Thursday, February 23, 2012

Christian Pastor in Iran again facing Execution

The heroic story of Confessor for Christ Youcef Nadarkhani has taken a dire turn in recent days, as an Iranian court has issued its "final verdict," meaning Pastor Nadarkhani may be executed at any time without warning. The news report below does not mention certain details, such as how Iranian prosecutors kept changing the charges against him to try to make them seem more justifiable in the face of outcry from the West.  Now, however, all pretense is dropped, and it is clear Nadarkhani is facing the death penalty for becoming a Christian at age 19, for refusing to convert to Islam, and, most recently, for refusing to even recognize Muhammad as a prophet.  

This last offer of "leniency" (something of a "theological plea bargain") from the Iranian courts, to simply recognize Muhammad as a prophet so as to be released from prison, shows the weakness, insecurity and fearfulness of Nadarkhani's Muslim persecutors. At some level they recognize that the Pastor's steadfast confession of Jesus Christ, even and especially unto death, makes him especially dangerous, so they try to tempt him to at least accept Muhammad as a prophet, which would remove the power of Nadarkhani's confession of Christ.

Shockingly, as I discuss in my book Facing Islam, there are all too many Christians who have been willingly deluded into doing just that, including even Orthodox Christian patriarchs, bishops, priests and educators. Some of them manage to avoid openly proclaiming Muhammad as a true "prophet," although their "bending over backwards" efforts to not offend Muslims amount to the same thing. 

Let this one simple truth be told. Only a false religion founded by a false prophet would use fear and intimidation tactics to keep its followers locked in, bludgeoning them with the threat of death for apostasy or blasphemy. 

For an insightful article by Raymond Ibrahim providing context and continuity go here

For related articles at Jihad Watch about Youcef Nadarkhani go here.

Read on for the posting from Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch:

Muslim spokesmen such as Salam al-MarayatiM. Cherif Bassiouni, and Ali Eteraz(among many others) have assured us that Islam has no death penalty for apostasy. I expect that they will immediately be jetting over to Tehran to explain to the mullahs that they're getting Islam all wrong, wrong, wrong, and should free Youcef Nadarkhani immediately.
Of course, they won't really do that... they know full well that Islam has a death penalty for apostasy. They know that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam,said, "Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him" (Bukhari 9.84.57). And all the schools of Islamic law still teach that death is the proper penalty for apostates.
An update on this story. "Iran court convicts Christian pastor convert to death," by Lisa Daftari for Fox News, February 22 (thanks to Anne Crockett):
A trial court in Iran has issued its final verdict, ordering a Christian pastor to be put to death for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity, according to sources close to the pastor and his legal team.
Supporters fear Youcef Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old father of two who was arrested over two years ago on charges of apostasy, may now be executed at any time without prior warning, as death sentences in Iran may be carried out immediately or dragged out for years.
It is unclear whether Nadarkhani can appeal the execution order.
“The world needs to stand up and say that a man cannot be put to death because of his faith,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
“This one case is not just about one execution. We have been able to expose the system instead of just letting one man disappear, like so many other Christians have in the past.”...
“This is defiance,” Sekulow said. “They want to say they will carry out what they say they will do.”
The order to execute Nadarkhani came only days after lawmakers in Congress supported a resolution sponsored by Pennsylvania Rep. Joseph Pitts denouncing the apostasy charge and calling for his immediate release.
“Iran has become more isolated because of their drive for nuclear weapons, and the fundamentalist government has stepped up persecution of religious minorities to deflect criticism,” Pitts, a Republican, told “The persecuted are their own citizens, whose only crime is practicing their faith.”
The ACLJ has been a major driving force in keeping Nadarkhani’s case in the international spotlight. Many other advocacy groups and human rights organizations also have mounted global campaigns and petitions against the Iranian government, and experts credit Nadarkhani’s international support for keeping him alive.
The ACLJ recently launched a Twitter campaign to publicize Nadarkhani’s case, asking participants to dedicate a daily tweet to “Tweet for Youcef,” stating the number of days he has been imprisoned (currently 863) and ending the tweet with “ViaOfficialACLJ,” sending readers back to the organization’s website where they could learn more about his case.
Tweets have reached 157 countries and over 400,000 people.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 89 members of Congress, along with the European Union, France, Great Britain, Mexico and Germany, have condemned Iran for arresting Nadarkhani and have called for his quick release.
Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 and was tried and found guilty of apostasy by a lower court in Gilan, a province in Rasht. He was then given verbal notification of an impending death-by-hanging sentence.
His lawyers appealed the decision under the premise that Nadarkhani was never a Muslim at the age of majority, and the case was sent to Iran’s Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s decision of execution, provided it could be proven that he had been a practicing Muslim from the age of adulthood, 15 in Islamic law, to age 19, which was when he converted.
The lower court then ruled that Nadarkhani had not practiced Islam during his adult life but still upheld the apostasy charge because he was born into a Muslim family.
The court then gave Nadarkhani the opportunity to recant, as the law requires a man to be given three chances to recant his beliefs and return to Islam.
His first option was to convert back to Islam. When he refused, he was asked to declare Muhammad a prophet, and still he declined....

Source: Jihad Watch