Yet many Muslim intellectuals contest that the punishment of apostates has a foundation in the Koran and emphasise that behind the accusations is concealed a desire to get rid of difficult political or intellectual opponents. In this sense, the contemporary debate on apostasy is to be placed within the travails of contemporary Islam which for decades has had to deal with the increasing influence of fundamentalist currents and negative shifts in the direction of terrorism. A documented picture of this debate is offered by the Jesuit Samir Khalil Samir in the preface to the volume I cristiani venuti dall'Islam. Storie di Musulmani convertiti by Giorgio Paolucci and Camille Eid. The phenomenon of conversions from Islam, which has been almost completely ignored by the mass media, is examined in this work in detail: an analysis of the juridical situation of apostasy in the various Islamic countries is accompanied by numerous testimonies gathered in Italy and the world which undermine the common view that Islam is an immutable and impermeable monolithic bloc. The fascination that the Christian Event has exercised for two thousand years in every latitude even penetrates the hearts of a large number of people who grow up within the Muslim tradition and leads them to address the 'provocation' of God made man and companion of humanity. And it thus happens, as some converts relate in the pages of this book, that baptism becomes the completion of the search for Mystery and at the same time a 'new beginning'.
This volume is an original contribution to the debate on religious freedom and throws light on a very widespread reality but a reality that is little known about, not least because of the situation of semi-secrecy in which many 'neo-Christians' are forced to live. And in its analysis it helps us to understand how much still has to be done before there is a full application of article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance'.
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