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Explainer: What are apostasy and blasphemy laws?

I recently sat down with Kamal Fahmi, founder of Set My People Free, an international NGO focused on the abolition of apostasy and blasphemy laws around the world.

Generally speaking, apostasy laws prevent conversion from one religion to another. Apostasy laws have been in force in some places, in one form or another, for thousands of years. Today, all apostasy laws in force with one exception are focused on preventing conversion from Islam to another religion or to atheism. With the exception of India, all countries with apostasy laws are majority Muslim; apostasy carries the death penalty in eight countries.

Blasphemy laws limit or criminalize speech deemed by the authorities to defame or be contemptuous to God or the divine. The punishment for blasphemy varies dramatically from country to country, from fines to the death penalty. Although the existence of blasphemy laws is much more widespread around the world, active prosecutions today are concentrated in member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

In the interview below, Kamal shares stories of how the enforcement of apostasy laws has taken lives, devastated families and caused the persecution of thousands of our dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s pray for the endurance of these saints.

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