Al-Jazeera Special Programme on religion with Richard Dawkins

Dawkins on Religion: Al-Jazeera Special Programme with Richard Dawkins

Fanaticism, fundamentalism, superstition and ignorance. Religion is getting a bad press these days. Much of the conflict in the world, from the Middle East to Nigeria and Myanmar, is often blamed on religion.

But how are things from a different perspective? Defenders of religion claim Adolf Hitler was an atheist. Communism under Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot or Mao Zedong banned religion, but also massacred millions. And science brought incredible and amazing advances, but also pollution and the atomic bomb.

A critic of religious dogmatism, Professor Richard Dawkins revolutionised genetics in 1976 with the publication of The Selfish Gene, which explained how evolution takes place at the genetic level. He has since written 12 more bestsellers, including The God Delusion which sold millions of copies, was translated into more than 30 languages, and catapulted him to the position of the world’s foremost atheist.

Mehdi Hasan interviews evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins at the Oxford Union and asks: Is religion a force for good or evil? Can it co-exist with science? Is science the new religion? And why if god does not exist, is religion so persistent?

* penalty for apostasy: 

apostasy /əˈpɒstəsi/noun:  the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief or principle.

Apostasy in Islam (Arabic: ردة riddah or ارتداد irtidād) is commonly defined as the conscious abandonment of Islam by a Muslim in word or through deed. It includes the act of converting to another religion (such as Christianity) by a person who was born in a Muslim family or who had previously accepted Islam.

Apostasy in Islam includes in its scope not only former Muslims who have renounced Islam to join another religion or become an atheist, but Muslims who have questioned or denied any “fundamental tenet or creed” of Islam such as Sharia law (unbelief), or who have mocked Allah, worshiped one or more idols, or knowingly believed in an interpretation of Sharia that is contrary to the consensus of ummah (Islamic community). The term has also been used for people of religions that trace their origins to Islam, such as Bahá’ís in Iran, and Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan and Indonesia.

The definition and appropriate punishment for apostasy in Islam is controversial, and it varies among Islamic scholars. In Islam’s history, the vast majority of scholars have held that apostasy in Islam is a crime punishable with the death penalty, typically after a waiting period to allow the apostate time to repent and return to Islam. Some contemporary Muslim scholars also hold the traditional view that the death penalty for apostasy is required by the two primary sources of Sharia – the Quran and the Hadiths – while others argue that the death penalty is an inappropriate punishment. A majority considers apostasy in Islam to be some form of religious crime, although some reject the use of the death penalty while a minority of contemporary Islamic scholars, relying on the Quran, hold the view that apostasy in Islam is not a crime.

Under current laws in Islamic countries, the actual punishment for the apostate (or murtadd مرتد) ranges from execution to prison term to no punishment.Islamic nations with sharia courts use civil code to void the Muslim apostate’s marriage and deny child custody rights, as well as his or her inheritance rights for apostasy. Twenty-three Muslim-majority countries, as of 2013, additionally covered apostasy in Islam through their criminal laws.

According to critics, punishment for apostasy in Islam is a violation of universal human rights, and an issue of freedom of faith and conscience.

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