Renouncing Islam is a crime punishable by death in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. In practice, though, the law isn't implemented nowadays. On the rare occasions that an apostasy case comes to court, the accused person is usually allowed to flee the country or imprisoned for some other offence – thus avoiding international embarrassment.
In the eyes of Islamist militants, however, these governments are neglecting their religious duty, and the result is vigilante killings. Such killings may be inspired by the actions of groups like IS but they are also legitimised by national laws against apostasy and by governments which reject the right to freedom of belief.
Around 10pm last Sunday, a young Yemeni called Omar Mohammed Batawil was abducted in front of his home in the Crater district of Aden.
On Monday afternoon, residents in the Sheikh Osman district found his body. He had been shot.
Sources quoted by Almawqea website say Batawil had been receiving death threats and accusations of atheism because of comments "critical of religion" that he had posted on Facebook.
Threats and attacks which target dissenting individuals seem to be a growing phenomenon in countries where the authorities are unable or unwilling to offer protection (there have been several recent examples in Bangladesh).
The leaflet below is one example of the harassment that non-believers are facing from Muslim militants. Headed "Notice to atheists", it begins:
"To every atheist who reviles and incites hatred of Islam in social media: Your end is to choke to death, to perish as an animal perishes, to be cast under dirt and mud and have worms eat your rotten body. No one will remember you; it will be as if you never existed ..."
It ends with the words: "Islam will remain until the Day of Judgment."
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Tuesday, 26 April 2016