2017 (EN)

The High Commission for Religious Affairs of Morocco, in charge of issuing fatwa (Islamic rulings), annulled its previous sentence that religious conversion constitutes an offence punishable by the death penalty. Muslims are now given the freedom to choose their beliefs.
In 2012, the High Commission for Religious Affairs published a book in which it set out its position on apostasy. Drawing on a widespread jurisprudential tradition, it was argued that a Muslim willing to change his religion should be punished with death.
Recently, this position has been contradicted by a new document published by the same religious body entitled "The Way of scholars
". As the basis for the decision to set aside the judgment, the document redefines the principles of apostasy. The latter is no longer seen as a matter of faith but rather as a political position within the category of high treason.
In the "Way of scholars", the High Commission plunges into the past and suggests that once the context of apostasy and its punishment was predominantly pragmatic and political. Wars of apostasy were conducted in line with the effort to maintain the newly constituted state united against any kind of internal division. Therefore, he points out that the most accurate and consistent interpretation with Islamic law and the Prophet's example is that the killing of the apostate essentially concerns the traitor of the group, the one who escaping from Islam endangers the Umma (Islamic community) by revealing its secrets to its enemies; that is, the equivalent of betrayal in international law.
Consequently, the Prophet's word "whoever changes religion, kills him" must be interpreted as referring to the one who leaves his religion and abandons his own people.
Yet the idea that the apostate should not be killed is not new for Islam. In fact, at the time of  al-Ḥudaybiyya accord, the same Mohammed observed this provision stating that anyone who had become Muslim and renounced to be Muslim would have been given the possibility to return to Quraysh, at the time the most powerful enemy of Islam.
Finally, the ecclesiastical committee also notes that in several cases the Koran speaks of apostasy and punishment in life to come, not in the present one. For example, in chapter 2 verse 217 reads:"[....] And those of you who renounce faith and die in unbelief are those who have failed in this life and in the other. Here are the companions of the Fire: they will remain in perpetuity ".
The decision, which has followed a political rather than religious reasoning - says President Michele Capasso, satisfied with the decision - is certainly significant and revolutionary for Moroccan society.
Christians, who represent a small minority in Morocco - with a Muslim majority - breathe a sigh of relief. After years of threats of persecution, the most vulnerable religious minorities can now freely choose which God to pray to..