The body headed by Egypt’s official religious advisor on Tuesday denied he had said that Muslims were free to change their faith, as had been reported by a US Washington Post-Newsweek forum on Islam.
“The quotes attributed to the mufti were never said during the interview published by the Washington Post,” Dar al-Iftaa said in a statement carried by the official Egyptian news agency MENA.
The forum, entitled “Muslims Speak Out,” had quoted Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa as saying that “the essential question before us is can a person who is Muslim choose a religion other than Islam? The answer is yes, they can.”
“The act of abandoning one’s religion is a sin punishable by God on the Day of Judgement. If the case in question is one of merely rejecting faith, then there is no worldly punishment,” the forum wrote in quotes that were picked up by the Egyptian press.
However, according to the denial, “the mufti said that Islam forbids Muslims from renouncing their faith … and that if a Muslim did they would be committing a mortal sin.”
“Sheikh Ali Gomaa said apostasy is a kind of subversion and a sort of crime that requires punishment,” the statement said, while also clarifying that Islam allows other religions to practise freely.
A spokesman for Dar al-Iftaa, which is responsible for issuing religious opinions, had earlier told AFP the posting was “consistent with the mufti’s past fatwas” and that “apostasy is only punishable when it is considered akin to subversion.”
The issue of apostasy is a thorny one in the Islamic world, with one extremist interpretation declaring that apostates should be killed.
Attempts by Muslims in Egypt to convert to other religions have been hindered by the state’s refusal to recognise the change in official documents and in some cases have led to arrests and imprisonment.