The most influential Sunni leader in the Middle East has admitted what many of us who grew up as Muslims in the Middle East have always known: that Islam could not exist today without the killing of apostates. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood and one of the most respected leaders of the Sunni world, recently said on Egyptian television, "If they [Muslims] had gotten rid of the punishment [often death] for apostasy, Islam would not exist today." The most striking thing about his statement, however, was that it was not an apology; it was a logical, proud justification for preserving the death penalty as a punishment for apostasy. Al-Qaradawi sounded matter-of-fact, indicating no moral conflict, nor even hesitation, about this policy in Islam. On the contrary, he asserted the legitimacy of Islamic laws in relying on vigilante street justice through fear, intimidation, torture and murder against any person who might dare to leave Islam.
In a different Egyptian television show on the "Al-Tahrir" channel, in a discussion of Islamic textbooks from Al-Azhar -- the world's premier Islamic University, in Cairo -- students were told that "any Muslim, without permission of the ruler, can kill and barbeque a murtad [apostate] and eat him." This lesson was confirmed to be in official Egyptian government books for high school students. The stunned guest on the TV show could not believe that Egyptian students of Islam are being taught that cannibalism of apostates is halal [permitted].
Policies such as these should be of great concern to the West. The West, however, appears to be in denial. It refuses to be openly concerned; and when its citizens are concerned, they are suppressed. They are sued [Geert Wilders, Lars Hedegaard, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant]; assaulted [Kurt Westergaard in Denmark, Lars Vilks in Sweden, Charlie Hedbo weekly journal in France]; threatened with deportation [currently, Imran Firasat, from Spain to Pakistan, and Reza Jabbari from Sweden to Iran, where both will most likely be either imprisoned or sentenced to death]; issued death threats [Salman Rushdie, Geert Wilders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, M. Zuhdi Jasser], and sometimes murdered [Theo van Gogh].
Instead of soberly facing the threat of Islam, the West has become desensitized to all the murderous videos pouring out of the Muslim world. There is no outrage in Western governments, media or NGOs over what we hear and see sluicing daily out of the Middle East: the photos of hundreds of Christians burned alive by Muslims in Nigeria; the videos of beheadings and burning-alive of apostates to be found all over the internet; or the daily Islamic reminders -- from many political leaders, Arab television, and the pulpits of mosques -- that, in their opinion, Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs.
If we are to preserve Western freedoms for future generations, it is time to change our dismissal of, and indifference to, the deep-rootedness of these views.
Westerners have been investing a lot of time, effort and money trying to understand Islam, when all they need to do is listen to what Muslim leaders are saying. American foreign policy priorities should not be the appeasement of an Islamic culture desperate for approval, but protecting its citizens, culture and constitution from all morally bankrupt and tyrannical ideologies.