Charles Fights Death Penalty for Converts

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

The Prince of Wales is brokering efforts to end the Muslim death penalty on converts to other faiths, The Telegraph has learned.

He held a private summit of Christian and Muslim leaders at Clarence House this month to explore the centuries-old Islamic law under which apostates face persecution and even death.

His intervention follows mounting anger at the treatment of Muslims who have converted to Christianity in a number of Islamic states.

As an advocate of inter-faith dialogue, Prince Charles has come under pressure to criticise the religious law that, campaigners say, has resulted in hundreds of executions in countries from Iran to Sudan.

Among the Christians at the confidential meeting was an Anglican archbishop from a part of Nigeria where Islamic Sharia law is enforced.

Others included the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, and the Pakistani-born Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali.

It is understood that the Muslim group, which included the Islamic scholar Zaki Badawi, cautioned the prince and other non-Muslims against speaking publicly on the issue.

It argued that Islamic moderates could have more influence on the traditional position if the debate remained largely internal.

A member of the Christian group said yesterday that he was “very, very unhappy” about the outcome.

Patrick Sookhdeo, the international director of the Barnabas Fund which campaigns on behalf of persecuted Christians abroad, stressed that he was speaking on the record only because details of the meeting had already leaked.

He urged the prince and Muslim leaders in Britain to criticise openly the traditional Islamic law on apostasy, calling for it to be abolished throughout the world.

“My view, and I think the other Christians shared it, is that when something is wrong it must be stated as a wrong.”

Other Christian leaders were more sympathetic to the worries of the Muslims that public criticism could prove counter-productive.

Besides Dr Sookhdeo and the Bishops of London and Rochester, others Christian leaders at the meeting included the Archbishop of Kaduna in Nigeria, the Most Rev Josiah Idowu-Fearon, and a bishop from the Orthodox Church.

Other Muslim leaders included Sayyed Yousef al-Khoei, the director of the London-based Al-Khoei Foundation, and Sher Khan, of the Islamic Society of Britain.

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