Christian Convert from Islam Shot Dead

24 February 2003

Ziwar Muhammad Isma’il, a Christian convert from a Muslim background, has been
shot and killed for his faith, according to Middle East Concern.

Ziwar, who worked as a taxi driver in Zakho, in the Kurdish authority area of
North Iraq, was shot by Abd al-Karim Abd al-Salam at a taxi rank early in the
morning on 17 February.  Abd al-Salam approached Ziwar and challenged him to
return to Islam.  When Ziwar refused he opened fire with an automatic rifle. 
Other taxi drivers gave chase, apprehending Abd al-Salam and handing him over
to the police.  Abd al-Salam claims that the Islamic prophet Muhammad appeared
to him in a dream and told him to kill Ziwar. 

Ziwar converted to Christianity seven years ago.  Unlike many converts from
Islam Ziwar had been quite open about his faith and, as a result, he had been
threatened by his relatives and other Muslims and twice arrested, though not
charged.  Ziwar leaves a widow and five children.

All the major schools of Islamic law (Shari’ah) agree that Muslim men who
convert from Islam should be put to death, their marriages annulled, and their
children and property taken away.  This tradition is upheld and taught by many
Muslim religious leaders around the world.  In countries like Iran, Sudan and
Saudi Arabia the death sentence for leaving Islam is part of the law of the
land.  In other countries they may be arrested on various pretexts and often
beaten, tortured or imprisoned.

Even under more moderate Muslim authorities, such as those in the Kurdish areas
of northern Iraq, converts may still face widespread hostility and aggression
from their own families and communities.  In several countries converts have
been murdered by Islamic extremist groups, others have been killed by
individual Muslims who believe they are doing the will of Allah by taking the
law into their own hands.

Pray for comfort, love, protection, support and care for Ziwar’s wife and
children.  Ask that the Lord will be near to them in their grief, and that they
will also be practically provided for.

Pray for Abd al-Salam, that God will speak to him and guide him into the way of
truth and love.

Pray for a radical change in traditional Islamic thinking on conversion and
apostasy, so that Muslims who chose to convert to Christianity will be free to
follow their convictions without fear of persecution and death.

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