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Czech priest asks local Muslims to condemn Sudanese death sentence for pregnant women, they agree

Prague, 22.5.2014 1:22, (ROMEA)
Tomáš Halík. (Photo:  Romea.cz Archive)
Tomáš Halík. (Photo: Romea.cz Archive)

Tomáš Halík, a much-loved priest who was recently awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize, has sent an open letter to all Muslims in the Czech Republic asking them to clearly speak out against the fact that a court in Khartoum, Sudan has sentenced a pregnant woman to death for refusing to convert to Islam. The letter was published today by the Press Center of the Czech Bishops' Conference.

Muneeb Hassan Alrawi, the highest representative of the Muslim community in the Czech Republic, told news server iDNES.cz he would do everything he could to make sure the Muslim community hears the call. "It is possible to appeal to the Sudanese Government. We respect the professor and we support his call," Alrawi said. 

Alrawi is convinced that the punishment in Sudan was the result of the most orthodox possible interpretation of the law. "Such an interpretation contravenes another principle of Islam, which says there shall be no compulsion of religion," Alrawi told news server iDNES.cz, adding that the interpretation being used in Sudan is not the only possible one. 

Halík recently stood up for the Czech Muslims who condemned a police intervention during their religious service in a Prague mosque. In a statement for Christnet.cz, the priest said he saw the raid as "an action that is injurious, that incites hatred and provokes a spirit of revenge."

The spiritual leader has now turned to Czech Muslims with a request that they show the Czech public that Islam leads to mercy, not to injustice and violence. News server Romea.cz publishes in full translation below the open letter addressed to Czech Muslims: 

To the Czech Muslim community in the Czech Republic and the Center of Muslim Religious Communities in the Czech Republic

Dear members of the Muslim community in our country,

I have recently publicly stood up for Muslims in the Czech Republic on more than one occasion against the recent insensitive police raid on a Prague mosque. You certainly are well aware of how much I care about good relations between the faithful of different religious, as well as relations between believers and non-believers in our country and in the world; you know how many times I have stood up for the right to religious freedom across religious lines, including the rights of Muslims in our country; you know that I have systematically spoken out against generalizations that tarnish the reputation of Muslims and against the unjustified ascription of responsibility for extremist crimes to Islam per se. 

You probably know that my engagement on behalf of dialogue and respect among religions was one of the reasons I was awarded international recognition this year in the form of the Templeton Prize. I am reminding you of all this for one reason:  I am convinced that this both justifies me and morally obligates me to strongly ask and urge you, the Muslim community in the Czech Republic to take significant action against an unheard-of evil that is about to be committed in the name of Islamic law.  

A court in Khartoum, Sudan has sentenced a pregnant Christian woman, Meriam Ishag, to death because she has resisted pressure to convert from Christianity, under the threat of death, to Islam. She has been convicted of allegedly abandoning Islam, even though according to her testimony she has been a Christian since childhood; Meriam was raised by her Christian mother in that religion after her Muslim father abandoned them.  

The court has also sentenced this woman to 100 lashes for marrying a Christian. If this barbaric punishment, which contravenes all principles of justice and mercy, is carried out, not only will Sudam lose the right to be called a civilized country, the global reputation of Islam and its followers will seriously suffer.

Such a perverse understanding of the law by the judicial authorities raises even greater concerns and repugnance than the individual crimes of terrorists who are obviously exploiting the rhetoric and symbols of Islam to spread hatred and violence. I am of the opinion that the time has come for Muslims in the West who enjoy full religious freedom and tolerance from Christians and other believers and non-believers to argue for the Koranic principle of "Let there be no compulsion in religion" being applied in this case so that Islamic law is interpreted in that spirit and Islamic authorities respect the right to freedom of decision in matters of faith.   

I ask you, Muslims in the Czech lands, in the name of God the Merciful and Compassionate, to stand up for this woman and take advantage of this rare opportunity to show the Czech and global public that Islam leads to mercy, not to barbarism, injustice and violence. Join me and others in calling on the Sudanese religious authorities to demand the release of Meriam Ishag.

Tomáš Halík


Jitka Votavová, Tiskové středisko České biskupské konference, iDNES.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Islám, Multikulturalismus, muslimové, Soužití



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