Egypt mufti reaffirms Muslim freedom of religious choice

Egypt’s top religious adviser, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, reaffirmed his belief Thursday that Muslims could choose their own religion after the local press carried apparently conflicting statements. Gomaa maintained that while it would be a “grave sin” for Muslims to commit apostasy and convert to another religion, worldly punishment should only be meted out if their actions endangered society. “Choice means freedom, and freedom includes the freedom to commit grave sins as long as their harm does not extend to others,” he said in a statement, echoing remarks he made earlier in a Washington Post-Newsweek forum on Islam. His original remarks were picked up by the press who interpreted them to mean that the second-highest religious authority in Egypt didn’t mind Muslims converting to another faith, necessitating a statement from the mufti Tuesday condemning apostasy that appeared to contradict his Washington Post remarks. “Some members of the press and the public understood this statement as a retraction of my position that Islam affords freedom of belief. I have always maintained the legitimacy of this freedom and I continue to do so,” he said.

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