“We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death.”
The crazed utterances of a medieval Islamic despot, ruling his territory through fear, tyranny and intimidation?
In fact, they are the words of a judge at a Sudanese court and they were addressed, on Thursday, to a heavily pregnant woman who had had the temerity to marry a Christian man. Sudan has a majority Muslim population and introduced Shariah laws in the early 1980s under the rule of autocrat Jaafar Nimeiri.
Eight months pregnant and currently in detention with her 20-month-old son, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag was also convicted of adultery on the grounds that her marriage was void under Sudan’s version of Islamic law, which stipulates that Muslim women may not marry non-Muslims. So, just for good measure, she will also get 100 lashes.
27-year-old Meriam is expected to be executed when she has recovered from giving birth. For apostasy. And if some of you are thinking ‘What? Is that even a thing?’, I don’t blame you. Tragically, apostasy (the abandonment of religious faith) is not just a thing, it’s a matter of life and death in places like Sudan.
People should not be allowed to hide behind their religions and their cultures and treat people in such a heinous, barbaric way. In the global community, certain human values and certain standards of conduct transcend all that. This behaviour is reprehensible, has no place in a civilised world and must be stopped. I urge the President of Sudan to intervene and free Meriam as soon as possible.
“If you do not have the possibility of abandoning your religion, you do not enjoy the possibility of freely embracing it, either.” (Paul Berman)