A Muslim judge in Sudan has ordered the flogging and execution of a pregnant Christian woman after she refused to convert to Islam, triggering condemnation from American government officials and leaders of international ministries.
According to the independent Christian news service Morning Star News, Judge Abaas Al Khalifa on Thursday condemned Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, pronouncing, “The court has sentenced you to be hanged till you are dead.”
Ibrahim, raised as a Christian and married to a Christian man, was accused of being a Muslim and rejecting Islam, called “apostasy.” The court followed the rule of Islamic law that the father confers his faith to his children. Ibrahim’s father abandoned her family when she was a young child.
She was ordered to be flogged on a separate charge of adultery, because her marriage is not recognized by the Islamic state. Under Islamic law, a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a Christian man.
The judge on April 30 gave Ibrahim, 27, two weeks to convert from Christianity to Islam.
She is being imprisoned with her 20-month-old son.
U.S. State Department officials said the sentence is cause for alarm.
“We are deeply disturbed over the sentencing today of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag to death by hanging for apostasy. We are also deeply concerned by the flogging sentence for adultery. We understand that the court sentence can be appealed,” the U.S. said in a statement.
“We continue to call upon the government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, a right which is enshrined in Sudan’s own 2005 Interim Constitution as well as international human rights law.”
The State Department also called on Sudanese legal authorities “to approach this case with the compassion that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people.”
Christian Solidarity International-USA President John Eibner said that public pressure should be used to get Muslims to denounce the actions by the Sudanese judge.
“It is normally important in cases like this to keep the media spotlight on the victim. The human rights campaigner should also ask the most influential Islamic authorities, such as the Keeper of the Two Holy Sites, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and the Grand Imam of Alazhar to condemn the sentence and intervene to save her life,” Eibner said.
Islam analyst Robert Spencer says that the U.S. government could do more than issue statements.
“It’s possible that the Obama administration could put pressure on the Sudanese government to release this woman and give her protection from Shariah vigilantes, but because of the administration’s willful ignorance regarding jihad and Shariah, it will certainly not do that,” Spencer said.
Islam analyst and author Pamela Geller agrees that the Obama administration will do little in response to Ibrahim’s conviction.
“A U.S. president who cared about victims of Shariah could call for her release, focus world attention on her plight, and get the U.N. to call for her release,” Geller said.
A staged military strike could be used, she said.
“He could even send the troops he has tied down in the Afghanistan fool’s errand to Sudan to ensure that this woman and others like her are safe. But we don’t have that kind of president,” Geller said.
Eibner said understanding Islam and Shariah is key for Americans to understand the case.
Spencer said, however, the “mainstream media, as well as the government, lies consistently and continually to the American people about the nature of Islam.”
“Most Americans have no idea that Islam has a death penalty for apostasy,” he said.
Spencer said the international human rights community is also “severely derelict.”
“It hasn’t called attention to this or done anything to stop,” he said. “No significant force is standing against the Muslim organizations such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that claim that any defense of people like this woman would be Islamophobic.”
‘I have never been a Muslim’
A report by Justice Center Sudan, which has been representing Ibrahim, said she was first arrested in September on suspicion of adultery.
Her brother reportedly filed the criminal complaint, but it was later learned that the couple had been married in a church in 2012.
The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies said Ibrahim’s case demonstrates inconsistency in Sudanese law that doesn’t take into account Sudan’s diverse population.
According to Morning Star News, other Sudanese convicted of leaving Islam have recanted their new faith to avoid execution.
“I am a Christian, and I have never been a Muslim,” Ibrahim told Al Khalifa in court.
The report said Ibrahim was born to a Sudanese Muslim father who disappeared from her life when she was 6 years old and an Ethiopian mother who was of the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition.
Her advocates said she is due to give birth soon, and it is expected the flogging will be carried out when she recovers.
An appeal will be pursued, and a lawyer for Justice Center Sudan said: “Meriam is very encouraged by the international support she is receiving from the international community. She hopes that people stand with her and her family until she gets her freedom.”
Her husband, Daniel Wani, is a south Sudanese national who also has U.S. citizenship. He said his wife is not getting adequate medical care and her delivery date approaches.
The report said the ramifications of the case also could include a dissolution of the marriage, since Muslim officials don’t recognize it. That would mean their children would become wards of the state, no matter the result in her case.
No one has been executed for apostasy in Sudan since the Sudan Criminal Code of 1991 made it punishable by the death penalty.
“Mrs. Ibrahim’s sentence is inhumane and unwarranted,” Kiri Kankhwende, press officer for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which has advocated for her along with other international organizations, told Morning Star News.
“CSW calls for it to be annulled and for the immediate release of Mrs. Ibrahim and her son, who is being held in violation of article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”