Many controversial verses from the Qur'an and quotations by the prophet Muhammad -better known as hadiths-raise fundamental questions about the stance of Islam on freedom of religious conversion. Does Islam prohibit it? Or does it allow and tolerate it? Another question of holy texts' interpretation arises here too: who has the right to interpret it? and what are the mechanism?
There's a scholarly consensus on the right of every Muslim to change religion. There is supposed to be no dispute between the widely accepted human right to religious conversion and Islam's rules of abandoning Islam. This can be understood in the light of: first, proper interpretations of Islam should be taken from well-established schools. Second, the contribution of Islamic paradigms to the human rights declaration.
Traditionally, people always resorted to to well-known scholars from established schools across the Muslim world for jurisprudential and theological inquiries. Schools like Al-Azhar University in Egypt, Zaytuna Mosque in Tunisia and The Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus. Nowadays, in the modern world, the followers deserted these schools -usually referred to as traditionalist-in favor of more extremists views that prohibit changing one's religion and the media shed more light on these opinions. Interestingly, the greatest percentage of scholars from those traditionalist institutions have issued clear fatwas [Islamic religious ruling] that every Muslim has the absolute right to change religion and embrace whatever system of belief they choose. That's why these schools should be the true reference for any proper interpretations of Islam that are consistent with the global human rights.
Another issue that has to mentioned in this context is how much the Islamic paradigms have contributed to the shaping of the now-accepted human rights. While the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights is widely recogonised and even respected in virtually every country in the world, Islam was denied the chance to contribute to drafting. Historically speaking, the Muslim world was by far preoccupied with colonisation and movements of independence when the declaration was issued. These circumstances gave the Muslim mind no chance to be engaged in a true discussion on these rights: how Islam sees freedom of religion, how to ensure the peace and security of a multi-religious society and what stance Islam has on followers changing religions. Until these discussions and debates find their way to a global round table, it's assumed many conflicts will always break out between the global view and Islam's.
Conducting these above-mentioned arguments, it can be concluded that the widely held interpretations of Islam do not present what Islam truly has to say on the issue of religious freedom-and conversion particularly- when it actually agrees on every human being's right to embrace whatever creed. "Who speaks for Islam?" is an ongoing debate that can only come to an end by going back to the well-established Islamic schools that present the more globally accepted version of the religion. Muslims and Islamic thought ought to be invited to engage in a true discussion about real Islamic values and the apparently contradicting global ones.