Muslims for Progressive Values celebrates the release of blogger

Mohamed Cheikh Ould M’khaiter

Los Angeles, August 1, 2019

Mohamed Cheikh Ould M’khaiter was released from imprisonment by the government of Mauritania on Tuesday, July 30, 2019. M’khaiter had been held since 2 January, 2014 under the charge of apostasy, following his publication in Aqlame of “Religion, Religiosity, and Craftsmen” where he wrote against the mentality of slavery, this with the backdrop that Mauritania had only abolished slavery in 1981. He was convicted and sentenced to death by the sharia court on December 24, 2014.

Since 2016, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) took the lead in raising the profile of M’khaiter’s case by engaging with U.N. Special Rapporteurs, speaking of it at our annual human rights event Celebration of Life, and joined efforts with other Muslim groups under the umbrella of Alliance of Inclusive Muslims (AIM), in a letter to the President of Mauritania appealing him to pardon M’khaiter. After repenting, in 2017 M’khaiter’s sentence was reduced to two years for which he had already served. Releasing him however meant certain death as many imams called for his death with a $10,000 reward.   

On July 3, 2019, UNHRC committee member Yahd Ben Achour reiterated the case, challenging the apostasy laws based on the lack of such punishments within the Qur’an. M’khaiter appeared on national television in the following week, and repented of his actions, and was slated to be released to a third country, out of concern for his personal safety. That release occurred, and was confirmed on July 30, 2019, and was one of the last actions of President Aziz as he prepares to leave office.

Upon learning of M'khaiter's release, Zonneveld stated "I am personally gratified by this good news. Over the years, I have stayed focused on raising M'khaiter's death sentence as unjust, and an un-Islamic punishment for blasphemy and apostasy. The Quran is clear in verse 2:256: ‘there is no compulsion in religion.’We Muslims need to live up to the ideals of the Quran."

"I want to thank our friend Yadh Ben Achour, a UN Human Rights Committee member, who is a human rights and Islamic scholar from Tunisia, for challenging Mauritania at the recent evaluation of its human rights records. Watch Mr. Ben Achour's challenge to Mauritania when he stated: the right for freedom of religion and belief, includes Muslims! and ‘death penalty for apostasy not only runs counter to Article 18 but also to Sharia!’ That was a moment of truth. 

We call on all Muslim nations to follow Tunisia and the Moroccan religious authorities lead in abolishing any form of punishment including the death penalty for blasphemy and apostasy. Unfortunately, Mauritania has passed a new law away from Quranic teachings, with certain death sentence.  The struggle for an Islam rooted in compassion and justice will continue to be a priority for MPV.”

Read MPV's position statement on apostasy and blasphemy here.

Read the ground shaking Moroccan religious authorities decision regarding blasphemy and apostasy here.