10/03/2011 04:12 pm ET Updated Dec 03, 2011

Yosef Nadarkhani: Wait! Don't Kill The Apostate

My friend, Kamal, loves Home Depot. Why? Because of its generous return policy. Bring back your purchase with a receipt within 90 days and get your money back. So whenever Kamal has a one-time need for equipment, he buys it at Home Depot ... only to return it for a full refund within 90 days!

Yet he believes in a "no return, no refund" policy for those who may be dissatisfied with Islam.

As a proud Muslim, I completely disagree with this notion. Sadly though, many face harassment and persecution at the hands of the so called Muslim governments who insist that the punishment for leaving Islam is death.

Meet Yosef Nadarkhani, one such gentleman, born to Muslim parents in Iran whose dissatisfaction with Iran's oppressive perversion of Islam led him to Christianity at the age of 19. He was serving as a pastor in October 2009 when he was arrested for apostasy and later sentenced to death by hanging in 2010. The Iranian supreme court hinged his fate to a simple question: was he a Muslim before converting to Christianity or not? So now that the 11th branch of Iran's Gilan Provincial Court has declared that Nadarkhani belong to a Muslim family and therefore must recant his Christian faith, he could be executed within a week.

And Kamal is not the only one against this "no return, no refund" policy when it comes to leaving Islam. A 2011 Pew survey showed that 86% of Jordanians, 84% of Egyptians, 76% of Pakistanis, 51% of Nigerians and 30% of Indonesians supporting death penalty for apostasy. Remember, there are well over 500 million Muslims just in these five countries. In corporate terms, that's like 350 employees who have never read (or misread) their company's policy and procedures manual: The Quran.

The Quran refers to apostasy several times (2:217, 3:86-90, 4:137, 9:66, 9:74, 16:106-109, 4:88-91, 47:25-27) and yet never prescribes any worldly punishment for it, let alone death.

So how do millions of Muslims justify such a barbaric act in the name of Islam? Well, because their clerics claim that leaving Islam is not just apostasy, but treason - a crime punishable by death.

What non-sense. Merriam-Webster dictionary's defines treason as, "the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family or the betrayal of trust." Apostasy, conversely, poses no danger to the government or anyone's sovereignty.

Actually, Islam does not even allow anyone to brand another person as an apostate. It is a self-declaration. And Islam's return policy is, in fact, even more generous than the Home Depot:

"Those who believe, then disbelieve, then again believe, then disbelieve and thereafter go on increasing in disbelief, Allah will never forgive them, nor guide them to any way of deliverance" (4:138).

Thus, I ask these self proclaimed scholars: How would someone "again believe" if the punishment for disbelieving was death in the first place?

But declaring apostasy a crime punishable by death, Iranian clerics display a clear insecurity. But God's trust in His "product" appears to be far more than Home Depot's trust in their tools.

"He who turns back on his heels shall not harm Allah a whit" (3:145).

Hold on you Iranian clerics. Before quoting Ibne Khtal, Tulaiha, Aswad Anasi, Maqees Sababah or the seven men from the tribes of Ukal and Uraynah (whom Prophet Muhammad sentenced to death) to support your decision, realize that all of them were punished for committing murders, not changing their faith. The rule at Home Depot is similar: you break the tool; you pay the price.

Nadarkhani should not have to pay any price; instead he should be free to practice any faith. The fact that he has been imprisoned for the past two years is enough to make me, a Muslim, sick to my stomach. How can these Iranian clerics enforce him to believe in Islam when God says in the Quran (10:100), "If thy Lord had enforced His Will, surely all those on the earth would have believed without exception. Will thou than take it upon thyself to force people to become believers?"

Despite all this data, I was unable to change Kamal's position on the issue. So I asked him, "what would you do if Home Depot abolished their return policy altogether?"

"That's easy" he said. "I will switch to the other home improvement store, Lowes".

And then we wonder why Nadarkhani changed his faith...

Faheem Younus is an adjunct faculty member for religion and history at the Community Colleges of Baltimore County and a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He can be reached at