Apostasy means "renouncing the faith." If someone is a Jew or a Hindu or whatever and they decide they don't want to be one anymore, that is apostasy.
The Koran says apostasy from Islam is a crime punishable by death. In many Islamic states, this is enforced by law. You cannot convert out of Islam. Once you're in, you're in for good.
It takes a great deal of courage to leave Islam, and the book, Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out is a collection of first-hand accounts of what happens when a person renounces their belief in Islam. It'll give you an inside view of what it's like to be a Muslim. It makes for some surprising, eye-opening reading.
You can find out, in Leaving Islam, the many different ways Muslims around the world deal with the difficult decision to renounce the religion.
Probably the only way we're going to get a straight story about what Islam is like is by listening to apostates. They have been Muslims and know all about it, and yet they are not apologists for it. They aren't trying to sell you on it. And all the apostates have a very consistent point of view on Islam.
Of course, they are all against the religion's intolerance of apostates, but many of them do not hate Islam itself. But they can still be honest about what it's like to be a Muslim. It's fascinating reading and will give you lots of interesting stories to tell your friends, but Leaving Islam is also a great reference book. Appendix A is a large list of quotes showing the violence, hatred, and intolerance commanded by the Koran. These are what the orthodox Muslims believe in and these are the main reasons the apostates left the religion.
Appendix B is a list of web sites, organizations, and email addresses of groups who are trying to help create a secularization of Islamic societies and groups that promote freedom of thought and freedom of religion in general. Appendix D is a list of web sites critical of Islam. Appendix E is a bibliography of books critical of Islam.
This is a resource you can use.
Below is excerpted from the introduction to Leaving Islam:
There are very useful analogies to be drawn between communism and Islam...As Arthur Koestler said, "You hate our Cassandra cries and resent us as allies, but when all is said, we ex-Communists are the only people on your side who know what it's all about."
Communism has been defeated, at least for the moment; Islamism has not, and unless a reformed, tolerant, liberal kind of Islam emerges soon, perhaps the final battle will be between Islam and Western democracy. And these former Muslims, to echo Koestler's words, on the side of Western democracy are the only ones who know what it's all about, and we would do well to listen to their Cassandra cries.
Below is the description on the hardcover:
In the West, those who abandon their religion (apostates) find it to be a difficult, emotional decision that sometimes carries with it social repercussions, such as physical and psychological isolation from family, friends, and colleagues. However, in culturally diverse societies with a mixture of ethnic groups and various philosophies of life, most people look upon such intellectual shifts of allegiance as a matter of personal choice and the right of the individual. In stark contrast, the socially restricted Muslim world still views apostasy as an unthinkable act, and orthodox Muslims would consider it a crime punishable by death. Renowned scholar of Islamic Studies Bernard Lewis has described the seriousness of leaving the Islamic faith in dire terms: "Apostasy was a crime as well as a sin, and the apostate was damned both in this world and the next. His crime was treason — desertion and betrayal of the community to which he belonged, and to which he owed loyalty; his life and property were forfeit. He was a dead limb to be excised."
Defying the death penalty that all apostates potentially face in the Islamic world, the ex-Muslims represented here feel it is their duty to speak up against their former faith, to tell the truth about the fastest-growing religion in the world.
These former Muslims — some born into the faith; others, Western converts — from all parts of the Islamic world recount how they slowly came to realize that their religion was in many respects unbelievable and sometimes even dangerous.
These memoirs and journals of personal journeys to enlightenment and intellectual freedom make for moving reading and are a courageous signal to other ex-Muslims to openly express their views.