors the support for violence on the relevant grounds is lower. If so, this leads me to wonder if Muslims are instigating the other faiths’ support for violence against Muslims, even where the result is the death of innocent Muslims because they’re basically at low-technology war against each other, war because finding and punishing an individual perpetrator is either impossible or too expensive to be effective. If I’m wrong, and maybe I am, please find sources similar to those cited here that support any disagreement. It’s likely important.

The Nation of Islam, a U.S. organization of African Americans, does not seem to be a source of murder based on Islam. The organization has been associated with murder, but I have not heard of that being said against it in years. That it may want some U.S. States to be put under African American governance is beyond the scope of this research, because that political desire is not a call for murder or an act of murder.

In any given faith community, the numbers matter. Even if the over-zealots are secretive and sneaky in their methods, the illegality and public lack of sympathy mean that doing what they want to do and doing it on a large scale will require a lot of support from a lot of people who may oppose the ends or what they see. That support is mostly absent. In most faiths, the over-zealots can’t do much. If they try, they tend to get stopped, arrested, or killed without martyrdom.

Terrorism of the most dramatic varieties is practiced only by small numbers of people, but the common everyday practices supporting or allowing asymmetrical warfare, terrorism, may be more concerning. If the common practices are by small numbers of people, arresting them is feasible. But if the common practices are by large numbers of people, a tactic of arresting will likely overwhelm law enforcement and another solution will be needed.

Secular Domestic Terrorism

Some deadly violence comes from domestic sources, and it, too, needs to be suppressed. Whether it comes from fringe politics (lately right-wing and, decades ago, left-wing) or from economics (much from organized crime) matters less than that it is unacceptable to society. Domestically, human conduct that is beyond the pale should be deterred regardless of whether it is religiously inspired; but neither should a religious inspiration be ignored. Internationally, we can vet for all of these risks.

Islamophobia and Response

And, on the other side, Islamist nations are not border-to-border asylums for unstable psychotics, waiting for triage and pep talks by good doctors.

In the word Islamophobia, -phobia implies a psychological problem, whereas I don’t consider it a mental illness but a choice. It doesn’t need psychological treatment with drugs, medical procedures, or a good long talking-to. Islamophobia in that sense is mainly nonexistent.

In the U.S., where Christians form a supermajority of the citizenry, opposition to domestic Islam comes partly from a belief that everyone should be Christian and therefore that Islam is wrong and therefore that Muslims are wrong in their religion. That’s wrong. It puts faith above question, experiment, discovery, invention, democracy, and development.

But we are right to fear what the Muslim faith community, composed of human beings with a widespread drive to fulfill its goals for Islam and the means, is empirically willing to do to most of the rest of us.

Our need to destroy Islamophobia, as a misdirected fear, is not a reason to leave ourselves open to the murderous tendencies that are being practiced in a large part of the Muslim faith community. We don’t have to wait until after large numbers of us are harmed. Death is not the only harm. Democracy being turned into a one-time trapdoor to establish a kingdom would harm us, as inheritable publicly-uncriticizable kingdoms deserve to be overthrown as failing to meet our needs, best determined and redetermined by the public. Deprivation of educational opportunities that contribute to scholarship can turn our society into relative morons. The long-range consequences are hard to reverse and trying is slow. Libraries and universities are not built in a day.

Islamophobia cannot be why we restrain danger. We have to make ourselves safe and keep ourselves safe while welcoming a safe Islam.

Scope of This Examination

Here I study popular belief among Muslims and governmental action, such as national and provincial laws and action by masses and substantial organizations, and inaction, such as failure to enforce laws in nations with substantial Muslim populations.

Even if just one individual committed a given act and I would have ignored it for this article, if many people chose to help it or to approve of it then I was more likely to include it here. This is showing Muslims acting to a degree and on a scale as to be a slow existential threat to the non-Muslim population of the world.

Recent reports are more important than older ones. I generally stayed within the last ten years. Older reports face the increasing possibility of reforms having resolved older practices, even if past injustices were not remedied.

Journalism, studies of populations, including surveys and polls, and death penalties were the main sources I wanted. Hopefully, the studies rely on scientific method and, hopefully, the journalism is accurate and fair to all parties. I included as journalism reports compiled by interested organizations if I thought them likely fair and accurate, mainly because the organizations would be unlikely to complain about a phenomenon in a place where the organization doesn’t think it’s occurring, as that would distract people from where the problem is to be found.

If a study was covered journalistically, I preferred the study itself. I did not want to fall prey to a reporter’s possible misunderstanding.

There is some risk, as many of the publishers are unknown to me. However, I rely on many sources, enough that, if any sources are unreliable, unreliability of a few should be far outweighed by the reliability of the many others. Because I cite the sources, any reader can review all the sources by any criteria.

Death penalty laws, national and provincial, were included even if not enforced, because, even without enforcement, they generally educate the public about the values of the jurisdiction. An offense for which the penalty may be death is probably one of the worst offenses in the law of the jurisdiction.

What I don’t give much weight to, in this study:

— That other faith communities do similar things, including to Muslims. I think some acts by Buddhists and Hindus are retaliation against Muslims’ acts against Buddhists and Hindus, especially if there was no similar behavior by Buddhists vs. non-Muslims, e.g., Christians10d (there appears to be significant Hindu conduct, including murder, against Christians).10e However, the numbers of non-Muslims willing to do such acts against members of other faith communities seem to be far fewer and individual acts by non-Muslim people with similar motivations, even if all of them are considered together, appear to be much fewer than what Muslims do, and that’s part of my point.

— Contents of authoritative theological texts. For example, Christianity, like maybe most major religions, has some awful content, such as, I’m informed, promotion of incest, rape, slavery, cannibalism, and war. However, parts of those texts likely are widely ignored (or opposed or distractingly reinterpreted) by almost all followers, partly because leaders in their faith communities favor other portions of texts when they minister. One would be hard-pressed to find a minister today who, for example, is in the U.S. South and preaches in favor of slavery and what they might describe as dark-skinned people’s proper station in life (likely many ministers are implicitly racist but probably only a few explicitly argue for slavery, even though Ku Klux Klan members presumably attend Christian services somewhere and presumably find ministers who partly favor some of their views). Two hundred years ago, yes; today, no. I want to apply a standard that is consistent for all faiths. Analyzing religious texts such as the Bible from multiple faiths at once is extraordinarily complicated, especially as it requires evaluating how followers apply the texts, and I don’t have the expertise to credibly try it. That is why I leave textual analysis of the Qur’an and of the Hadith to others. Instead, I want to know what Muslims, where there are many, think and do.

— Pronouncements from theological leaders. Leaders may exhort; but they’re almost always a minority in any large faith community. If their exhortations succeed, then followers will largely agree. That could make exhorted views popular, and the popular views are the subject here.

— Individual stories, those where the wrong was committed by one individual acting mainly alone. While many are reliably reported, individuals are unique. Thus, their cases are easily dismissed as anomalous or outliers who are often unimportant in the larger scale represented by the world of some eight billion people. Individual cases that are so extreme that they are unrepresentative are not useful in developing national policy. Christian history presents a case of an individual whose act was so far beyond the pale that it is not representative of any substantial community: that of Jim Jones, who directed the Jonestown massacre,11 an event so extreme and thus so unusual that any likely policy response to prevent future similar events would likely entail more harm to society, such as by restraining marginally acceptable activities, than it would be worth. Group activity or groups’ laws matter more.

— Opinions, such as in newspaper editorials, op-eds, and columns (other than journalistic columns). If the opinion is popular, it’s likely to be visible by other means, such as in a scientific study of public opinion.

— That some people do the right thing. If 80% oppose killing anyone in the name of Islam, but the other 20% would snarlingly puncture lungs, the four fifths are important to prospects for an agreed peace, but that leaves the one fifth as endangering the rest of us. In many places, just one fifth translates into a million people, maybe more. Regardless of percentage, a million people can do untold and lasting damage.

— Shariah in particular, or belief in Shariah. Some matters related to Shariah are covered for other reasons, and Shariah is a legitimate concern, but I leave the study of Shariah in general to other people.

— Honor killings, for the most part. In principle, even if Islam requires them, being Muslim should be a choice of each individual, and therefore someone susceptible to an honor killing should be able to leave and thereby be safe; and therefore honor killings should be less of a problem. In fact, however, honor killings continue and, reportedly, many females are unable to leave some nations without approval of the people who want to have them killed for the sake of family honor, which requires publicity of the killing, so mere absence of the female would likely be inadequate for familial honor. This is a worthy subject for reporting and analysis; some has been done by other people; I just haven’t done much here.

— Enforcement of norms within a faith subcommunity, such as Sunni or Shia, except for treatment of some as having left Islam. Even if enforcement is especially brutal, offensive to me, and unlawful under national law, most of it is not of concern here because there should be a right to leave the subcommunity without changing one’s physical address even after a decision so to punish and thereby not be subject to such punishment. But if that right effectively does not exist or is reduced by excessive means, that denial is of concern here.

— Teaching of children to be Muslim. Parents worldwide are permitted to set requirements for children to accept, including for faith. Parents worldwide typically accept the help of families, communities, schools, and, among the religious, religious institutions to the same ends. There are issues about others forcing decisions upon children against parental wishes; at least one case is described here; but for the most part counterparental guidance of children, which likely is reported somewhere, is not covered here.

— The spread of Islam or of any belief system under the Muslim rubric, such as Wahhabism. However, I am interested in the spread and attempted spread of Islam by force that is greater than we should expect people to refuse. To say that by converting you can get a better-paying job is one thing. To say that you can leave your head attached to your neck by converting to Islam is another matter and the subject of my concern here. Even if such methods fail to keep or add adherents, the methods are of concern.

— Proselytization bans, especially those legally enforceable by the death penalty. While one such situation, a law, is reported here, forbidding anyone from trying to convert Muslims away from Islam probably should have been covered more extensively.

— War and international political disputes, unless the ground is known to be largely theological. Possibly both sides, and when international definitely both sides, have legal rights, by the norms of international law, of self-defense. An example is the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. These are often about politics with theology present but secondary, while the focus here is on the secular effects of theological perceptions. (An argument can be made for the inclusion of the conflict between Israel and its neighbors, but I don’t think the political issue of a safe homeland or the occupation of someone else’s land (depending on who you ask) is the same as an effort to convert followers of a faith to follow another on threat of death or to enforce adherence to a faith’s holdings. Jews, Israelis, and Zionists are generally not accused of applying these theological directions or killing resisters as gentiles (as Jews might refer to Judaism’s nonmembers).)

— Economic criminal organizations, such as mafias. One that draws its membership largely from one faith community may exempt other followers of its faith from its predation but, on the other hand, may prey especially on those followers. Either way, its primary interest is its own economic gain and not theological, political, or another kind of issue, not even the economic gain of the larger society within which it operates.

I don’t want a more demanding standard against Muslims than against non-Muslims. Otherwise, that would skew the results and be justifiable only by objection to Islam per se. That would essentially approve or ignore what Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and atheists do while disapproving if Muslims do the same thing. Instead, I seek a standard consistent for all people regardless of faith.

I am an atheist. My concern with faith generally is about both the content of various faiths and the blocking of questioning except with human permission (allegedly divine permission but really human permission), and I disagree that such consent should be needed. It is not needed for scholarship, of which we need more.

What is a nation is according to a source cited for the purposes of this article. At least one entity is not a nation but is considered as if it is one for these purposes. Inconsistency in this article on this point is likely due to disagreement among the sources.

Likewise, the name and spelling of a nation, religious sect or text, or other entity is in accord with sources, and thus may be inconsistent in this article.

Surveys may have been of adults while populations are of all ages. Both are unless otherwise noted. However, it’s unlikely that younger children have opinions much different than those of their parents or other major caretakers, except for the children who don’t know, and older children’s views are likely relatively close to those of young adults who are surveyed.

I rounded some percentages to the nearest unit, because the decimal fractions are too trivial for our purposes.

While the content is generally from the recent past, it’s still from the past, and so the more accurate syntactical tense for reporting them is the past tense, and so I generally edited accordingly. However, some passages would be more difficult to read that way, especially with heavy bracketing and ellipsizing, so I generally used or kept the present tense for many of the quotations. As most of what is quoted is recent, major changes in the underlying facts probably have not occurred since.

I did not generally correct or render uniform the syntax and spelling of quoted passages.

I did not use scare quotes (scare quotation marks). All quotation marks are for quotations.

Issues and Evidence

Being Muslim as Requirement


In Indonesia, “the governor of Jakarta, Basuki, Tjahaja Purnama, [“a Christian”] usually known as ‘Ahok’, was sentenced to two years in prison . . . [because of a claim] that Muslims should not be governed by non-Muslims. After pointing out that this was happening, various Islamist groups had called for Ahok’s imprisonment, or even his execution, for ‘blasphemy’.”12 This was not a call for his conversion to Islam but an objection to his being a leader who was not Muslim.


In Iran, where most people are Shia Muslim, “[a]uthorities often prevent Baha’is from leaving the country and ha[ve] . . . disregarded their property rights” and “[s]ome religious leaders state publicly that Baha’is are ‘unclean’ and that conducting business with them is forbidden.”13 “The law authorizes collection of ‘blood money’ or diyeh as restitution to families for the death of Muslims and members of recognized religious minorities. Bahai families, however, are not entitled to receive diyeh. This law also reduces the diyeh for recognized religious minorities and women to half that of a Muslim man.”14

Almost all Iranians, 99.4%, are Muslim, at least nine out of ten are Shia Muslim, the balance Sunni, and some “practice Sufism”.15 “The constitution defines the country as an Islamic republic and designates Ja’afari Shia Islam as the official state religion.”16

United Arab Emirates

In the United Arab Emirates, “[a]ll citizens of the UAE are deemed to be Muslims.”17

Conversions Mainly Into Islam

Conversions here include declarations by governments that people are of a faith even though they did not put themselves into the faith, especially the case with children too young to speak for themselves and whose parents did not choose for the children.

Conversion to Islam by threatening death is apparently accepted by huge numbers of Muslims18 who do not recognize duress18a as nullifying. I have not conducted a systematic search on whether the principle of duress as nullifying is accepted among a significant proportion of the Muslim population, among its leadership, or by governments enforcing laws by which Muslims live in majority-Muslim nations. At the same time, I have not seen evidence that it is accepted. The behaviors that are reported suggest a general lack of that acceptance. It is long accepted in U.S. law as to contracts; threatening to kill someone unless they sign the presented contract generally nullifies the contract. Therefore, knowledge of the principle should have arrived in foreign nations and yet it is apparently not accepted. If it is accepted in some places (without my knowledge), which is certainly possible, there is apparently little or nothing to compel its acceptance elsewhere as to Islam. If so, it is widely acceptable to force a conversion into Islam by threatening murder otherwise and then, if the person who has thus converted fails to adhere to Islamic teachings or chooses to leave the Islamic faith, it is widely acceptable to murder for nonadherence or apostasy despite the earlier duress.

The statistical effect sems unclear. In some nations studied by one organization, conversions into Islam and conversions out of Islam seemed to be approximately equal.19 Other reporting says that one-way conversion patterns were substantial.20


In Indonesia, “[the “faith” of] the Orang Rimba . . . [is] not recognised by the state and, as their forests are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, many are being forced to convert to Islam to survive. . . . [T]he 58 families that make up the Celitai tribe of Orang Rimba converted to Islam. . . . The Islamic Defenders Front - a vigilante group whose leader is facing charges of inciting religious violence - helped facilitate the conversion. . . . Ustad Reyhan, from the Islamic missionary group Hidayatullah, has stayed to make sure the new faith is practised. . . . ‘For now we are focusing on the children. It’s easier to convert them[’.] . . . It’s thought there are about 3,000 Orang Rimba living in central Sumatra. . . . [A] tribe ran to the nearest village to escape [landowners’ land-clearing “fires” and resulting deadly “toxic haze”] and this was where the conversion process started.” “Orang Rimba children had to officially adopt one of the state-recognised religions [limited to “Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism”] to be able to attend school[.]”21


In Pakistan, annually approximately 1,000 Christian and Hindu females were “forced” to convert to Islam with no conversions out of Islam; although the force was not supported in law, Pakistani law enforcement consistently failed in the face of countercharges by abductors and claims by young girls still in abductors’ custody that their conversions and associated marriages were willful; various persons issued official certificates of conversion and openly paid monetary rewards to people who successfully converted people, while news media were, to a degree, complicit while reporting conversions, legislators were divided on a need for reform and no major political parties supported reform, and the judiciary seemed to be tepid.22 One Pakistani legal organization treated conversion by “threat” and that by “force” as different.23 Pakistan as a site of forced conversions of non-Muslims was also reported by a U.S. government agency24 and earlier by a Canadian government agency.25 The Canadian report included this: “In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), a London-based NGO focusing on human rights abuses in Pakistan against Christians and other religious minorities (, para. 1), suggested that abductors ensure the girls’ compliance by threatening to murder their family members or accuse them of blasphemy ().”26GHRD [“Global Human Rights Defence . . . [a] human rights NGO[] based in the Hague”] and HRFP [“Human Rights Focus Pakistan . . . [a] human rights NGO[] based in . . . Faisalabad”] report that abducted girls and women . . . are ‘coerced’ by police and their abductors to testify in court that they converted willingly to Islam . . . .”27 “Every year in Pakistan, several hundred young Christian or Hindu girls are forcibly converted to Islam, and sometimes married off. . . . The growing radicalisation in the country is making life increasingly hard for the 10% of non Muslim Pakistanis - and they have little recourse in the face of violence.”28

Sub-Saharan Africa Including Uganda

In sub-Saharan Africa, 19 nations of which were studied, over a hundred-year period Christianity and Islam together had grown from less than a quarter to over nine tenths of the population, with Islam resulting as the faith of about three tenths of the population, the ratios and relative sizes varying by nation, so that Islam (albeit less than Christianity) had been gaining in membership, with Sunni usually outnumbering Shia.29 Conversions from one of these two faiths to the other was of few people with the net balance being nearly zero, the exception having been Uganda, where conversions between these two faiths favored Christianity.30

Conversion into Islam or Christianity was considered a “duty” by many members of the respective faiths.31


In Nigeria, “[s]ince , Boko Haram [a Muslim organization] has inflicted mass terror on civilians, killing at least 20,000 Nigerians, kidnapping thousands, and displacing nearly two million. Boko Haram has destroyed countless churches, homes, and government buildings in attacks and has forcibly closed many schools. The group has killed and harmed people for being ‘nonbelievers,’ including prominent religious leaders. Some of the most affected are women and girls, who have been abducted and subjected to forced marriage, forced conversion, sexual abuse, and torture.”32 Boko Haram abducted over 270 girls “from the Chibok boarding school in Nigeria” in and claimed to have converted them to Islam. The men of Boko Haram apparently did not premaritally rape them, the reason for not raping being that they wanted to marry them as virgins. Given the kidnappings, the percentage converted, to wit, all of them, and that, according to one teenage girl, “the fighters enjoyed relating how they had whipped and slapped the Chibok girls until they submitted”, the conversions are forced. Boko Haram wanted to create a caliphate in Nigeria.33


ISIL forced Iraqi Yezidis and Christians to convert, pay a 50,000 Dollar ransom or . . . be killed.”34


“The [Malaysian] constitution defines all ethnic Malays as Muslim”.35


In Iraq, “[t]he Sabian Mandaeans . . . . claim that Islamic extremists in Iraq are trying to wipe them out through forced conversions, rape and murder. . . . More than 80% have been forced to flee the country . . . . There are thought to be fewer than 70,000 of the Sabian Mandaeans spread across the world - only 5,000 are left in Iraq. . . . Mandaean elders use words like annihilation and genocide - they believe Islamic militants, both Sunni and Shia, offer them two choices - convert or die.”36

“In Mosul, ISIS fighters reportedly continued to threaten with death local residents who did not convert to Islam.”37 Nationally, “November UNAMI [“UN Assistance Mission for Iraq”] reports listed 3,112 civilian deaths and an additional 4,375 wounded as a result of acts of terrorism, violence, and armed conflict, mostly in Baghdad and in the northern and western provinces. ISIS claimed responsibility for the majority of these bombings.  ISIS continued to target all religious minorities who refused to convert to Islam . . . . ISIS also targeted Sunni civilians who cooperated with the ISF [“Iraqi Security Forces”].”38 “The Yezidi Organization for Documentation again reported cases of rape, forced labor, forced marriage, forced religious conversion, material deprivation, and battery by ISIS.”39 However, it is unclear whether the clause “by ISIS” modifies only “battery” or the whole grammatical object thus including “forced religious conversion”.40

“Civil laws provide a simple process for a non-Muslim to convert to Islam, but conversion by a Muslim to another religion is forbidden by law.”41 “Personal status laws and regulations prohibit the conversion of Muslims to other religions, and require administrative designation of minor children as Muslims if either parent converts to Islam, or if one parent is considered Muslim, even if the child is born as a result of rape.”42 The national identity card must list a child as Muslim even if only one parent is Muslim and even if the child was the product of a rape by a Muslim man (such as an ISIS member) against a non-Muslim woman.43 “According to the KRG [“Kurdistan Regional Government”] Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs director general for Yezidi affairs, since , KRG authorities have funded the rescue from ISIS of more than 3,100 kidnapped Yezidis including 1,735 children . . . . Rescued captives reported being sold multiple times, subjected to forced conversions to Islam, sexual exploitation, and violence.”44 “Yezidi community leaders reported that Yezidi captives of ISIS who were repeatedly raped and bore children were forced to register those children as Muslims and convert to Islam themselves in order to obtain ID cards, passports, and other governmental services. A Yezidi physician who provided psychosocial support services to numerous Yezidi women and children who were survivors of ISIS captivity for more than three years said more than 25 children of ISIS fathers and Yezidi mothers were relinquished by their rescued mothers and given to government authorities. All of those children were listed as Muslim. Christian leaders said, in some cases, Christian families formally registered as Muslim but privately practicing Christianity or another faith were forced to choose to register their child as a Muslim or to have the child remain undocumented, which would affect eligibility for government benefits such as school enrollment and ration card allocation for basic food items, which depends on family size. Larger families with legally registered children received higher allotments than those with undocumented children.”45 “Without an official identity card, non-Muslims and those who convert to faiths other than Islam may not register their marriages, enroll their children in public school, acquire passports, or obtain some government services.”46


In Iran, “a child born to a Muslim father is automatically considered to be Muslim.”47 “Under the law, a child born to a Muslim father is Muslim.” “The only recognized conversions are from another religion to Islam. . . . Any citizen who is not a registered member of one of the[] three groups [“Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians”], or who cannot prove that his or her family was Christian prior to , is considered Muslim.”48

Iranian “authorities classify Yarsanis as Shia Muslims practicing Sufism, although Yarsanis identify Yarsan as a distinct faith”.49 “The government also recognizes Sabean-Mandaeans as Christian, even though the Sabean-Mandaeans do not consider themselves as such.”50


If “a non-Muslim woman . . . marr[ies] . . . a Muslim man, their children are required to be Muslim.”51


In Jordan, “[a]theists must associate themselves with a recognised religion for purposes of official identification on national ID’s [sic] and marriage and birth certificates.”52

“The state registers Druzes as Muslims.”53


In Syria, “the authorities . . . prohibit conversion of Muslims from Islam.”54

United Arab Emirates

In the UAE, the United Arab Emirates, “the law and social attitudes deter conversion from Islam. . . . Conversion to other religions . . . is forbidden and the legal punishment for conversion from Islam is death, although there have been no known prosecutions or legal punishments for apostasy in court.”55

People’s Republic of China

In the People’s Republic of China, which requires atheism of “Chinese Communist Party” members, “[i]n some parts of the country . . . local authorities pressured non-affiliated religious groups to register with one of the five [“Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism”], . . . arbitrarily detaining members until they registered.”56

United States of America

Nearly one in six Muslim-Americans gave as the closest description of jihad that it is “[violent holy war against unbelievers of Islam]”.57

Conversion into One Muslim Sect


Morocco specified “the automatic state designation for citizens as Sunnite Malikite Muslims . . . or Jews . . . .” No other possibilities were available.58


“The Eritrean government only validates four ‘recognized’ religious groups, the Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism, the Evangelical (Lutheran Church) and Sunni Islam.” Other groups, presumably including Shia Islam, have gone unrecognized since despite the constitution. “The application for an exit visa requires a designation of religious affiliation, and members of unregistered religions or no religion require additional permission from the Office of Religious Affairs, which has been reported to . . . arrest applicants on the spot for practicing an unrecognized faith or being non-religious.”59

Adherence to Faith

Establishment of a caliphate was included.

Adherence to Islam was, in some places, required of non-Muslims as well as of Muslims.

Many nations punish blasphemy, insulting Muhammad, and enmity against their deity, including by death. I have not been consistent in listing them. Maybe I should have been, but a right to depart from the faith community should satisfactorily resolve adherence issues, so a refusal to allow departures (generally by apostasy) is generally the more important issue.

Circumcising of sons and daughters includes female genital cutting (also called female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision). Circumcision is widely practiced in largely Muslim nations on both genders. However, I am not covering that here because, while it is associated with theology, the practice on males has often been defended on health grounds and the practice on females has often been described as predating Islam and then being cloaked in Islam. One could argue that cooptation by many Muslims simply adds to the danger those many Muslims present, but if they don’t generally claim that Islam requires the practices then reporting it clouds this issue, although I’m glad that circumcision is the subject of reporting elsewhere.

Killing for adultery is included partly because it is based on an act of sex between two people not married to each other (presumably sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, if one of the actors being a minor might be another offense) under circumstances in which the female migrating to a safer nation, either in anticipation of the act as likely to come soon or of the attempted act or soon enough after the act for safety, may not be possible. If the woman is not married or if she is married but to someone else and she does not reveal anything about the sex act, he still may reveal it so that word travels and she has to confront the report; if she denies it, she, reportedly, is unlikely to be believed, resulting in a claim that she committed adultery (or the equivalent if she was unmarried at the time, probably prostitution). If she reports it as consensual, that is adultery (or the equivalent if she was unmarried at the time, probably prostitution). If she reports it as rape, this is subject to proof, but reportedly the proof required includes the testimony of four honorable men who witnessed what was allegedly the rape and the men being honorable requires that they were physically unable to prevent or stop the rape and that they were so unable because, for example, they had been tied up with rope before the rape began and until after it was over; and this does not prevent any of the four men from being threatened, perhaps against the safety of their own families, so that one or more do not testify, important because apparently three adult male witnesses would not be enough. If the rape is not proven, then she will likely be held guilty of adultery. One source said, “[a]dultery is very difficult to be proved based on the conditions stipulated in the Shari’a. However, these conditions are rarely enforced; . . . [many] cases . . . have shown that there is usually very little evidence to support adultery convictions (either in courts of law or in extra-judicial arenas).”60 The family will often believe that she committed adultery and that the family has been dishonored by her adultery. If she is not killed by state action, she will, in many places, likely be killed by someone in her family or someone else acting without state direction.


In Indonesia, “[n]early 20 percent of high school and university students . . . support the establishment of a caliphate in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country over the current secular government . . . . Nearly one in four students said they were, to varying degrees, ready to wage jihad to achieve a caliphate.” “The survey . . . polled . . . Muslim students, mostly in top schools and universities on Java island, home to over half the country’s population. . . . Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a largely peaceful organization . . . call[ed] . . . for the establishment of a caliphate in Indonesia . . . [until it] was . . . disbanded . . . [by a government order meant to preserve national secularism].”61

“[S]toning people who commit adultery” is “[f]avor[ed]” by 39–45% of Muslims.62 “In the Aceh Province of Indonesia, stoning is a sanctioned form of punishment. In , a law passed unanimously by lawmakers in the conservative province stipulated that adulterers should be stoned to death.”63


In Malaysia, “stoning people who commit adultery” is “[f]avor[ed]” by 50–58% of Muslims.64


In Brunei, in , new Sharia laws were enacted; included was that adultery comes under the death penalty.65 “Brunei has backtracked on enforcing laws introduced . . . [in ,] that would have made . . . [certain offenses] punishable by stoning to death. . . . Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah . . . [in ,] extended a moratorium on the death penalty to cover the new legislation. . . . While saying that a moratorium on the death penalty would be applied . . . he also defended the new rules, saying their ‘merit’ would become clear. . . . Muslims make up about two-thirds of the country’s population of 420,000. . . . The small South-East Asian nation first introduced Sharia law in , giving it a dual legal system with both Sharia and Common Law.”66


In Thailand, limited to five southern provinces and with the interviewees overrepresenting women, “stoning people who commit adultery” is “[f]avor[ed]” by 38–51% of Muslims.67


“In . . . Iran, . . . stonings [for “honor killings”] are legal and widespread . . . . If accused of adultery, . . . [“men”] may have the means to either hire lawyers or flee. But those options are frequently closed to women.”68 “Iran has the world’s highest rate of execution by stoning. No one knows how many people have been stoned but at least 11 people are in prison under sentence of stoning, according to an Iranian human rights lawyer, Shadi Sadr. . . . Sadr, who has represented five people sentenced to stoning, said Iran carried out stonings in secret in prisons, in the desert or very early in the morning in cemeteries. . . . Officials withdrew stoning from a new draft penal code last year [i.e., ], but have since reinserted it. . . . People sentenced to stoning in Iran are partially buried. If they can escape they are spared. But women are customarily buried up to their chests while men are only buried up to their waists. . . . It is not clear why, in . . . [one] case, the tribal court should have justified stoning as a punishment for owning a mobile phone.”69 “According to . . . the Islamic Penal Code, ‘men shall be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the execution’. . . . [The Code] outlines the kind of stones to be used: ‘the stones used should not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones (pebbles).’ . . . It is meant to be a slow and painful death; one of the harshest penalties a person could endure. Shockingly, however, this sentence is often issued not on the basis of testimony or confession, but instead on the judges ‘knowledge’ or ‘intuition’. . . .”70

“[T]he [Iranian] government maintained a legal interpretation of Islam that required citizens of all faiths to follow strict rules based on the government’s interpretation of Shia jurisprudence, creating differentiation under the law between the rights granted to men and women. The government continued to enforce gender segregation and discrimination throughout the country without regard to religious affiliation.”71

“The [Iranian] government continued to require women of all religious groups to adhere to ‘Islamic dress’ standards in public, including covering their hair and fully covering their bodies in loose clothing – a manteau (overcoat) and a rousari (headscarf) or, alternatively, a chador (full body length semicircle of fabric worn over both the head and clothes). Although the government at times eased enforcement of rules for such dress, it also punished ‘un-Islamic dress’ with arrests, lashings, fines, and dismissal from employment.”72


Iraq’s “High Commission for Human Rights reported cases of ISIS killing women for not wearing an abaya.”73 This, however, is unclear as a religious issue, unless wearing the abaya is not only common in Muslim nations but is popularly believed to be or by secular law required as a theological duty in one nation or a substantial part of one nation. By contrast, the following is somewhat clearer as a religious issue: “In Mosul, ISIS fighters . . . . continued to punish those who failed to adhere to the group’s strict interpretation of sharia. ISIS continued to impose severe restrictions on women’s movement and dress, and enforcement patrols by ISIS forces were reportedly routine.”74

“[S]toning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 51–63% of Muslims.75 “‘[U]nder the Kurdish and Iraqi governments, power is ultimately ceded to the tribes, whose culture of honor killing is implicitly condoned. . . . [F]ew perpetrators are punished either for murder or for aiding and abetting murder..’ . . . . According to the Iranian and Kurdish Women Organisation (IKWRO), in Iraq ‘dozens of girls and women are killed every month because the Kurdish government and politicians in power do not care about the lives and deaths of girls, perpetuating the culture of “honour killings”.’ . . . . [Sic.] ‘Tribal Kurdish culture is shown by the reliance of many Kurds on komelayati, a structure run by elderly, religious, political and tribal representatives who hear disputes to achieve reconciliation (solih). As their structure suggests, they are deeply patriarchal and . . . they may . . . call for “honour” killings to be carried out.’ . . . .” (Sic.)76


In Pakistan, “[b]lasphemy laws carry the death penalty or life in prison, and tend to target non-believers, religious minorities and dissenting Muslims. . . . [T]hose accused of blasphemy are often murdered before or after any trial takes place”.77

“[S]toning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 80–92% of Muslims.78 Reportedly, 943 women were killed in honor killings in and 869 more in ; some males were also killed and killing was not always by stoning.79 In one killing, “[n]early 20 members of the woman’s family, including her father and brothers, ambushed her and her husband out front of the high court of Lahore, attacking her with batons and bricks in broad daylight before a crowd of onlookers, said police official Naseem Butt. . . . [H]er father, brothers and other relatives started beating her, eventually pelting her with bricks from a nearby construction site, Iqbal [her husband] said. . . . . All the suspects except her father escaped. He admitted killing his daughter, senior police officer Umer Cheema said, and explained it was a matter of honour. Many Pakistani families think a woman marrying her own choice of man brings dishonour on the family. . . . Hundreds of women are killed every year in Muslim-majority Pakistan in so-called ‘honour killings’ carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery or other illicit sexual behaviour. . . . Around 1,000 Pakistani women are killed every year by their families in honour killings, according to Pakistani rights group the Aurat Foundation. . . . The true figure is probably many times higher since the Aurat Foundation only compiles figures from newspaper reports. The government does not compile national statistics. . . . Campaigners say few cases come to court, and those that do can take years to be heard. No one tracks how many cases are successfully prosecuted. . . . Even those that do result in a conviction may end with the killers walking free. Pakistani law allows a victim’s family to forgive their killer. . . . But in honour killings, most of the time the women’s killers are her family, said Wasim Wagha of the Aurat Foundation. The law allows them to nominate someone to do the murder, then forgive him.”80


In Afghanistan, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 79–89% of Muslims.81


In Bangladesh, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 50–58% of Muslims.82


In Turkey, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 3–15% of Muslims.83 That can seem small as a percentage, but it’s a percentage of a large Muslim population. Given the population a year or two before the poll,84, the 3–15% who favor stoning represent approximately two million to eleven million Muslims in the one nation.


In Kyrgyzstan, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 21–31% of Muslims.85


In Tajikistan, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 20–30% of Muslims.86


In Azerbaijan, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 10–22% of Muslims.87


In Somalia, a girl was stoned to death in front of 1,000 witnesses in a stadium. Fifty men did the stoning for 10 minutes but, according to two nurses, she was still alive, so she was stoned some more, until she died. She, with her family’s support, reported having been raped by three men but no effort to identify the rapists followed. She was 13 years old, too young to be married or to be convicted of adultery, but someone said she was 23. Someone claimed that she was “happy with the punishment under Islamic law” but her father said she “had begged for her life”. Someone in a “pickup with a loudspeaker began an early-morning tour of . . . a port in southern Somalia, announcing that there would be a killing.”88

Saudi Arabia

“Beheading is a common method of execution in Saudi Arabia, even for those who incur a death sentence for an adultery conviction. However, despite the fact that stoning is not practiced in Saudi Arabia, it still remains in the legislation and could legally be issued as a punishment.”89

Palestine or Palestinian Territories

In the Palestinian Territories, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 75–87% of Muslims.90

In Palestine in , within ages 18–59, 35% of men and 22% of women agreed that “[m]en who kill their female relatives for (so-called) honour should not be punished by law”. “Approximately half (53 per cent of men and 54 per cent of women) had heard of an ‘honour killing’ in their community over the previous year. Such high numbers may suggest that respondents were recalling media reports. . . . [Some] men (46 per cent) and . . . [some] women (38 per cent) believed that ‘the girl or woman usually deserves such punishment (being killed) from her family’. Even fewer men (35 per cent) and women (22 per cent) felt that honour killings should not be punished by law.”91


By Sudanese statute, “[w]hoever commits the offence of adultery shall be punished with . . . execution when the offender is married (muhsen)”.92

United Arab Emirates

In the United Arab Emirates, “adultery is still punishable by stoning” by law.93


In Yemen, “[s]toning is the prescribed punishment for adultery . . . under . . . Yemen’s Penal Code (enacted ).”94


In Egypt, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 76–84% of Muslims.95

In , within ages 18–59, 31% of men and 33% of women agreed that “[m]en who kill their female relatives for (so-called) honour should not be punished by law”. “So-called ‘honour’ killing – murder of relatives (usually female) thought to have impugned the family honour through perceived transgressions, generally of a sexual nature – is a nebulous subject in Egypt. Nearly 10 per cent of male and female respondents recalled hearing of an honour killing in their local community in the previous year, but such reports are, by their very nature, imprecise. More than three-fifths of men believed that the victim usually deserves such punishment, and nearly half of female respondents believed likewise. Egyptian law is slippery when it comes to honour killings, with courts having the discretion to dispense reduced sentencing.”96


In Jordan, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 50–71% of Muslims.97


In Lebanon, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 14–26% of Muslims.98

In , within ages 18–59, 12% of men and 8% of women agreed that “[m]en who kill their female relatives for (so-called) honour should not be punished by law”. “One-quarter of men and one-third of women said they had heard of an honour killing in their community within the last year.”99


“Mauritania’s Penal Code prescribes public death by stoning for . . . . the married adulterer of either sex.”100


In Morocco in , within ages 18–59, 14% of men and 9% of women agreed that “[m]en who kill their female relatives for (so-called) honour should not be punished by law”. “So-called ‘honour’ killing – murder of relatives (usually female) thought to have impugned the family honour through perceived transgressions, generally of a sexual nature – is a nebulous subject in Morocco. More than 10 per cent of male and fewer than 5 per cent of female respondents recalled hearing of an honour killing in their local communities in the previous year, but such reports are by their very nature imprecise. A third of men believed that the victim usually deserves such punishment; women, while recognizing the connection between female conduct and male honour, are nonetheless highly dismissive of the notion that such punishment is warranted. Moroccan law does not recognize honour killings as a special category”.101


“[T]he [“Maldives”] constitution appear[s] to make the practice of Islam mandatory. The government and many citizens at all levels interpret the constitution as imposing a requirement that all citizens must be Muslims. While freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, it is not respected in practice.”102


In Bahrain, among Bahraini citizens, Sunni Muslims are a minority that rules over the majority Shia Muslims. “Over the past several years the Bahraini authorities have arrested hundreds of Shiite activists and pro-democracy demonstrators. Many have been tortured and tried by military courts. . . . The sectarian dimension of the political uprising resulted in substantial intra-Muslim conflict, including government attacks on Shiite religious buildings and the violent oppression of Shiite protestors. . . . The government owns all television and radio broadcasters. The government-run TV station broadcasts Sunni friday [sic] sermons, but no Shia sermons.”103 Providing sermons only for Sunnis and not for Shiites when there are more Shiites appears to be a way to deny the validity of Shia Islam.


In Comoros, in which about 99% of people are Sunni Muslims, “citizens are . . . forced to conform to at least some Islamic practices. Under the penal code . . . . [‘]Any Muslim who has apparently consumed knowingly products prohibited by Islamic law will be punished by imprisonment of one to six months and a fine . . . .[’]” (quoted provision of penal code appears to be a translation).104 I do not know how the law in Comoros should be interpreted, but the adverb “apparently” would seem to nullify the possibility of a defense grounded on not having actually consumed. If so, if a witness mistakenly thought the defendant had eaten pork, the defendant could be sentenced to prison.


In Tunisia, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 25–31% of Muslims.105

Sub-Saharan Africa

In 13 sub-Saharan nations of Africa, about a third or more of Muslims “favor[ed] stoning people who commit adultery. In nearly all countries (with the exception of Guinea Bissau), far fewer Christians express[ed] support for these kinds of punishments.”106


In Niger, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 64–76% of Muslims.107


In 11 or 12 of 36 states in Nigeria, “[s]toning [to death] is . . . prescribed . . . as the punishment for a married person who has an ‘illicit sexual affair’.”108


In Russia, “stoning people who commit adultery” was “[f]avor[ed]” by 10–16% of Muslims.109


“One in four (27%) British Muslims say they have some sympathy for the motives behind the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. . . . [Nearly] a quarter (24%) disagree” that “acts of violence against those who publish images of the Prophet can never be justified”.110 (Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine that published a cartoon of Mohammed, of Islam. The attack of was deadly to 12 people.)111

United States of America

“[Belief] that violence against those that insult the prophet Muhammad, the Qur’an, or Islamic faith is sometimes acceptable” was “[strongly]” held by nearly one in six Muslim Americans and another one in eight “[somewhat]” agreed, the total being over one in four Muslims in the nation.112 “[Belief] that it is legitimate to use violence to punish those who give offense to Islam by, for example, portraying the prophet Mohammed” was agreed with by nearly one in four (24%).113

Intra-Muslim Sectarian Conflict

Not all Muslims are sectarian. In a survey of 38 nations, in 22 of the nations at least one in five Muslims described themself as “just a Muslim.” But most other Muslims worldwide did self-identify as Shia or Sunni.114

Switching between Sunni and Shia, in either direction, was “relatively rare.”115 (I don’t know whether that should be called converting if they were staying Muslim.)

Many Muslims consider Sunni as not Muslim. Many Muslims consider Shia as not Muslim.116 (The survey yielding these conclusions does not show the sectarian self-identifications of respondents and the surveyor recognizes more than two sects within Islam, so I don’t detail breakdowns by nation here.)

“Dismissing Arab Shias as Safawis, a term that paints them as Iranian agents (from the Safavid empire) and hence traitors to the Arab cause, is increasingly common in Sunni rhetoric. Hard-line Sunni Islamists have used harsher historic terms, such as rafidha, rejecters of the faith, and majus, Zoroastrian or crypto Persian, to describe Shias as heretical. . . . This cycle of demonization has been amplified throughout the Muslim world.”117 (I’m not clear from context in which nation or nations this occurred.)


“Syria’s civil war, in which a quarter million people have been killed and eleven million—more than half the country’s prewar population—displaced, has amplified sectarian tensions to unprecedented levels. The war began with peaceful protests in calling for an end to the Assad regime. Decades of the Assad family’s repression of Syria’s majority Sunni population and elevation of minority Alawis in government and the private sector has sown sectarian strife. The protests and brutal government crackdown uncovered sectarian tensions, which have rippled across the region. . . . Tens of thousands of Syrian Sunnis joined rebel groups such as Ahrar al-Sham, the Islamic Front, and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which all employ anti-Shia rhetoric; similar numbers of Syrian Shias and Alawis enlisted with an Iran-backed militia known as the National Defense Force to fight for the Assad regime. . . . Shia groups can count on state support from the . . . Syrian government[] . . . to recruit militants for sectarian jihad.”118

“[T]he public worship of any other faith than Sunni Islam [was] forbidden. . . . [M]any Shiites converted [to “Sunni”] in order to survive in Raqqa.”119

“Again a Sunni terror organization killed Shia (Shiites). . . . Today [] more than 50 people lost their lives in blasts near the Shia shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, south of the Syrian capital Damascus. . . . The Islamic State (IS, ISIS or Daesh) praised itself to be the killer of so many Shia.”120


“Sunni fundamentalists, many inspired by al-Qaeda’s call to fight Americans, flocked to Iraq from Muslim-majority countries, attacking coalition forces and many Shia civilians. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who founded al-Qaeda’s franchise in Iraq, evoked ancient anti-Shia fatwas, or religious rulings, to spark a civil war in hopes that the Shia majority would eventually capitulate in the face of Sunni extremist violence. . . . [T]he country’s Shia community absorbed thousands of deaths before fighting back with their own militias. . . . [D]uring the U.S. occupation of Iraq and, more recently, offensives against the Islamic State, Shia paramilitaries have been accused of possible war crimes. . . . Iraqi politicians . . . routinely describe their Sunni opponents as takfiris (referring to the doctrine embraced by al-Qaeda of declaring fellow Muslims apostate) and Wahhabis (referring to the puritanical Saudi sect). . . . Shia groups can count on state support from the . . . Iraqi . . . government[] . . . to recruit militants for sectarian jihad.”121 “One of Baghdad’s most deadly sectarian pogroms, which saw at least 40 people, apparently all Sunnis, killed by Shia militants in a rampage in a Baghdad suburb . . . [one] weekend, has further damaged sectarian relations in Iraq. . . . Witnesses said gunmen, some masked, set up roadblocks and stopped motorists in the mainly Sunni suburb of Jihad, near Baghdad airport, demanding to see identity cards. Those with Sunni names were shot dead; Shias were released.”122

“The law prohibits the practice of the Bahai Faith and the Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam.”123

“According to multiple reports from international NGOs and the local press, ISIS fighters continued to question members of detained groups to determine if they were Sunni, and then killed or abducted the non-Sunnis.”124


“Iranian officials . . . routinely describe their Sunni opponents as takfiris (referring to the doctrine embraced by al-Qaeda of declaring fellow Muslims apostate) and Wahhabis (referring to the puritanical Saudi sect). . . . Shia groups can count on state support from the Iranian . . . government[] . . . to recruit militants for sectarian jihad.”125

“The website of the Mosques Affairs Regulating Authority reported in that there were nine Sunni mosques operating in Tehran and 15,000 across the country. These numbers, however, were disputed by the Sunni community who said the vast majority of these were simply prayer rooms or rented prayer spaces. . . . Sunnis reported the number of mosques in the country did not meet the demands of the population. Because the government barred them from building or worshiping in their own mosques, Sunni leaders said they relied on ad hoc, underground prayer halls . . . to practice their faith. Security officials continued to raid these unauthorized sites.”126

“Sunni activists reported that throughout the year, and especially during Moharam, the government sent hundreds of Shia missionaries to areas with large Sunni Baluch populations to try to convert the local population.”127


Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, routinely describe[s] their Sunni opponents as takfiris (referring to the doctrine embraced by al-Qaeda of declaring fellow Muslims apostate) and Wahhabis (referring to the puritanical Saudi sect).”128


In Indonesia, “[In] , the Minister of Religion, the Attorney General and the Minister of Home Affairs issued a Joint Decree as a ‘warning’ to Ahmadiyah [Muslims]. The regulation makes . . . key points. First, it warns citizens not to support or conduct activities that deviate from the teachings of official religions. Second, it specifically warns followers of Ahmadiyah not to promote deviant teachings, namely belief in a further prophet after Muhammad. Third, it informs followers of Ahmadiyah who do not comply with this warning that they will be liable to penalties under existing laws. . . . This regulation can be seen as the direct result of three main influences that have consistently opposed Ahmadiyah and continue to call for a complete ban on the group in Indonesia: first, the fatwa of MUI [“Majelis Ulama Indonesia” (“Indonesian Ulama Council”)]; second, Bakor Pakem, whose recommendations on Ahmadiyah are explicitly referred to in the Joint Decree; and, third, radical Islamic groups, who use tactics of violence and intimidation.”129

Formally, a provincial governor and a mayor in issued bans against Ahmadiyah; in “the Regent, the Regional People’s Representative Council (Dewan Rakyat Perwakilan Daerah, DPRD), the Attorney General, the Police, the Kodim, and the Department of Religion of Sintang (West Kalimantan) bann[ed] . . . the activities of Ahmadiyah . . . . [and] [t]he Ministry of Religious Affairs in West Nusa Tenggara banned 13 religious groups, including Ahmadiyah”, and in “the Regent of East Lombok” “[issued a c]ircular . . . prohibiting the activities of Ahmadiyah”.130 Subnational government leaders may lack legal authority “to make regulations on matters of religion”, so such bans may be important only politically, not legally, but as governmental political decisions they presumably influence the Muslim public.131

“During [a “”] protest [“in support of . . . religious pluralism and religious minorities such as Ahmadiyah”], around 400 members of radical Islamic groups, including the Islamic Defenders Front (Fron Pembela Islam, FPI), Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia (HT), and the Islamic Community Forum (Forum Ukhuwah Islamiyah, FUI), armed with clubs or sticks, violently attacked the . . . demonstrators, many of whom were women. This is despite the fact that, according to the Chief Police [sic] of Jakarta, 1,200 police were present at the time of the attack. Around 70 of the . . . demonstrators were injured, some seriously. Many of the . . . demonstrators were hospitalised, some had to undergo surgery, and others suffered trauma as a result of the attack.”132

One day, “26 Shia refugees [“comprising nine families”] currently taking shelter at a sports center in Sampang, Madura, East Java, had been forced to sign statements saying that they were willing to convert to Sunni. . . . The statements say, among other things, that the Shia followers were willing to return to ‘the right path’ and to obey Sunni clerics’ directives. . . . Officials and even police officers witnessed the signings[.] . . . Forum [“the Islamic Boarding Schools Forum”] representative Nailul claimed that the clerics had secured permission from the East Java governor to enter the sports center and carry out their mission. . . . ‘Madura has been Sunni since forever. So it’s our job to set them on the right path,’ Nailul said. . . . Hundreds of Sampang Shiites were forced to take shelter at the sports center after hundreds of Sunni Muslims attacked and set ablaze their houses in Nangkernang village in Sampang in August. . . . The police named seven people as suspects in the incident, including . . . a brother of . . . a Shia leader in Sampang currently imprisoned for blasphemy against Islam.”133

“About 1,500 people stormed a house in Banten province . . . to stop 20 Ahmadiyah followers from worshipping. They killed three men and badly wounded six others, while destroying the house and setting fire to several cars and motorbikes. . . . [I]n recent years [as of early “”] a hard line fringe has grown louder and the government – which relies on the support of Islamic parties in parliament – has been accused of caving in to it. . . . The most disturbing [video] clip . . . showed assailants repeatedly pounding two victims – who appeared to be dead – with heavy sticks. . . . A policeman came to the scene but his screams of ‘stop’ were almost inaudible among dozens who shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ or ‘God is great’. . . . The Ahmadiyah, thought to have 200,000 followers in Indonesia, are considered deviant by many Muslims and are banned in many Islamic countries because they believe that Muhammad was not the final prophet. . . . Many attacks on religious minorities in recent years have been carried out by members of the Islamic Defenders Front [a “hardline group”]. . . . The Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, a human rights group, says attacks on religious freedom by hardliners are steadily increasing. It says in there were 64 incidents, ranging from physical abuse to preventing groups from performing prayers and burning houses of worship . . . .”134


“There were reports that in , up to 27 Muslim men were arrested for ‘apostasy’, on the accusation that they were Quranists (deny the authority of the Hadith), and were facing trial.”135


In Pakistan, “[w]hilst Ahmadis have the Quran as their holy book, they can be punished with up to three years in prison by just referring to their faith as Islam.”136 “Islamists . . . targeted Pakistan’s Ahmedi community and mobilized to have them declared non-Muslim. . . . . This was ironic: many of the key leaders of the Muslim League were Ahmedi, as were many of Pakistan’s high-profile civilian and military personnel. After decades of agitation by anti-Ahmedi Islamists, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto acquiesced and declared them to be constitutionally non-Muslim in . The effects of this legislation have been profound for the Ahmedis. Because Ahmedis consider themselves to be Muslim, offer Muslim prayers, recognize the Quran as their holy book and congregate in facilities they call masjids (mosques), Pakistan’s extremists view them as apostates and even blasphemers. With this law, the state of Pakistan now permitted and even encouraged persecution as well as prosecution of Ahmedis. They were no longer allowed to call their places of worship ‘masjids’ or even recite the Quran, among other practices Ahmedis view as fundamental to their faith.”137

“Islamists—particularly led by those associated with the Deobandi interpretative tradition—aimed to have Pakistan’s Shia declared non-Muslim.”138

“Pakistan continued to confront terrorist groups, including al-Qa’ida (AQ), Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Punjabi Taliban, and Lashkar I Jhangvi (LJ), all of whom mounted attacks against police, military and security forces, or engaged in sectarian violence . . . . [T]errorist groups . . . engaged in sectarian violence . . . .”139

Apostasy, or Leaving the Faith

Renouncing the faith (apostasy), whether by declaration or implied by action inconsistent with the faith, is disliked by, probably, all faith communities, but in most faiths the response is to encourage staying but otherwise to shun, assign guilt, and cause disrepute, but nonetheless letting the apostates go. However, in Islam, killing someone for being an apostate is too widely accepted.140

An argument is that apostasy can warrant a death penalty because the apostate did not have to become a Muslim in the first place. An analogy is with marriage and divorce; in U.S. law, marriage causes a change in legal status such that divorce generally requires consent of the spouse or the judiciary (or possibly of a religious authority, as by annulment). There is less support among Muslims for conversion into Islam by threat of death than for the same threat applied to apostasy. But, notwithstanding that, there is substantial support both for killing those who refuse to convert to Islam and there is widespread acceptance that some people are born Muslims and then must not become apostates. That makes the argument premised on the voluntariness of entry inapplicable.

Whether Muslim theology requires any punishment for a living apostate is disputed. “[T]he High Religious Committee [of “Morocco”] stated that the Quran talks in many instances about apostasy and its punishment in the hereafter, without mentioning any punishment in this life”.141

Many Nations Compared to Iran and Saudi Arabia

It may seem like that’s not the case. “[B]ecause apostasy is not a crime under the criminal codes of Muslim states, generally the murtad (apostate) is not subject to any criminal sanction. . . . A vast majority of them [“most Muslim states”] no longer prescribe death for apostates but mete out some lesser form of punishment. But some states, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, still do hand out death sentences.”142

Saudi Arabia

“‘Blasphemy’ is conceived as a deviation from Sunni Islam and thus may also be treated as ‘apostasy’. Apostasy is criminalized and mandates a death penalty. . . . These laws are actively utilized”.143


“Apostasy or conversion to a religion other than Islam is outlawed and may be punishable with the death penalty [subject to recantation].”144


On Pakistan, “in correspondence sent [in “”] to the . . . [Canadian government], the BPCA [“the British Pakistani Christian Association . . ., a London-based NGO focusing on human rights abuses in Pakistan against Christians and other religious minorities”] wrote the following: . . . . In all mainstreams of Islamic jurisprudence abandoning Islam is considered a capital crime, particularly for men. Thus in general, families think and society thinks very poorly of converts to Christianity, and many deem it their duty to kill them, especially as Pakistan is an honour shame society. . . . Pakistani society in general is extremely hostile to converts, and attacks on those who have converted can re-occur years or even decades after they have changed religion.”145 And 73–79% of Muslims, disproportionately urban, in “would favor making harsh punishments such as . . . the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion the law in their country.”146

By law, once someone’s national identity card stated that the person is a Muslim, the religious declaration could not be changed, according to a Canadian government report: “The . . . [“BPCA”, supra] explained that the national ID card system . . . does not permit registered Muslims to change to another religion (BPCA ). This information is corroborated in a news article by Compass Direct News, which explains that the law establishing Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority, which records the religion of citizens when they apply for a national ID card, prohibits Muslims from changing their religion ().”147


In Iran, “[c]onversion from Islam is generally considered ‘apostasy’ under Sharia law, which is punishable by death . . . .”148 “The law prohibits Muslim citizens from changing or renouncing their religious beliefs. . . . Apostasy from Islam is a crime punishable by death. . . . The penal code specifies the death sentence for . . . apostasy . . . .”149


“The act of ‘apostasy’ is punishable by death. Under Yemeni law ‘denouncing Islam’ or any blasphemy conviction may constitute evidence of ‘apostasy’. . . . While the rate of capital punishment in Yemen is very high, the government does not enforce the death penalty for apostasy in practice: the law allows those charged with apostasy three opportunities to repent, which absolves them from the death penalty. It is unclear whether a moratorium is in place or whether an “apostate” who refused to repent would face the death penalty.”150


In Iraq, “conversion by a Muslim to another religion is forbidden by law.”151Personal status laws and regulations prohibit the conversion of Muslims to other religions”.152

“[T]he Zoroastrian representative in the IKR [“Iraqi Kurdistan Region”] filed a legal complaint against a Kurdish Islamic preacher . . . who reportedly issued a decree that all converts to Zoroastrianism had to be killed if they did not repent within days.”153

“Between around and , in areas controlled by the terrorist militia ISIS the crime of ‘apostasy’ had been punishable by summary execution at the hands of the militants.”154


“The terrorist group Al-Shabaab remains a major impediment to peace, attacking the Somali government and all ‘enemies of Islam’ in recent years, harassing and killing persons suspected of converting from Islam”.155

“The provisional federal constitution does not explicitly prohibit apostasy, but does state that Shari’ah law comes before federal law. . . . Both Puntland State and Somaliland, a self-declared independent republic, have their own constitutions that also claim to provide some protection for religious freedom, though both documents prohibit apostasy . . . [“and”] conversion from Islam”.156

“Areas controlled by Al-Shabaab and other militant Islamists sometimes operate Sharia courts outside of federal control.”157


“Terrorist groups as ISIL and al-Nusra killed, arrested, tortured and kidnapped individuals of most religious groups in the country. They also beheaded individuals they had accused of blasphemy and apostasy.”158


Sudan, in its criminal law, for apostasy without a recantation, allowed a sentence of death; even with recantation, it allowed a sentence of up to five years of imprisonment.159


“Apostasy from Islam is banned in Jordan. Although not expressly outlawed through legislation, an apostasy trial may be initiated through the county’s Sharia courts by any member of the community. A person convicted of apostasy is punished by being deemed as officially having ‘no religion,’ meaning that under Jordanian law that person is stripped of their civil rights, the ability to get a job, and loses all legal relationships with their family.”160

In Jordan, 82–90% of Muslims in “would favor making harsh punishments such as . . . the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion the law in their country.”161


In Brunei, in , new Sharia laws were enacted; included is that apostasy can get the death penalty.162 “Brunei has backtracked on enforcing laws introduced . . . [in ,] that would have made . . . [certain offenses] punishable by stoning to death. . . . Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah . . . [in ,] extended a moratorium on the death penalty to cover the new legislation. . . . While saying that a moratorium on the death penalty would be applied . . . he also defended the new rules, saying their ‘merit’ would become clear. . . . Muslims make up about two-thirds of the country’s population of 420,000. . . . The small South-East Asian nation first introduced Sharia law in , giving it a dual legal system with both Sharia and Common Law.”163


In Malaysia, “[n]ationally, Muslims who seek to convert to another religion must first obtain approval from a Sharia court to declare themselves ‘apostates.’ This effectively prohibits the conversion of Muslims, since Sharia courts seldom grant such requests and can impose penalties (such as enforced ‘rehabilitation’) on ‘apostates’.”164 “The government- or state-level Shari’ah courts can force individuals considered to have strayed from Sunni Islam—including . . . converts from Islam—into detention-like camps known as ‘rehabilitation’ centers and/or prosecute them for apostasy, which is punishable by prison terms or fines.”165 After a group of atheists posted online a photo of one of its gatherings, “[o]nline commenters . . . issued death threats to members of the group. Dr. Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, a deputy minister in the prime minister’s department in charge of Islamic affairs, called for an investigation to ensure no Muslims took part in the group. Shahidan Kassim, a cabinet minister, suggested that atheists be hunted down and recommended forced ‘reeducation.’ . . . Dr. Asyraf stated that apostasy is unconstitutional and also that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion, but Malaysian lawyers disputed his interpretation of the constitution. Apostasy is not mentioned in Malaysia’s constitution, nor is it a federal crime, but several states have criminalized conversions from Islam and Shari’ah courts have sentenced individuals to prison or imposed fines.”166 “Crimes punishable under hudood (commonly spelled hudud in Malaysia) include apostasy . . .; the punishments include amputation, stoning, and flogging or caning.”167 What may have been the same event and who may have been the same official, “the Special Rapporteur condemns the reported statement by a deputy minister charged with Religious Affairs that those involved in a recent gathering of atheists should be investigated. He apparently stated: ‘If it is proven that there are Muslims involved in atheist activities that could affect their faith, the state Islamic religious departments or Jawi could take action.’”168 Also, “[s]he [“the Special Rapporteur”] believes that the rule that those choosing to leave Islam must undergo counseling and must obtain a certificate from a Syariah court to do so is demeaning and a limit on their right to take part in cultural life without discrimination.”169

“[T]he state governments of Kelantan and Terengganu passed hudud enactments [as “Sharia laws”] in and , respectively, making apostasy an offence punishable by death.” Whether the enactments were lawful has been disputed by “the Attorney General” and there have been no “convictions” under them.170

Saudi Arabia

“From reports USCIRF [“U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom”] has received, high school textbooks in use during the school year continue to teach hatred toward members of other religions and, in some cases, promote violence. For example, some justified violence against apostates”.171


In Djibouti, nearly five out of eight (62%) Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.172

Democratic Republic of the Congo

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 44%, four of every nine, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.173


In Mali, 36%, over a third, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.174


In Senegal, 35%, over a third, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.175

Guinea Bissau

In Guinea Bissau, 33%, a third, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.176


In Kenya, 32%, over three in ten, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.177


In Chad, 32%, over three in ten, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.178


In Liberia, 30%, three in ten, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.179


In Nigeria, 29%, over a quarter, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.180 In , 47–55% of Muslims, or 58% of Muslim men, “would favor making harsh punishments such as . . . the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion the law in their country.”181


In Ghana, 28%, over a quarter, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.182


In Mozambique, 27%, over a quarter, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.183


In Uganda, 26%, over a quarter, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.184


In Ethiopia, 25%, a quarter, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.185


In Tanzania, 23%, two of nine, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.186


In Cameroon, 19%, nearly one in five, of Muslims “favor . . . . the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion”.187

16 Nations and People’s Republic of China

A popular view among Muslims was for death to apostates. Of 16 nations rated by the Pew Research Center as being the most governmentally restrictive of religion in , in 13 Muslims are the religious majority;188 assuming that a nation’s majority maintains, supports, or doesn’t object (even silently) to the restrictions, even in nations without Muslim majorities people other than Muslims were being restrictive, e.g., the People’s Republic of China was enforcing atheism,189 probably as part of Marxist-Leninist teaching, and reportedly was trying to break allegiance to Islam or Islamic practices in Xinjiang or western China (some people referred to part of the area as Turkestan).

But, in the 13 where the majorities were Muslim and where the restrictions were among the tightest, the maintenance or support of or nonobjection to the restrictiveness was mainly from Muslims; and, in those nations taken together, the Muslim population was over a third of all Muslims in the world and amounts to over half a billion Muslims.190 “Among Muslims [in the 20 nations “where there are adequate samples for analysis”] who say sharia[191 should be the law of the land, . . . [the percentages] who favor the death penalty for converts” were 86% in Egypt, 82% in Jordan, 79% in Afghanistan, 76% in Pakistan, 66% in the Palestinian territories, and 62% in Malaysia.192 Thus, if they said sharia should govern, the numbers favoring capital punishment for converting to a non-Muslim faith were 48,991,904 in Egypt, 3,502,910 in Jordan, 24,492,063 in Afghanistan, 106,830,340 in Pakistan, 2,316,141 in the Palestinian territories, and 9,646,014 in Malaysia,193 for a total for the six nations of 195,779,372 Muslims who favored executing someone who converts to another faith. In Britain, part of the United Kingdom and in which Muslims are a minority, 36–37% of 16–34-year-olds believed “that Muslim conversion is forbidden and punishable by death”, compared to 19% of those 45 years old and up (although the question may have biased the answers toward agreement).194 Worldwide, it’s reasonable to assume that a third of a billion Muslims shared that deadly view. One out of every twenty-three people around the planet wanted death for anyone leaving Islam for another faith. That was roughly one out of five Muslims globally.195 Widespread belief that apostasy should be punished could have quite serious secular consequences. “[O]ften Islamic vigilante groups take the law into their own hands and kill converts [from Islam]”.196


“Family law prohibits marriage between a Muslim and an apostate; by law, apostates have no parental or child-custody rights.”197


In Egypt, 80–88% of Muslims in “would favor making harsh punishments such as . . . the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion the law in their country.”198

“Egyptian-born Muslims who have converted to Christianity still cannot reflect their change of religious affiliation on identity documents”.199 (By age 16 and a half, an Egyptian citizen must apply for a national ID card and then must be able “to show an identity card immediately upon request by authorities” or may have to pay a fine. Also “mandatory official identification documents are required in order to enrol in educational institutions, gain employment, access medical treatment and open bank accounts”. “[W]ithout an identity card, it is not possible to conduct daily transactions such as . . . owning a vehicle or a home”. “[I]dentity cards are required to obtain state medical insurance and to obtain ration cards that permit citizens to buy food more cheaply”.)200 Whether to remove peoples’ religious affiliations from the national identity cards has been debated but, as of , removal has been declined.201


In Afghanistan, apostasy can get the death penalty, with three days allowed for recantation.202


“There is no explicit prohibition of apostasy . . ., however, . . . . [t]he authorities do not issue new official documents after a conversion and continue considering the person as a Muslim. Whilst religion is not designated on national identity documents, the law does prohibit the naturalization of non-Muslims. Religion is mentioned on birth and marriage certificates. An apostate can be denied custody of his/her children. The court can declare the apostate’s marriage as void and strip . . . the nationality.”203


“[T]he Mauritanian penal code . . . stipulates apostasy as a crime punishable by death. . . . In , Mauritania enacted a law which makes the death sentence for apostasy compulsory”. “Muslims who convert from Islam lose their citizenship and property rights.”204



“Not even the ancient Islamic laws requiring tolerance for other ‘peoples of the book’ – Christians, Jews and those of other scripture-based religions – have prevented them [“Islamic State”] . . . from ethnically cleansing the Assyrian Christians of northern Iraq, who had previously survived 13 centuries of Muslim rule.”205


In Bangladesh, “[t]he mass migration of Hindus that started in from Bengal to India . . . is gradually depriving Bangladesh of religious minorities, and those who remain are frequently subjected to vandalism and murder.”206


“Societal pressure . . . make[s] conversion, particularly from Islam to Christianity, relatively rare and forces many converts to flee outside of the country.”207

Generalized Problems

War methods seem to be applied by Muslim purists, not only police methods. In policing, one generally tries to identify witnesses and identify and stop an individual or a specific organization within the society while minimizing hostile contact with anyone else. In war, one is freer to punish a community because of bad deeds of some within it. Policing is politically easier for members of a community to accept when applied even against their own neighbors, and tends to produce little or no retaliation. War is almost never acceptable to neighbors of the attacked and tends to produce retaliation in kind, often on a similar or larger scale.


“The legal environment in Pakistan is notably repressive; it . . . often allows vigilante violence on religious grounds to occur with impunity. . . . The relatively common sectarian and religiously motivated violence against minorities and individuals in Pakistan often goes unpunished. . . . For lawmakers and others to critically discuss the Islamist nature of the law, such as suggesting reform of blasphemy laws . . ., exposes the critic to potential assassination. . . . In some places, schools, teachers and students – girls in particular – have frequently been subject to violence and terrorism by the Taliban and other extremist groups. . . . [T]he madrasa, which in some areas provide the only available education, are notorious for teaching . . . hatred of non-Islamic religions and people. . . . Notably, for a charge of blasphemy to be made in Pakistan an allegation is all that is required – and it may be highly subjective, since the law does not provide clear guidance on what constitutes a violation. Proof of intent or evidence against the alleged is not necessary and there are no penalties for making false allegations. . . . Most blasphemy cases are either brought by those wishing to undermine minority groups or by those wishing to eliminate individuals against whom they have a grudge. The mere accusation of blasphemy against someone can result in the accused’s life being endangered. . . . Mullahs will often come to court to intimidate the judiciary, and obtaining a lawyer to ensure a fair trial is often impossible. . . . Those accused of blasphemy, and who have been acquitted by the courts, often either flee Pakistan or are assassinated on their release from jail. Clerics and radicals have been found to have brought forward cases of blasphemy after fabricating evidence. . . . Prosecuting those who commit murder in the name winning retribution against ‘blasphemers’ is also problematized by Islamists and others who intimidate or threaten prosecutors. In the lead prosecutor of the killers of Mashal Khan . . . was forced to quit reportedly under extreme pressure from the families of the accused.”208


Over a fourth, 26%, of Muslims in Bangladesh would have sometimes justified violence, including suicide bombings, “against civilians in the name of Islam”.209

Saudi Arabia

“[T]he [Saudi Arabian] Government brought into law new anti-terrorism legislation, which defines atheism as terrorism. . . . The death sentence (usually by beheading and crucifixion) applies . . . for the crime of ‘apostasy’”.210

“From reports USCIRF [“U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom”] has received, high school textbooks in use during the school year continue to teach hatred toward members of other religions and, in some cases, promote violence. For example, some justified violence against . . . polytheists and labeled Jews and Christians ‘enemies.’”211


Nearly two fifths, 39%, of Muslims in Afghanistan would have sometimes justified violence, including suicide bombings, “against civilians in the name of Islam”.212

Palestinian Territories

Two fifths of Muslims in the Palestinian territories would have sometimes justified violence, including suicide bombings, “against civilians in the name of Islam”.213


In Lebanon, 35–43% of Muslims could have sometimes or often justified suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets in defense of Islam from its enemies; the figure rose to 46% among Shia Muslims but was still 33% of Sunni Muslims; and the percentage of 35–43% excluded those who could justify it only rarely, another 16–24%, for a total of 55–63%, a majority.214


Two in seven, 29%, of Muslims in Egypt would have sometimes justified violence, including suicide bombings, “against civilians in the name of Islam”.215

Sub-Saharan Africa

Among 19 nations in sub-Saharan Africa surveyed, “[i]n 10 countries . . . upwards of four-in-ten Christians associate the term ‘violent’ with Muslims.”216


In Chad, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 30%, three in ten, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.217

Also, 70% of Christians viewed Muslims as “violent”,218 47% viewing many or all Muslims as “hostile” to Christians,219 suggesting that the Christians’ perceived Muslim violence included violence against non-Christians.

And 34%, essentially a third, of people were “somewhat” or “very . . . concerned” about “religious extremism” by Muslim groups, that percentage being the third highest among the 19 sub-Saharan nations in the survey.220


In Ghana, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 36%, over a third, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.221

Also, 61% of Christians viewed Muslims as “violent”,222 16% viewing many or all Muslims as “hostile” to Christians,223 suggesting that the Christians’ perceived Muslim violence included violence against non-Christians.


In Kenya, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 29%, over a quarter, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.224


In Mozambique, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 29%, over a quarter, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.225


In Uganda, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 28%, over a quarter, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.226

Democratic Republic of the Congo

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 23%, over two in nine, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.227

Over two in seven, or 29%, of Muslims believed that “using arms and violence against civilians in defense of” Islam was “often justified”.228


In Liberia, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 23%, over two in nine, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.229


In Tanzania, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 21%, over one in five, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.230


In Cameroon, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 12%, over one in nine, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.231

Also, 57% of Christians viewed Muslims as “violent”,232 28% viewing many or all Muslims as “hostile” to Christians,233 suggesting that the Christians’ perceived Muslim violence includes violence against non-Christians.


In Rwanda, 58%, well over half, of people viewed religious conflict as a “very big problem”.234


In Nigeria, 30–38% of Muslims could sometimes or often justify suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets in defense of Islam from its enemies; the percentage excluded those who could justify it only rarely, another 13–21%, for a total of 47–55%, a majority.235

Many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 20%, one in five, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.236

Also, 58%, well over half, of people viewed religious conflict as a “very big problem”.237


In Djibouti, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 39%, well over a third, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.238

Three in ten, or 30%, of Muslims believed that “using arms and violence against civilians in defense of” Islam is “often justified”.239

Also, 51%, about half, of people viewed religious conflict as a “very big problem”240 and 35%, about a third, of people were “somewhat” or “very . . . concerned” about “religious extremism” by Muslim groups, that percentage having been the second highest among the 19 sub-Saharan nations in the survey.241

Guinea Bissau

In Guinea Bissau, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 33%, a third, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.242

Also, 56%, well over half, of people were “somewhat” or “very . . . concerned” about “religious extremism” by Muslim groups, that percentage having been the highest among the 19 sub-Saharan nations in the survey.243


In Ethiopa, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 13%, one in eight, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.244


In Mali, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 8%, over one in thirteen, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.245


In Senegal, many to all Muslims “support Islamic extremists like al Qaeda” in , according to 7%, over one in fifteen, of Muslims, apart from what non-Muslims thought.246

“[S]uicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are [“[o]ften”] justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies.” This was agreed with by 7–15% of adults in a Spring survey, with the margin of error included.247


“In areas controlled by al-Shabaab there remains a high risk that criticism of Islam, or the militant group, let alone any statement or act perceived as ‘blasphemous’, could result in an unlawful execution under the auspices of al-Shabaab.”248

United States of America

Muslim-Americans in the United States were polled in . Over a fourth agreed that it was “sometimes acceptable” to be violent against Americans who “insult the prophet Muhammad, the Qur’an, or Islamic faith”, with agreement being somewhat (13%) or strong (16%). A fourth also agreed that “[v]iolence against Americans here in the United States can be justified as part of the global jihad”, with agreement being somewhat (12%) or strong (13%). Nearly a fourth, 24%, “believe that it is legitimate to use violence to punish those who give offense to Islam by, for example, portraying the prophet Mohammed”. Two of eleven, or 19%, “think the use of violence in the United States is justified in order to make shariah the law of the land in this country”.249


Some cases may be worthy as subjects for questions. They are not persuasive evidence in themselves, but only starting points for research.

People’s Republic of China

Recent news reporting about the People’s Republic of China and its relationships with Muslims, especially in the territory approximately bounded as East Turkestan or Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, is about attacks led from Beijing against Muslims intended to force acceptance of values that many Muslims consider anti-Islamic and that the People’s Republic considers modern. The attacks include incarceration referred to as re-education and forcing the drinking of alcohol (probably moderately by the standards of people who accept the practice) and the eating of pork.

But, reportedly, while a member of the Chinese Communist Party may not be a member of a faith community, people who are not members of the party may be members of any of five recognized faith communities, including Roman Catholicism. Islam is only one of the five. The attacks are not, to my knowledge, as much against any of the other four. There has been reporting on the dispute between the government in Beijing and the Vatican over which one can appoint priests, and that is an important issue, but that supports that public reporting on attacks on Muslims would likely reveal attacks on members of the other four faiths, were they occurring on a large scale. It is likely, then, that the attacks from Beijing on Muslims is far more intensive than on members of the other four.

It does not help the People’s Republic’s cause that it lacks a domestic press generally recognized internationally as relatively free. It’s probably embarrassing to the national government for domestic sources to go public about attacks against China, but the lack of a press free to report even when embarrassing means that we cannot judge a shortage of reporting as representing a lack of content to report. Foreign journalists could do that job, but their interests are generally those of people in other nations, and people in most nations are not much interested in matters within a foreign nation that don’t threaten to spill over into theirs. There is some reporting, such as on a bombing of a market leaving 31 dead and dozens more injured in Xinjiang249a and on a murder of 16 Chinese police officers by Muslim nationalists,249b but it seems too scarce for the scale of the Chinese response years later.

That raises a question about why Muslims may be attacking China or Chinese non-Muslims or institutions. There may be a nationalist motivation for Muslims to move apart from China. The territory has variously been independent, under Russian control (or control from roughly what today is Russia), and under Chinese control. But maybe that’s not a factor. I don’t know if Muslims were doing anything more violent than anyone else did. For example, it’s possible that Muslims were just nonviolently more resistant to central control from Beijing or the Communist Party than were other people. I don’t know. I’d like to know.

While many foreign journalists do a good job given the constraints, the People’s Republic’s own official journalism, in Xinhua, does not. And this is more of a job for theologians and historians, and those from outside China may not have the same access or quality of sourcing that journalists have. This needs research.


The deadly conflict in Myanmar (sometimes still called Burma) between Muslims and Buddhists, which is reportedly popular among Buddhists there, is attributed to Buddhist nationalism and there is support for that explanation. Buddhists are, by far, a majority of the nation and are only small minorities in various other nations, so perhaps Myanmar presents Buddhists with an opportunity for nationalist expression hardly available in the other nations. Christians outnumber Muslims by around 3-to-2 in Myanmar, so Buddhists being essentially at war against Muslims but much less so against Christians may reflect negative practicalities of attacking the more numerous minority or both minorities.

On the other hand, the Buddhists are apparently not attacking Catholics on a large scale, although there are far fewer Catholics than there are Muslims. Perhaps the Buddhists fear that Catholics and other Christians would fight Buddhists a united front, but perhaps why Muslims are the main target needs another explanation. Nationalistic desire among Buddhists alone may not be all. I do not know if Muslims were in a war against Buddhists, perhaps before the s or the s. That is too far beyond the scope (approximately the most recent ten years) of this article. But that is a good question for research, to see whether Buddhists are responding to a relevant history with Muslims249c that is absent with Catholics.

Solutions Are Difficult

Islam can be preserved and can grow more popular. If Islam would not require that adherents harm other people as described here, there’s no criticism of Islam here. (I criticize faith per se, but, among faiths, no single faith distinguished from others.) If Islam would require it, Muslims must not. How its followers relate to each other and to other people is the issue. The standards should be like those that generally apply to any of us.

Amelioration of danger is possible. It can be over there; it can be back here.

Outside Our Borders

Over there can be by persuasion. But persuading Muslims who apply these violently destructive traditions will be difficult. Assuming no conversion to other faiths, a path that should not be needed, persuasion may require relying less on faith and tradition and more on original thinking, but if originality is distrusted then trust in originality must be cultivated, itself difficult when originality introduces unknowns and unknowns entail risks that can be harmful, or persuasion through original thinking likely will fail. Originality supports scholarship, but scholarship from majority-Muslim nations by and large seems to be relatively rare. Doubtless there’s some, such as on Muslim theology and local history, which is hard to study as well from afar, but not so much in, say, mathematics or psychology. And they have universities and libraries and go to them. But, in proportion to population sizes, original scholarly work in other fields seems to be coming mainly from elsewhere. If they believe that traditions answer all questions, cracking the nut will be especially hard.

Persuasion will also require persuading many. Even relying on persuading a few who in turn should persuade others only works when untimately persuading many. But indirect persuasion risks likely dilution of the content before the final audience is reached. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of people to be persuaded, and that probably hasn’t happened yet on any vital issue in any population in any century. Every stage in persuasion depends on the recipients agreeing and most won’t.

Force, police or military, is possible but military force tends to be collaterally destructive and both kinds of force tend to be expensive. The need may be greater in nations with fewer resources, and some of those nations may not be able to afford it, especially if force reduces a nation’s total population. The gross domestic product per capita in Pakistan was a small fraction of what is was in the U.S.250 A lower GDP per person means taxes are less affordable and less collectible and a government cannot do as much.

Where similar attacks are being perpetrated against Muslims or by anyone even against non-Muslims, persuasion and force should be similarly applied. An approach that restrains only Muslims is likely to lead to continuation of threats and dangers against Muslims, including in retaliation for past offenses, and that will give a reasonable justification to Muslims for self-defense, including conducting offensives, restoring the problem. So Muslims must be protected until long-term fundamental hostilities in both directions abate. But that does not alter whether large percentages and large masses of Muslims today present mortal dangers to the rest of us.

Keeping the dangerous Muslims out of safer nations leaves the nations now having them with more dangerous Muslims. That is potentially dangerous to everyone. But no nation has to be a repository for other nations’ problems. The nations where they are, especially if they are nationals of the nations where they are, have to deal with them and reduce the danger to a tolerable level. If a nation tries to force dangerous Muslims into nations where they are not nationals, that could be unlawful as an act of war and would give rise to the nation’s right of self-defense, not just against the new arrivals but against the nation forcing them there.

Even a majority-Muslim nation can be different, or can change. Turkey is 98% Muslim251 and has other recent problems but does not turn up in this research as anywhere nearly as negative as do some other nations. Perhaps it was due to the appeal of possibly becoming more closely accepted by various developed European nations constituting the European Union, an appeal that may lately have been waning due to the difficulty of securing that acceptance,252 possibly due to European fears of Islamicization and terrorism beyond Turkish borders into various European nations. Notwithstanding any such waning, why Turkey’s large Muslim population is less fearsome and more able to get along is worth understanding.

Inside Our Borders

That’s there. Here, perhaps the generally most successful way may be by societies that are less dangerous but offering something else attractive attracting Muslims (among others) who are inclined to try assimilating into their new homes, rather than by treating their new homes as merely home to other Muslims whose religious purity should be reinforced even against domestic secular law and to potential recruits to Islam.

To be more attractive to Muslims, we can welcome all Muslims even as we acknowledge that we screen at the border and even as we acknowledge that we enforce secular laws, being generous so that local people don’t resist the integration of any Muslims on the ground of being Muslim, and not holding a Muslim responsible for all other Muslims, just as we don’t hold a Christian responsible for all other Christians. We can be realistic about the global threat from Muslims even as we ask Muslims to come join us, because we still vet individual Muslims arriving at the border and forbid threats from inside our borders and maybe from outside our borders when aimed inward.

A degree of assimilation is required. But assimilation does not require being identical to the previously-present people, just that there are more areas of agreement. Assimilation need not require complete sublimation of Islamic identity, belief, or practice. We happily have ethnic celebrations, such as for Irish-Americans. But assimilation allows what living here may require, including some compromises despite cultural and theological claims, such as against faces being hidden behind veils opaque except for eye slits or letting faces be photographed, both being security issues.

Success in assimilating is likelier when the newcomer keeps something familiar. Total abandonment of the past is often counterproductive. Some people choose that; but forcing it can leave a person feeling lost in ways the already-assimilated can’t help the new person overcome. As they assimilate and without waiting until that process is complete, they can produce for society in exchange for the rewards we provide in return.

A global risk is that as people migrate from concentrations of faithful traditionalism to frontiers of intellection and originality the people who don’t migrate will then be living in even purer concentrations of faithfulness and tradition, and that purity will likely increase their power, as their numbers will be reduced but probably not by half or anywhere near half. Thus, for our safety, including the safety of Muslims long among us and newly among us, persuasion needs to include more than attraction. It must also include persuasion local to where Muslims live worldwide, especially the Muslim communities that are the more dangerous.

Both Sides of a Border

Criticism of numerous Muslims for their more dangerous stances is needed. The recipients must be both individual Muslims and Muslim communities, from local to multinational. Outreach to their leaders and influencers must reinforce the critiques and offer encouragement to remedy the grounds of the critiques. Laterally associated Muslims must also be exposed to the criticisms even without their being the subjects of them, because they should know that some Muslims they know are considered armed and dangerous, and maybe lateral help is available and will reduce the problem. Maybe nonproblematic Muslims will be more cautious about accidentally providing dangerous Muslims with unintentional support. Maybe, if someone sees something amiss, they’ll figure out who can keep the rest of us safe and then they’ll say or do something.

Without critique, the problem is unlikely to be recognized among Muslims as a problem, and unlikely to be solved. We need solutions. To get them, we need the problem to be recognized. We need Muslims to see the problem.

We’ve been helping them see the problem, but, evidently, not enough criticism has been voiced. The relative dearth of criticism likely has an explanation other than ignorance or misdirection or some such. It can’t be ignorance; I’m not in the faith community, I’m not a target of it, I found out about it in volume and reliably, I’m thousands of miles away from most of it, and I used (and cited) published sources. Maybe the dearth has a more sinister bottom: Maybe threats are leveled against critics, and the threats are serious and effectual.

Before we consider threats, who may criticize and how are on the table. Criticisms from non-Muslims likely are rejected or ignored by religiously devout Muslims precisely because the critics themselves and the people behind them are not Muslims and therefore should have no credibility among the faithfully devout opponents. If the non-Muslim critics are somewhere safe, they’ll probably be left alone. Those who are safe can make the criticisms, so that potential critics elsewhere can take courage from a degree of outspokenness. That’s helpful, but distant critiques are still far away and harder to hear.

More directly useful are criticisms from Muslims. There have been some. One critic was famous, and sometimes fame provides safety. But, after his criticism was widely read, he was publicly and believably threatened with death. A national government protected him, but then he had a difficult life few people would want to live for long, once the novelty and sense of adventure wear thin. Somehow, the threatener was persuaded to discontinue the threat and the author began to live a somewhat more normal life, including having a job where the public could look up his work address. He seems to be relatively safe now, but what he went through became a lesson to other potential critics. Most would not get any nation’s extraordinary security, and most of them know it. Most would not be able to get public calls for their deaths withdrawn, and most of them know that, too. I think most people would be more likely to shut their mouths.

Sometimes, Americans who are not Muslims criticize Muslims, both in general and particular ones, for failing to criticize dangerous Muslims. One Muslim American elected politician responded that it is not her job to criticize Muslims, and, in part, she’s right. I don’t think she was elected on a platform or promise that she would criticize Muslims. She probably represents numerous Muslims and wants to be their advocate. That does raise a question of whether she feels that criticizing any large number of Muslims would render her less useful as an advocate for Muslims, even of Muslims who are not the target of her would-be critiques, and, if so, what she has heard from Muslims that leads her to feel that way, perhaps since before she was elected, perhaps since early childhood. Perhaps some of what she has heard is from Muslims who consider Islam above criticism and therefore hold pure Muslims above criticism, and that is a logical path to the destruction and murder of non-Muslims and of Muslims deemed impure, including, potentially, the murder of her if she is deemed inadequately Muslim.

On the other hand, in part she could be wrong. If she criticizes some non-Muslims for doing something which some Muslims also do but refrains from criticizing the Muslims, the inconsistency can reduce her credibility among non-Muslims (while raising it among dangerous Muslims who would see her as protecting their path for causing harm to anyone in the way of all humans becoming pure Muslims). The reduction of credibility because of inconsistency is uncertain, because different people have different standards for what to expect for consistency, but sometimes this can be potent.

If there is inconsistency from her, one should ask whether it’s due to a belief in Muslim superiority or a fear of backlash, possibly violent, from Muslims supporting their superiority and happy to kill her on the way. Perhaps she cannot or should not risk her life as the price of criticizing the dangerous Muslims. Maybe we should not ask her to put her life on the line, even if we’re willing to do so ourselves (and most of us are not). It’s easy to expect someone else to take that chance, but it may be unfair to her.

We’ve seen this elsewhere. One outspoken critic of La Cosa Nostra (the main mafia in the U.S.), who was shot by a mafiosi and who had a regularly-scheduled radio program, said that other critics have disappeared. Various reports have said that many people are unwilling to take the mafia on, so that social restrictions tend to be expressed in quieter ways that do have some effect in keeping mafia membership numbers limited. But not limited enough: many people whom the mafia can reach keep silent.

We’ve seen this elsewhere. Wives have found their lives threatened by husbands. Many become afraid to speak publicly against them. Some have been murdered. That laws against uxoricide are enforced seems largely to be a modern phenomenon and only within some places; the failures are legion. Although murder of wives has been criticized with some effect, many wives’ bodies are still left lifeless. Prosecutors have noticed many wives unwilling to persist with law enforcement complaints against abusers they face. Cases proceed despite wives being uncooperative. Some abusers are restrained or punished despite wives’ silences. Many wives stayed silent for years about what they suffered. And a wife almost always has to worry about only one person who might murder her. At least the murder suspect’s identity is easy to guess (leaving proof to come). A critic of some Muslims may have to worry about many Muslims willing to murder one critic. Identifying the suspect may be difficult or impossible.

We’ve seen this elsewhere. In colonial times in the U.S. and at about the same time in Europe, some people who criticized a majority culture were called witches. Some were murdered. Some who were, technically, not murdered were executed. The distinction mattered not a whit to the dead. The notorious danger in being accused as a witch likely silenced many before they would have said their pieces.

Could it be that too many people, both Muslim and not Muslim, who would criticize feel so threatened that the dangerous Muslims essentially are enlarging their space in which to impose the dangers to which they subscribe?

Yes, I think it could be. I think it is.

If a critic is intimidated into silence, or is killed as a warning to others, silencing the others before they speak their first harsh word, Muslims who want world domination — Muslims who believe it’s okay to kill for failure to join the faith are effectively seeking world domination — will embrace that silencing as encouraging more efforts to silence, counting on it to snowball, so ill-gotten gains stick to ill-gotten gain.

We’ve had some success with other challenges. The mafia in the U.S. is more or less contained by law enforcement pressure. Law enforcement is more willing to intervene in domestic abuse. Killings of witches ended in one U.S. state when the governor ordered the end, after someone accused his wife of being a witch. We can face down extremist Muslims.

We and our ancestors have been doing just that, likely for centuries. Some criticism from Muslims around the world, more than we hear, is evident in the hard divisions between some Muslim communities. They would not be hardened unless criticism was already expressed in some form. Maybe it’s not much between diplomats at the United Nations; I don’t know. But probably it restrains some of the deadliest of Muslim extremism. There just isn’t enough restraint.

This does not require rewriting or abandoning the Qur’an or the Hadith. It may require Muslims to teach or persuade other Muslims about what to emphasize or de-emphasize in those sources, just as other theological communities do with their older sources held with high theological authority. But first we must persuade the dangerous Muslims to change.

This points to two approaches. For the outspoken, we need security, because we usually can’t demand that the threatened people ignore the threats. We can ask people to become security specialists and get ahead of the threats if we support them for the risk, including compensation, doctrinal development, training, equipment, and other support, and compensate them and their dependents for the consequences of the threats being executed. That’s expensive, but often it will be worth paying the price to bring the faith communities into balance with each other and into secularism for all of us, so that laws mean what they’re intended by most of us to mean and the world can thrive against modern challenges. The limit of this approach is that, while protection at home is expensive, protection worldwide is too expensive.

The other approach is that critics whose safety is elusive may criticize quietly. Those with power need to quietly exercise it, with democratic support but without a public outcry putting outcriers at risk. They must concentrate their power into one channel while removing it from another, as concealment. That’s difficult to do well.

This is all difficult to do well.


In between, screening focused on Muslims therefore is necessary. It is profiling, but it is profiling based on what large numbers of Muslims around the world say about their practices and aspirations and the duties they ascribe to Muslims and to non-Muslims and what vast numbers of Muslims claim or are observed to do. It is too dangerous to avoid profiling and to let in everyone who has not been convicted of acts of asymmetrical warfare. The worldwide record shows that too many Muslims who never did it before will be happy to wage war to make Islam universal. It’s also legal to screen this way, when a foreigner threatens (and especially when more) to act so as to put the nation they’re in at risk of violating international legal norms and thus at risk of the nation being faced with war. Nations legally must preclude or remove ground for international war against themselves. If that requires regulating behavior of individuals or not letting people who are not its nationals enter, then that’s the law.

Achievements cannot be limited to seeing that weapons are put down, as that’s likely only temporary. The achievements must include the dislike of apostasy, insults against Muhammad, and adultery, among other things, not reaching the point of killing people, driving them out of communities, or burning homes down, for example. Dislike can continue. All religious communities dislike people who disagree with them. Most religious communities don’t kill those who disagree. Islamic communities, to get along with the rest of us, need to accept this for themselves and stop the destruction, including policing other Muslims to stop the destruction.

All of this is expensive. We can’t afford to do it for all Muslims. There’s probably some number who can be assimilated or persuaded in any given short time frame and within available capital. Beyond that, we’d be overloaded before the process is largely complete for those already engaged and more could be successfully engaged. This would require someplace large enough to absorb the numbers needed, while probably most of the developed nations prioritize personal and national economic growth.

Forestalling War

War may already be underway, a war religiously motivated, the end being to impose or contain Islamicization, although nations may not be taking responsibility for war emanating from their territories and nationals and nonnationals present in their nations.

Strategies must be to forestall war where it has not begun but is at risk of starting; and to end it where it began. War, in this case, seems to follow a failure of policing.

This is the model:

— Person A in community A harms person B in community B, then disappears back into community A. It doesn’t matter why the attack; it could be devotion to religion or resentment over sports.252a It happens. We have to deal with it.

— The question is what to do about it. Policing is tried in the hope of it working. Policing includes the system of detecting, arresting, extraditing, trying, and punishing, and is practiced generally by, inter alia, police officers, lawyers, judges, and prison wardens. In policing, community B goes into community A to find and punish person A, punishing directly and only person A.

— Policing punishes the individual misbehaving under the standards of community B. It is possible that punishment is not imposed but the effort deters any misbehavior by anyone; in that case, the policing succeeds.

— But if the model fails in the case, so that person A in community A continues to harm person B, perhaps person B1, person B2, person B3, and so on, perhaps escalating the harm beyond what is ignorable or absorbable, then either policing must be enhanced or a stronger method must be tried.

— That stronger method is war. War is differentiated in that the warriors don’t have to limit their punishment to person A, but can punish community A in its entirety.

— The goal of community B in waging war is to persuade community A to bring the harm to an end, generally by community A turning inward and persuading person A to stop causing harm in community B and deterring anyone else from doing anything like what person A allegedly did. Even if community B can’t identify person A, community A would do so and would then protect community B, even if community A still dislikes community B.

— But this causes collateral damage to community A, in which persons other than person A, we’ll say person A1, person A2, person A3, and so on, are counter-harmed despite being completely innocent of attacking anyone in community B. Persons A1, A2, A3, and so on, being innocent, will protest their innocence and irrelevance to the warriors of community B and thence to all of community B and perhaps to the world. Persons A1, A2, A3, and so on will be entirely sincere in their protestations as they did not commit the original attack, had nothing to do with it, do not condone it, and don’t believe it happened in the first place or that it was important, believing that community B is lying or exaggerating about the supposed attack.

— Person A, who committed the attack, stays hidden and, if asked, denies everything. This turns the question into one of credibility of each community and what, if anything, to do about the attack by community A on person B.

— Simply going to war does not guarantee victory; the opponent might win, and the risk of this must be weighed whenever a war is in prospect or underway. In this context, war is successful on behalf of community B if the attacks from community A into community B cease, but fail if community B is forced to stop the war either directly by community A or indirectly because of multicommunity pressure on community B to stop warring, and after the war is stopped the attacks from community A against community B continue.

There may be small wars between Muslims and non-Muslim neighbors already going on in numerous areas of the world, each either international or intranational. There may not be global coordination on either side, but there is a common value among large numbers of Muslims that everyone has a duty to be a Muslim and probably a belief that war to that end is acceptable.

Where warring Muslims may be succeeding in the larger arena of international public opinion is in keeping a focus on the attacks on Muslims as having no cause from Muslims. Much of the discourse then becomes one of discrimination against Muslims. Discrimination is wrong and discrimination does happen, but this may be conflating two issues: whether Islam is an inferior religion (it’s not) with whether Muslims are giving ground for attacks on Muslims by attacking non-Muslims and the Muslims not sufficiently policing themselves. Substantial numbers of Muslims support interreligious tolerance,252b whereby theological disagreement is acceptable but people live and work side-by-side, and some self-policing occurs, but that tolerance is not translating into enough self-policing. That leaves the non-Muslims with either accepting the erosion of their own populations or resisting it, and, if war is being waged against non-Muslims, responding with war becomes the obvious solution. It is an answer; if it succeeds in ending the war and the attrition, it’s a solution.

An antiwar solution is possible, but it is, obviously, more difficult to design, support especially with public opinion, implement, and use to establish victory than war. Among other necessities, a pacifist or antiwar solution, to attain the same end as with war when some means are foregone that are not foregone by warriors, requires much larger public support.

An antiwar solution is not necessarily a pacifist solution. A nonpacifist antiwar solution could include nonpacifist means of policing, because policing is narrower than warring. But for policing to be a successful substitute for war requires larger public support for enforceable procedural laws, such as for entry into hostile locations with permission of some higher secular authority, such as an intranational court or an international governing body, whichever is the least that has political support from and legal jurisdiction over all of the parties.

War is underway. It is already harmful. It has to be studied and understood. How to respond to it has to be decided.