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Jailed Iranian Pastor Decries “Insulting Words” Against Islam

Unfortunately, Pastor Youcef Naderkhani remains jailed in Iran, despite international pressure to secure his release. In March, we published the story of his plight, Message to Iran: Free Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani:

Youcef Nadarkhani should be released from Iranian jail immediately. In fact, he should have never been jailed in the first place.

Nadarkhani faces possible execution in Iran for the “crime” of apostasy and Christian evangelism. In the face of mounting international pressure, the Iranian regime has said Nadarkhani was actually charged with more serious crimes unrelated to religion, but barring new evidence to the contrary, this appears to be a face-saving lie.

The regime in the so-called “Islamic” Republic of Iran urgently needs to reread the Qur’an, including Chapter 109, Surat Al-Kafirun -The Disbelievers, and (among others) verses 2:62, 5:69, and 2:256.

Since that time, the Iranian regime has made the situation worse by arresting his defense attorney. Yet despite the hardship he has faced at the hands of the regime in Iran, Pastor Naderkhani does not blame Islam or Muslims for his ordeal. In a letter he wrote from prison, he thanked his many supporters and spoke out against those who use his cause to bash Islam.

Jailed Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani writes thank you letter to supporters from prison

By , Fox News

The Christian pastor on death row in Iran has reportedly written a letter thanking his supporters and blasting those who he said use “insulting words” against Islam in what he considers a misguided effort to help his cause.

Washington-based human rights group American Center for Law and Justice released what it says is a letter written by Youcef Nadarkhani earlier this week from a prison in the Lakan Province of Iran, where he is currently being held  for charges of practicing Christianity and renouncing Islam. If the letter is real, it is the first time Nadarkhani has been heard from in a year.

“First, I would like to inform all of my beloved brothers and sisters that I am in perfect health in the flesh and spirit,” begins the letter, which is addressed to “All those who are concerned and worried about my current situation.”

“From time to time I am informed about the news, which is spreading in the media, about my current situation…or campaigns and human rights activities which are going on against the charges which are applied to me.” Another passage from the pastor’s letter reads, “I do believe that these kind of activities can be very helpful in order to reach freedom, and respecting the human rights in a right way can bring forth great results in this.”

Nadarkhani also mentions those who have used his cause to attack Islam, saying “burning and insulting” is not “reverent” behavior. He did not specifically mention controversial Florida Pastor Terry Jones, who claims to have burned Korans in April to show solidarity with Nadarkhani.

The letter was obtained by evangelic ministry Present Truth, which operates missions in Iran. The group also had the letter translated into English from the pastor’s native language of Farsi.

“Present Truth Ministries received the letter from its sources inside Iran. We believe the sources providing this letter have proven to be credible throughout this case and, therefore, we believe that Pastor Youcef is the author,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, told

Nadarkhani has been jailed since being arrested in 2009 after he went to his son’s school to complain about them starting mandatory Koran classes.

He was then charged with apostasy from Islam. He was found guilty by the Iranian Supreme Court and sentenced to death and has been imprisoned ever since.

His attorney in Iran was recently arrested and sentenced to nine years in prison. He has also been barred from practicing or teaching law for ten years.


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  • Sarah Brown

    @Ilisha – I was just responding to the specific question about Christians speaking up – I don’t think I have a problem with any of the points you make. I don’t believe Muslims, individual Muslims or groups, should be expected to condemn acts of injustice or terrorism committed by other Muslims. I think it’s entirely valid to focus on criticising and exposing anti-Muslim bigotry. Of course having posts supporting victims of apostasy laws is itself a very effective antidote to the claims of Jihadwatch etc – but I can quite see why you don’t like being pressured into repeating those points as though what was happening in Iran or wherever was your responsibilty.

  • Nilufer R. Sage

    Oh yeah… and I do live and have lived most of my life in America. But that has little to do with anything. 🙂

  • Nilufer R. Sage

    @ Susanna – Thanks for answering. That is true… I was not condemned to death by a judge for becoming Muslim. I do not feel that I was missing the point, and I am outraged that any person could be and have been sentenced to death for changing a religion, but I do not blame ANY religion as a whole for it’s actions. 🙂

  • Susanna

    @ Nilfur R Sage

    Your story depends on where you lived. It is one thing for a community or family to harm their own because they choose a different religion.Did you live in a Christian country where choosing another religion condemned you to death. But it’s another thing altogether that a country with a theocracy condemn a person to death because they chose one religion over another. You are missing a vital point here. What is it I ask. But that aside I would definately be as outraged if it were reversed. God created us with free will and the freedom to choose with fear of harm.

  • Sarah Brown

    To be fair to LibertyPhile, he links to a range of blogs which cover the topic of Islam – that includes sites like loonwatch, Islamophobia Watch and MPACUK as well as Jihad Watch etc. Also, he seems to repost stories about anti-Muslim bigotry (the anti-Islam teeaching in the army story, anxieties about far right backlash after Rochdale) as well as about problems associated with Muslims or Islam.

    It’s difficult to think of a precise analogy for a Muslim facing state persecution for his faith. But, to think of two related stories, many Christians or cultural Christians have spoken out against bans on religious head covering and on building minarets in Europe, and many have expressed concerns about human rights abuses associated with the ‘war on terror’ – also about how Geller and co demonise Muslims.

  • Nilufer R. Sage

    @ Susanna – You did not answer my question. For the record, I was persecuted, assaulted and disowned by my Christian family and a huge chunk of the community I lived turned violent and spiteful when I became Muslim. I harbor no ill feelings towards any of them. And I was not the only person who went through such a thing. But that is NOT THE POINT… The question was “If a Muslim was in the position of persecution and possible death in an area that is Christian, would YOU protest such a thing and stand up for the Muslim.” 🙂 Peace.

  • Susanna

    @ Nilufer R. Sage

    Do Christians persecute ex-Christians for becoming Muslims? In America there is freedom of choice. It is a matter of the heart and conscience.

  • LibertyPhile


    “Either people are collectively responsible or they aren’t.”

    Yes, they are collectively “responsible”. Obviously, any particular individual without a position of power or leadership can do next to nothing, except perhaps send off an email, write to your political/religious leader, or at the extreme leave the faith (it clearly isn’t working very well).

    But I am not apportioning responsibility. I am making the simple observation that no one of influence or standing in the Muslim world has protested at the Iranians understanding of what Islam requires in this case. They are obviously not responsible (N.B. no quotation marks) as they are not sitting there in Iran making the decisions.

  • Nilufer R. Sage

    @ Susanna – I wholly agree with you. But, I’d like to ask you a question (as a Muslim to a Christian … If the roles were reversed, and a Muslim was being persecuted in the same manner, would you protest?

  • LibertyPhile

    @ Ilisha

    “If it sounds idiotic to wave an accusatory finger at Christian leaders in far flung places like Chile, Belgium and New Zealand, demanding that they expressly condemn the actions of someone like Joseph Kony, as if they are personally responsible for his crimes, then please tell it to the loons. They’re the ones who make similar demands of Muslims.”

    You really stretch a point to its limits don’t you!

    You seemed to have forgotten the fact that Kony was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

    It is not unreasonable to look to “Grand Muftis, Ayatollahs, famous scholars (e.g. Tariq Ramadan, Qaradawi), political leaders, Ministers of Muslim countries (especially those right next door to Iran, its neighbours, who might have some influence) and organisations like CAIR and the Muslim Council of Britain, etc, etc, etc. for some condemnation of a belief the rest of the world finds barbaric.

    You also seem painfully unaware of the political and moral arguing and criticising that goes on amongst politicians, opinion leaders, and in the media, here in “Christian” Europe about its own backyard and other parts of the “Christian” world.

  • Sir David Illuminati membership number 16.69

    Yup there are bad muslims but also bad christians hindus jews as well .Are you an equal oppertunities denouncer or a loon?

  • Susanna

    I would only comment that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is a true Christian and an example of how Christians live their lives in Jesus Christ. No one should use “burning and insulting” on his behalf. Even in his dire circumstance, he displays love of neighbor. I’ve read his whole letter and it shows his deep concern for others, even his persecutors.

  • Anticipated Serendipity

    Thanks for the response 🙂 

    “…But they are rounding up innocent people who are Muslims and punishing them for little more than thought crimes, and it seems highly unlikely some of these people would have been targets if they weren’t Muslims.”

    You have a point, but this wouldn’t be the case if there wasn’t so much religiously-motivated violence coming out of Muslims. The point that some here have been making is that *most* scholars agree with death for apostasy, which is why Islam and us as Muslims are given a hard time over it. 

    “…Are unjust death sentences also okay as long as you don’t cite religious law as a motive?”

    No, but you can’t call Christian leaders into question for not condemning U.S. actions if there is no Christian element to it. Iran sentences a man to death for apostasy b/c that’s what they believe Islam calls for, which is why a response is expected from Muslim leaders/scholars. When the U.S. cites Christian law as justification for airstrikes, torture, etc, Christian leaders should be called into question, but that’s just not the case.

    “Also, every time an injustice is perpetrated by a Muslim anywhere in the world, regardless of the motive, express condemnation is expected from Muslim leaders everywhere in the world.”

    I don’t think we deserve to be blamed for the actions of the nutjobs who share our religion, but when a so-called “Islamic republic” is going to kill someone for their harmless religious beliefs and then cite Islam as the reason, what do you expect non-Muslims to think? Isn’t it only right that we try to set the record straight on what Islam (as per the Quran) really has to say on the issue?

    “Either the notion of collective responsibility for crimes of co-religionists should be abandoned, or Christian leaders should be asked to do the same. I consider glaring hypocrisy quite relevant, especially since a distinct crusader mentality is afoot in the US military.”

    It’s not about collective responsibility, it’s more a discussion about whether or not “death for apostasy” is a legitimate Islamic POV and as per most scholars it is. If some Christians believed in a religiously-sanctioned concept of constant war on Muslims/Muslim countries and indiscriminate killings, then there’d be an equivalency b/w the two. 

    Regardless of how you feel about the U.S. military, it is legally a secular institution, consisting of members of various different religions, including, surprisingly, Muslims. 

    “Ignoring these incidents? This is the second time I published an article criticizing the Iranian regime and highlighting Pastor Naderkhani’s plight. Last time I posted an article about this, someone accused me of trying to hide the issue of apostasy in Islam. If I were trying to hide or ignore something, I wouldn’t post articles about it–shouldn’t that be self evident?”

    Perhaps “ignore” wasn’t the best word to described what I meant, which is that you try to mitigate the apostacy issue by equating it with U.S. violence and indiscriminate killings in war zones or in relation to persons believed to be involved in violent activities. I agree with you on everything apostasy-related and believe this pastor should be freed, but I don’t think the U.S. needed to be brought into the discussion b/c it’s a completely different and unrelated issue. Killing people for leaving their religion is unfortunately a uniquely Muslim thing. I don’t agree with it, you don’t agree with it, but most of the ummah does.

  • LibertyPhile

    @Arab Atheist

    I don’t have the time or the skill, and most people wouldn’t have the patience to listen, if everytime I pointed out something about Islam that I didn’t like, I said “This is terrible but on the other hand there are Muslims who don’t do/believe that horrible thing”” or words to that effect.

    Until the human race finds another way of communicating I am going to continue to point out the activities and beliefs of Muslims like this one.
    [snipped: links to hate sites are not allowed. Ilisha]

    I mention this particular Muslim because he is speaking next week at a University in London, not far from where I live (unless the authorities have the guts to cancel it).

  • Arab Atheist – Ů…Ů„Ř­ŘŻ عربي


    And this also reminds us that even orthodox views are diverse to the point of discrepancy and accusations apostasy sometimes. Apostization (takfeer) has become trendy among the extremists. Wahabis and extremist Shi’ates do not consider each other to be Muslim. It gets even worse even within the Sunni denomination. I remember people at the local mosque were so angry with ultraorthodox wahabis who said that Ashari Muslims (90% of Sunnis) were astray and probably infidels. Asharis are the majority and (comparatively) they favor non-literal interpretations of scriptures. Among ash’aris you find such apoliticzed groups like Jama’t al-Dawa (tabligh) and the Sufis.

    Do you hear about those in the media? Certainly not. Do you know why? Because they do not make Islam look bad enough. Loons constantly lump sum the Muslim world because it’s easier to think about the world in terms of black-vs-white. Simplistic logic is always comfortable and childish. It’s always exhausting to grasp all the sides of a picture, and only those who care enough bother to look beyond evil-vs-good constructs.

  • LibertyPhile

    Hi Sarah

    I read that post by Mehdi Hasan when it was first published and analysed the comments it attracted from Guardian readers. See here:

    They start off with this: “Simple fact is, the Hadiths (which the majority of Muslims follow) do prescribe death for apostasy.”

    @Arab Atheist

    Thank you for your honesty!

  • Sarah Brown

    Hi LibertyPhile – I don’t always see eye to eye with him and I’m pretty sure you don’t either. But here is Mehdi Hasan on this issue:

  • Arab Atheist – Ů…Ů„Ř­ŘŻ عربي

    @Just Stopping By
    I don’t eat pork because, growing up as a Muslim, I have not developed a taste for it. It gives me nausea, but this is a strictly personal thing. It’s not easy to adjust your taste to your views đź?€

    It seems that even with LW posting articles critical of extreme Islamism, you will find people who misunderstand or are very unhappy with LW’s views.

    If you go over the comments section, you will find links to Muslim thinkers who oppose such extremist measures. But are those views mainstream? Sadly not.

    As I said earlier, the battle between liberals and right-wingers is ongoing in the Muslim world. It is a nasty battle and will continue for a while. Is the “enlightenment” of the Muslim world at sync with that of, say, Sweden? Definitely not. The clock of Saudi Arabia seems at sync with the Medieval Era. Is there hope? Definitely yes. Before someone labels the Muslim world as backward, let’s remember that it is not homogeneous. Also we tend NOT to describe the founding fathers of America as backward, although history shows they were anything but perfect.

    You think the West is perfect? It certainly is not. Western colonialism is far nastier than Islamic conquests. But modernization and liberalization are long arbitrary processes (not always at sync everywhere).

    You might think it’s strange coming from an Arab, but the laws of many western countries are not liberal enough for my taste.

    Finally, only when the Arab world starts to appreciate free speech and unorthodox views more often will their be an enlightenment leap. Although loons might disagree (out of ignorance and blind hatred) but people all over the Arab world are starting to be more confident of their right to free speech. The conflict between extremists and liberals is fiercer than ever, which is a healthy thing to happen!

  • Khalid

    These apostasy laws are not only damaging to christian self-determination but harmful to the islamic faith aswell , because it painst ultraconservative radicalism as the islamic norm – which if you’ve visited this site before ? you know it isn’t

  • LibertyPhile

    No doubt there are lots of individual Muslims aghast at the treatment of the Pastor and the threat to his life. No doubt some are speaking out as you do on loonwatch.

    But what about “important” Muslims? Grand Muftis, Ayatollahs, famous scholars (e.g. Tariq Ramadan, not his little brother, obviously the black sheep of the family, Qaradawi), political leaders, Ministers of Muslim countries? What has CAIR said? The Muslim Council of Britain, etc, etc, etc.


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