Cairo: Egypt's top Muslim cleric has recently angered fellow clerics for allegedly permitting a Muslim to choose his own faith without fear of worldly punishment.
Ali Juma, the country's Grand Mufti, was quoted as saying in a posting on a Washington-Post-Newsweek forum that Muslims are free to change their religion without being penalised in this world.
In many Muslim countries, apostasy is punishable by death. Though Juma hastily denied passing the fatwa [a religious edict], he drew angry responses from other Muslim theologians.
"The Quranic verse 'No compulsion in religion' means that non-Muslims should not be forced to embrace Islam," said Islamist Yousuf Al Badri.
"Which faith one chooses is up to the individual, who does not face any penalty for not converting to Islam. However, if this person chooses to embrace Islam, he would be punished if he later gave it up," Al Badri told the independent newspaper Al Masri Al Youm.