Sofia Allam simply could not believe it. Her kind, loving father was sitting in front of her threatening to kill her. He said she had brought shame and humiliation on him, that she was now "worse than the muck on their shoes" and she deserved to die.The lengthy article probes the trend a bit deeper than others like it, and points out the British authorities' shameful treatment of the problem as well as the fact that the problem isn't limited to extremists. But it shies away from any theories as to its causes.
And what had brought on his transformation? He had discovered that she had left the Muslim faith in which he had raised her and become a Christian.
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"My mother's transformation was even worse. She constantly beat me about the head. She screamed at me all the time. I remember saying to them, as they were shouting death threats, 'Mum, Dad - you're saying you should kill me… but I'm your daughter! Don't you realise that?'?"
They did not: they insisted they wanted her out of their house.
Religious persecution of the kind Sofia suffers, however, is increasingly common in Britain today. It is hard to get an accurate notion of the scale of the problem, not least because very few of the people who leave Islam are willing to complain to the police about the way they are treated.Finally, hidden among the quotations gathered from "moderate" Muslim leaders in Britain, is the fact that while those spokespersons denounce the practice in Britain, they refuse to denounce the practice itself:
"Intimidation is very widespread and pretty effective," says Maryam Namazie, a spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. She believes that many of the deaths classified as "honour killings" are actually murders of people who have renounced Islam.
"I get threatened all the time: emails, letters, phone calls," she says. "When I returned home this afternoon, for example, there was a death threat waiting for me on my answering machine…" She laughs nervously.
"A lot of them aren't serious, but occasionally they are. I went to the police about one set of threats. They took a statement from me but that was it - they never contacted me again."
That treatment is in sharp contrast to the seriousness with which the Dutch and German police responded when members of the Council of Ex-Muslims in those countries made complaints to the police about death threats.
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But it is not only extreme Muslim families that believe it is their religious duty to threaten, and even kill, members who renounce the religion.
"My father could not be described as an extremist," insists Sofia, who is now 31. "We read the Koran and prayed regularly together, but he never insisted on my wearing Islamic dress and he was quite happy that I went to the local comprehensive, which was all girls, but not by any means dominated by Muslims."
Ibrahim Mogra, of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), says that it is "absolutely disgraceful behaviour… In Britain, no Muslim has the right to harm one hair of someone who decides to leave Islam."My own theory on how and why the trend has seen such an increase in recent years comes partly from Sofia's own statement of how "...attitudes have hardened over the past decade." The "past decade" has seen not only a swelling of the Muslim population in Britain, but a concomitant trend among the British government--and, indeed, large segments of British society--to bow and scrape to the more extreme Muslims while at the same time prosecuting for "hate speech" those who speak out against Muslim extremism. Another concurrent trend has been one of repressing British national identity, culture and traditions out of fear of "offending" those of other cultures and faiths.
Inayat Bunglawala, also a spokesman for the MCB, insists that such behaviour in Britain is "awful and quite wrong. The police should crack down on it."
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The reluctance to condemn sharia law is widespread. I asked Mr Bunglawala, for instance, to condemn the Islamic states that imposed the death penalty for apostasy. He did not do so, merely commenting that "it was a matter for those states".
The combination of these three makes for a "perfect storm" in which a minority feels emboldened and entitled to do as they see fit, while the majority frets over what to do about it.