Naar Nederlandse versie
10 September 2007

Declaration of Support
on the Occasion of the Establishment of
the Committee of Ex-Muslims
in The Netherlands

The individual freedom of religion and philosophy of life, including the right to change one’s religion or philosophy of life, is firmly determined in The Netherlands, at least on paper. The horizontal effect of article 6 of the constitution forbids  citizens the obstruction of the right of other citizens to change their religion or philosophy of life and publicly express their position.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) mentions the right to change one’s religion explicitly in article 18, combined with the explanation of article 18 of 20 July 1993 by the Human Rights Committee that watches over the ICCPR.  Under the preamble of the ICCPR the Dutch government is obliged to make sure that civilians grant each other freedom in their right to change their religion or philosophy of life.

Not much of the above mentioned is being acted upon in reality, though. The individual freedom to change one’s religion or philosophy of life is being denied  a significant part of the Dutch population, in particular among Muslims. One who is born in a Muslim milieu becomes a Muslim automatically, while the Islam disallows change of religion. The four Sunni schools of Islamic law, as well as many other Shiite scholars agree that an adult man who apostates from his Islamic religion should be killed. A female apostate can either be killed or become imprisoned until she shows remorse for her apostasy. 

According to the dominant idea’s within the Islam a Muslim is never allowed to change his religion. Many Muslims suggest that the prophet Muhammad established the death penalty for apostasy.
In Sudan and Yemen the penal code requires the death penalty for apostasy in Islam. In Mauritania it has been stated in the constitution and in Saudi Arabia and Iran apostasy is punished with the death penalty in accordance with the Sharia. In countries as Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq and Kuwait there is no legal prohibition, but an apostate is unofficially outlawed and risks being killed. In a certain degree the last mentioned situation  occurs  in varying degrees all Islamic countries, including Turkey. In some federal states of Malaysia Islam apostates are sentenced to a couple of years in re-education camps.
In the fatwa issued by Imam Khomeini in 1989 against Salman Rushdie, it was emphasized that Rushdie was an apostate and must therefore be killed.

In recent years this trend has manifested itself in the West. There are two concrete indications for this matter.
Websites in which Islam apostates anonymously tell their story show that many of them have been threatened or are fearful of threats.
Secondly, the fact that there are very few Islam apostates is enough reason to assume the great gravity of the problem. In a healthy open society migration between religions and philosophies of life, including humanism, atheism and agnosticism is normal. But migration out of Islam into other religions worldwide and in The Netherlands is an almost non existent phenomenon.

Many Dutch Muslims do not have a problem with people who are born in an Islamic milieu but who choose to have a different religion or life philosophy than the Islam. But many other Dutch Muslims do have a problem with this issue. A smaller group within the Dutch Muslim community, in accordance with the Sharia, are willing to use violence against Islam apostates. Inquiries (including one by Foquz Etnomarketing in 2004) show that almost 30% of all Dutch Muslims  advocate of introducing the Sharia in The Netherlands.

In the prohibition of apostasy the Islam presently is unique, world wide. All the great religions leave their members free to change their religion any time they wish. The Catholic church has recorded this right in writing in the declaration called Dignitatis Humanae of 1965.

The conflict between the Islamic principle and Dutch law exists since years. But the government ignores the problem and, appears to  estimate respect for the Islam higher than respect for individual freedom of religion and philosophy of life.
The prohibition to apostate in Islam in the first place is a problem for the victims: people who are born in an Islamic milieu, but who choose to openly leave their religion.
In the second place it is also a problem for The Netherlands, possibly the first country that had the right of individual freedom of religion recorded in writing (in a rudimentary state), with the Union of Utrecht in 1579.


The signatories state that

  • Everyone who is raised in a religious milieu, including atheist, should fully enjoy the freedom of choice regarding religion and philosophy of life;
  • That a choice for a religion or philosophy of life only has a meaning when that choice has been made in freedom and is revocable  at any time;
  • That every Dutchman should respect the freedom of choice of other Dutchmen, including relatives, in their choice of religion or philosophy of life;
  • That the Dutch government should actively see to the performance of the horizontal effect of article 6 of the constitution and the horizontal effect of article 18 of the ICCPR;
  • That no one is born as Muslim, or a member of any other religious community, or as an atheist;
  • • That parents have the right to raise their children according to their own religious beliefs, but that they are not allowed to decide what their children should or should not believe. When a child, regardless of its age, develops its own beliefs, these should have priority over other beliefs. This is in accordance with article 14 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by The Netherlands in 1995, in combination with the following reservation regarding article 14, made by The Netherlands in 1992:
    • “It is the understanding of the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands that article 14 of the Convention is in accordance with the provisions of article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 19 December 1966 and that this article shall include the freedom of a child to have or adopt a religion or belief of his or her choice as soon as the child is capable of making such choice in view of his or her age or maturity.”
  • That at all lessons in   citizenship, also at schools, Islamic schools included, should give much attention to the right of children to change their religion and to speak freely about their choices;
  • That the government should do everything in its power to create a climate in which the right of the individual to change one’s religion or philosophy of life or to abandon any kind of religion, should be respected;
  • That it is desirable that the administration of mosques and other Islamic organizations in The Netherlands and in the rest of Europe openly should declare, as in Diginitatis Humanae, that everyone is free to change their religion or philosophy of life;
  • That the Dutch government in the European Union should take the lead in opposing the religious lack of freedom in the EU in general. Special attention should be given to individual freedom of religion and philosophy of life of people who are born in an Islamic milieu.