Iran: Parliament to discuss death penalty for converts who leave Islam

Tehran, 19 March (AKI) - In its first session since last week's general elections, the new Iranian parliament is expected to discuss a law that will condemn to death anyone who decides to leave the Muslim faith and convert to other religions.

The parliament, also known as the Majlis, will debate the new law which has been presented by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Under the proposed law, anyone who is born to Muslim parents and decides to convert to another faith, will face the death penalty.

Currently converts, particularly those who have decided to leave the Muslim faith for Evangelical churches, are arrested and then released after some years of detention.

The new legislation, which has caused concern in Iran and abroad, was proposed mainly because of fears of proselytising activities by Evangelical churches particularly through the use of satellite channels.

There has also been concern over fact that many young people in Iran have abandoned Islam because they're tired of the many restrictions imposed by the faith.

According to unofficial sources, in the past five years, one million Iranians, particularly young people and women, have abandoned Islam and joined Evangelical churches.

This phenomenon has surprised even the missionaries who carry out their activities in secret in Iran.

An Evangelical priest and former Muslim in Iran told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the conversions were "interesting, enthusiastic but very dangerous".

"The high number of conversions is the reason that the government has decided to make the repression of Christians official with this new law," said the priest on condition of anonymity.

"Often we get to know about a new community that has been formed, after a lot of time, given that the people gather in homes to pray and often with rituals that they invent without any real spiritual guide," he told AKI.

"We find ourselves facing what is more than a conversion to the Christian faith," he said. "It's a mass exodus from Islam."

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, at least eight Christians have been killed for their faith.

Seven of them were found stabbed to death after they were kidnapped while only one, Seyyed Hossein Soudmand was condemned to death.


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