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2.14. Individuals considered to have committed blasphemy and/or apostasy

Last update: December 2020
*Minor updates added November 2021

This profile covers persons who are considered to have abandoned or renounced the religious belief or principles of Islam (apostasy), as well as persons considered to have spoken sacrilegiously about God or sacred things (blasphemy). It includes individuals who have converted to a new faith, based on their genuine inner belief (converts), as well as those who disbelieve or lack belief in the existence of God (atheists). It can be noted that, often, the latter grounds would be invoked sur place (Article 5 QD).

COI summary

Hudud (plural of hadd) crimes are the most serious crimes under Islamic law and are considered transgressions against God. Hudud punishments are specifically mentioned in the Quran and the Sunna (actions and sayings) of the Prophet, their execution is mandatory. These types of crimes were not included in the Penal Code, and the Code gave judges the authority to implement punishments in accordance with Hanafi jurisprudence of Islamic Law [Society-based targeting, 2.1, 2.2].

In Afghanistan, blasphemy is punishable by death or imprisonment of up to 20 years. Individuals who have committed blasphemy have three days to withdraw their behaviours or face the death penalty. Additionally, a 2004 law prohibited writings and published materials which were considered offensive to Islam or other faiths. Some cases of imprisonment sentences on charges of blasphemy were reported. There is low societal tolerance in Afghanistan for criticism of Islam, the latter is seen contrary to the religion and can be prosecuted as blasphemy [Society-based targeting, 2.2, 2.4].

Apostasy is also punishable by death, imprisonment, or confiscation of property. It is a serious offence and although it was reportedly rarely prosecuted, this had occurred in past years. Children of apostates are still considered Muslims unless they reach adulthood without returning to Islam, in which case they may also be put to death. Individuals perceived as apostates face the risk of violent attacks, which may lead to death, without being taken before a court [Criminal law and customary justice, 1.2; Society-based targeting, 2.1, 2.2, 2.4].

The Taliban see those individuals who preach against them or contravene their interpretations of Islam as ‘apostates’ [Society-based targeting, 2.7; Anti-government elements, 2].

According to the ISKP, Muslim allies of the West, but also those individuals who practice forms of ‘impure’ Islam, which includes non-Sunnis and Sunnis who practice Sufism or mystical schools of Islam, can be defined as ‘apostates’ [Society-based targeting, 2.8; Anti-government elements, 3].

Individuals who hold views that can be perceived as having fallen away from Islam, such as converts, atheists and secularists, cannot express their views or relationship to Islam openly, at the risk of sanctions or violence, including by their family. Such individuals must also appear outwardly Muslim and fulfil the behavioural religious and cultural expectations of their local environment, without this being a reflection of their inner conviction [Society-based targeting, 2.4].

In particular, conversion from Islam to another faith is considered as a serious offence under Islamic law. It is punishable with the death penalty by beheading for men, and with life imprisonment for women. Under Islamic law, individuals will be given three days to recant the conversion or face punishment. They are also perceived with hostility by society [Society-based targeting, 2.1, 2.3].

There has been an increasing number of Afghan converts to Christianity, but there had only been a few converts visible in the past decade in Afghanistan [Society-based targeting, 2.3].

Risk analysis

The acts to which individuals under this profile could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. death penalty, killing, violent attacks).

When considering such applications, the case officer should take into account that it cannot reasonably be expected that an applicant will abstain from his or her religious practices.[29] It should be noted that the concept of religion shall in particular include the holding of theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs (Article 10(1)(b) QD).

In the case of those considered apostates or blasphemers, in general, well-founded fear of persecution would be substantiated.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile is highly likely to be for reasons of religion.



[29] CJEU, Y and Z, para 80. [back to text]