Somalia lacked an effective central government for decades, with extremist Islamist groups imposing harsh forms of Sharia that included death for apostasy, blasphemy and other expressions of the freedom of belief and expression. There has been progress under the internationally-backed government, but extreme Islamist rule and punishment persists in areas controleld by Al-Shabaab.
The penal code developed in 1963 applies to all regions of the country. It criminalizes blasphemy and defamation of Islam, which carry fines of up to two years in prison.
In August 2012, in an effort to established greater centralized authority, the new government of Somalia adopted a provisional constitution that claims to provide for some freedom of religion, as well as some freedom of expression. However, the provisional constitution enshrines Islam as the state religion and prohibits proselytism for any religion other than Islam.
Meanwhile, the violent Islamist group Al-Shabaab retained control of some rural areas of the south and central regions. Al-Shabaab harasses and kills persons suspected of converting from Islam, and maims and kills those who fail to adhere to its edicts.
Although the legal situation is in flux, it is abundantly clear then in many parts of the country, any significant criticism of religion could result in a death sentence from an Sharia court backed by Al-Shabaab.