For centuries, the Kalash community has lived trouble-free alongside their Muslim neighbors. But all that changed last week when a 15-year-old girl wandered away from her family and ended up at an Islamic seminary.
According to police and local officials, Rina showed up at the seminary and said she wanted to convert to Islam. The local cleric embraced her and started reading her the Koran. After a few hours, the cleric declared that Rina had converted to Islam, which entails reciting a pledge that there is “no God but Allah. The prophet Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
This won't end well.
The next morning, according to police, Rina’s parents and other members of the Kalash tribe went looking for her. They found her at the seminary and demanded that she return home, noting she is only in the ninth grade and too young to leave her parents.
What happened next underscores the combustible role that religion can play in rural Pakistan. There often is no safe way for a Muslim person in Pakistan to abandon Islam.
Often? Does this mean that sometimes there's a safe way to leave Islam in Pakistan? I would love to hear how.
A fight broke out. As stones and punches were thrown, the fighting quickly escalated into a bloody battle involving hundreds of villagers.
“The Muslims living in the area said nobody is allowed to go back to his or her old religion after embracing Islam,” said Asif Iqbal, the local police chief. “According to the Muslim faith, if someone tries to apostate, he or she could be killed.”
Indeed, throughout history, many branches of Islam have considered apostasy a capital offense. A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that 62 percent of Pakistanis believe that leaving Islam should be punishable by death.
The population of Pakistan is around 190 million. This means that almost 120 million Muslims in just one country believe that apostates ought to be slaughtered. These aren't "lone wolves", or "the radicals" or "the fringe", or "the extremists"; these are, by definition, your normal, average Muslims.
The world would be a better place when we have zero Muslims left. I've already decreased their total by one. Let's hope that more of them can successfully break the chains.