The uncovered story of religious repression

theo van gogh memorialOne of the things we like to do at GetReligion is watch a story develop and jump on it once the momentum has reached a certain level (or that could just be whenever we get around to it). That can work with those multiple-day stories that are likely to make it into the newsweeklies, while other times the stories are built on similar themes over a longer stretch of time. In this case, reader Rich Bailey did some pretty extensive media watching for us and sent us a report on articles involving individuals who have converted out of Islam. In other words, they were Muslims but they left Islam for one reason or another, which can be grounds for a death sentence under certain interpretations of Islamic law and tradition. Rich sent us a series of stories from a variety of news outlets and provided the following analysis:

It is disappointing to notice how infrequently this kind of material is being given attention in the mainstream media. Perhaps you could do an article demonstrating how pervasive this kind of religious intolerance is in every corner of the Muslim world. One thing that may help to change it is exposure.

The eight articles Rich sent us are from July and August. The nationalities represented is astounding, and it's troubling that the editors at The New York Times or Time haven't found this a story worth tracking. The locations range from places you'd expect like Egypt and Malaysia, but then there is a story from the Netherlands. Each story is a tale of religious repression and persecution.

Here's the Associated Press in Cairo:

Mohammed Hegazy, who sparked controversy when pictures of him posing with a poster of the Virgin Mary were published in newspapers, was shunned by his family and threatened by an Islamist cleric vowing to seek his execution as an apostate.

"I know there are fatwas (religious edicts) to shed my blood, but I will not give up and I will not leave the country," the 25-year-old Hegazy told The Associated Press from his hideout Thursday.

Hegazy made a public splash when he took the unusual step of going to court to change his religion on his national ID card. His first lawyer filed the case, but then quit after the uproar; his second is still considering whether it's worth pursuing.

Reuters also published a story about the Christians who helped Hegazy convert, who are being held by the police.

In the Netherlands, politician Ehsan Jami, who is a former Muslim, has been given extra police protection since he was attacked at a shopping center near his home and called a "filthy traitor" by the attackers.

Another recent story involves a Malaysian woman who wanted to renounce Islam, but is being forcefully referred to the government for counseling. Another recent story involves a Malaysia woman being detained after she married a Hindu. Now she is being ordered to live separately.

Back in the Middle East there is the story of how Hamas militia captured a professor and forced her to convert to Islam, according to The Jerusalem Post. Sana al-Sayegh, dean of the science and technology faculty at Palestine University in Gaza City, is a major player in her professional field, and her story should be receiving more attention in Western media.

In India, an exiled Bangladesh human rights author was attacked by Muslim extremists at her book launch:

Exiled Bangladesh feminist author Taslima Nasreen was attacked by Muslim extremists on Thursday in Hyderabad, India[,] at a launch of a Teluga language version of one of her novels. Muslims have accused the human rights activist of ridiculing their faith and religion in general.

Nasreen, who was attacked by a group of lawmakers and members of a political party, retreated into a corner where supporters protected her. The group of 100 assailants had broken into a meeting where the author was presenting a translated version of one of her novels.

What do the big media outlets need to write about this trend? Another major murder along the lines of Theo van Gogh? Oh, wait, that didn't get much coverage either, at least in America. European media were all over the story. One thing these stories often have in common is that the targets tend to be women. The apparent high percentage of women affected by religious repression could be an angle worth pursuing in a meaningful way.

Image: The memorial commemorating Theo van Gogh and a symbol of the freedom of speech. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Please respect our Commenting Policy