For the past couple of weeks, the brutal abduction of some 300 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, in northern Nigeria, has sparked outrage against their abductors, Boko Haram. Some journalists have even been prompted to take such phrases as “Islamic extremists” and “Islamist terrorists” out of the mothballs where they have been for the past five or six years. There is no way to soft pedal the obscenity of selling young girls as slaves because they are “infidels.” But the war against women waged by Islam is not just raging in Nigeria.
The same ideology, the same way of looking at and controlling the world, is now threatening the life of a young mother in Sudan. Take all the misogyny, the rage against infidels, and the belief of the supremacism of strict adherence to the Koran that allows for no other way of life manifested in Boko Haram, telescope it, and you have the death sentence given to Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, 27, by the Islamist Government of Sudan.
Ibrahim, who is almost nine months pregnant, is married to South Sudanese Christian American citizen, Daniel Wani. She was arrested on Sunday, May 11, and incarcerated in Omdurman Prison in Khartoum, along with the couple’s two-year-old son, Martin. Wani, who lives in New Hampshire, had been in the process of applying for, but had not yet received, a spousal visa for his wife to come to the United States with him.
Although Ibrahim was raised as a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother, under Shariah she is considered a Muslim because her father was a Muslim. Therefore, her marriage to Wani was declared invalid and she was sentenced to be given 100 lashes for a
According to Sudanese human rights activist Safwan Abdalmoniem of the Hardwired organization, Judge Abbas Al Khalifa of the Criminal Court in al-Haj Yousif in Khartoum Bahri also sentenced Ibrahim to death for apostasy when she told the court that she was indeed a Christian and lawfully married to Wani.
The Islamist regime has very graciously given Ibrahim an opportunity to avoid the death sentence, which otherwise is supposed to
carried out on. All she needs to do is to renounce her Christian faith and convert to (or as they phrase it “return to”) Islam, a process referred to as istitabah in Arabic. She would, of course, be separated from her husband forever, and it is unclear what would happen to her children.
According to Abdalmoniem, Ibrahim’s lawyer has requested that she be transferred to a hospital for treatment of complications related to her pregnancy, but the court has refused. The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies further reveals that the court invited two organizations, including one, Munazzamat al-Da’wa al-Islamiia, which is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, to ‘counsel’ Ms. Ibrahim on her faith. This young mother is being harassed and intimidated to convert not just for her own sake, but for the sake of her unborn child who will die with her.
In response to this violation of human rights and religious freedom, the United States Embassy in Khartoum issued – not a hashtag – but a reprimand to the Sudanese government in which they were joined by the Embassies of the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands.
After expressing their obligatory “deep concern,” the Embassies called “upon the Government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one’s right to change one’s faith or beliefs, enshrined in international human rights law as well as in Sudan’s own 2005 Interim Constitution.” They also urged “Sudanese legal authorities to approach Ms. Meriam’s case with justice and compassion that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people” and expressed concern “over the brutal sentence that could be faced with respect to the finding of adultery.”
It is good that the U.S. Embassy statement expresses a unified message from the embassies of four nations. Its failing is that the message, like so many in the present day, is tepid and lacks the pressure of which Wani speaks. The United States government should not just call on Khartoum to respect the right to freedom of religion, but should demand the release of the wife of an American citizen, affirming Meriam Yahia Ibrahim’s right to practice her Christian faith and be married to a Christian husband. In addition, Meriam’s story should be spread throughout the country today – whether with hashtags or otherwise.
Time is running out to stop Islam’s war on women from winning one more battle.
Faith J. H. McDonnell directs the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan and is the author of Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children (Chosen Books, 2007).