Missionary/Blogger Detained in Iran

The Committee to Protect Bloggers reports that an Iranian blogger and convert to Christianity has been detained by a police dragnet for writing about the Bible. Conversion from Islam to another religion has long been a taboo in Muslim countries, and in some (like Iran or Afghanistan) it still carries penalties like death or jail time for “apostasy.” For more background, read the Council on Foreign Relations’s primer on theocratic sharia law and conversion.

What is unique to this case is the blogging aspect. Of course, as global access to the Internet increases,  I think an inevitable conflict between conservative sharia courts and free expression will explode and multiply. The recent condemnation of an Afghan journalism student for even downloading articles which question Islam represents an extreme example of the phenomenon.

In more internet savvy Iran, there are over 60,000 Farsi language blogs. Potentially, that includes thousands of aberrant opinions, converts to other faiths, missionaries, satirists and dissidents — many of whom are currently self-censor out of fear.

The Iranian state’s battle against free religious speech may already be underway. As Al-Jazeera recently suggested, a proposed Iranian law making seditious blogging a capital offense would include, from the perspective of Sharia, conversion in its definition of “fasad.” Fasad is a category from Islamic legal interpretation which broadly encompasses what we might call sedition or “mischief against the State.”

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