Asylum for Apostates


We just got the news that Rahal al-Qunun has been granted asylum in Canada. Indeed, the 18-year-old Saudi woman is already on her way to her new home.

Rahal al-Qunun

Most people applaud her courageous escape from an oppressive regime, under which the renunciation of Islam (apostasy) is punishable by death. One hopes that by her action she will embolden other women to rebel.

One can also feel sympathy for her family, who will surely be condemned for letting this happen while they were on holiday in Kuwait; and for Canadian authorities who will be responsible for protecting Rahal from vengeful attacks by Muslims who consider death a necessary punishment for apostasy.

How likely are such attacks? According to the Independent newspaper there are twelve Muslim-majority countries in which apostasy carries the death penalty. Scholars are divided over this issue. As often happens where religious belief is based on a very old book, texts can be cited to support any point of view; and because the Quran has been supplemented by a body of writings known as the Hadith (meaning ‘tradition’) Islam is especially vulnerable to this phenomenon.

Asia Bibi

But judging by the scale of violent outrage when Asia Bibi, a Christian woman in Pakistan, was acquitted of a charge of blasphemy against Islam, views that most non-Muslims would consider extreme are not necessarily rare. (Blasphemy is a capital offence in Pakistan, but apostasy is not.)

Given that a) most people in the world would rather live in Western Europe, North America, Australia or New Zealand than in their own countries, and b) some of the nastiest countries to live in have Muslim-majority populations, should we not expect a blossoming of apostasy in the expectation that it will confer immediate refugee status and resettlement somewhere nice?

Muslim readers are especially welcome to comment on this post. I claim no theological expertise.

The Bomb


Remember when we were all afraid of being annihilated in a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR (aka ‘the Russians’)? At least, that’s what historians tell us; I don’t remember being afraid of that personally.

Well now there are so many people with their fingers on so many buttons that nuclear annihilation is just part of the scenery. If Israel, Pakistan and North Korea have nuclear bombs – whether of the atomic or the hydrogen variety – it’s a matter of when and how big, not if.  It’s like the next mega-volcanic eruption or the next really big asteroid strike or the next Global Financial Crisis.  Why waste emotional energy worrying about it?

This post was inspired by Kim Jong Un’s latest test, of course.  Nuclear bomb test, I mean, not psychiatric.  And also by a cool animation I saw in the Washington Post showing the size, location and perpetrator of every test since 1946.  Do have a look.