Under Sudan’s Islamic Shari’a law, marriage to a Christian is considered invalid and a child who is considered Muslim cannot be raised by a Christian.
By Georgiana Constantin | June 18, 2014
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Thursday with megaphone in hand outside the White House in Washington
“Now more than ever, there is a desperate need for leadership – a need for leadership in America and a need for American leadership in the world,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said at a White House rally in Washington on Thursday, as he called for the release of Meriam Ibrahim a Sudanese doctor married to an American from New Hampshire. “This is an instance where the President can make a real difference. The President of the United States should stand up and lead. The President of the United States should tell the government of Sudan, ‘Release Meriam Ibrahim now.’”
Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, a twenty-seven year old woman raised as a Christian after her father abandoned her Ethiopian mother, was imprisoned in February with her one-year-old boy and unborn baby. Voice of the Persecuted reported: “On May 11, Ibrahim was charged and convicted of apostasy and adultery. A Khartoum court sentencing her to death by hanging on May 15 when she refused to recant her faith in Christ and return to Islam. She was also sentenced to 100 lashes for committing adultery with Daniel Wani, her husband. The marriage to her husband, a South Sudanese-born Christian man is considered invalid under Sudan’s Islamic Shari’a law.”
This case was brought to the attention of Sudanese authorities when her estranged father’s family claimed she was a Muslim born “Afdal” before her name was changed to Meriam. Mohamed Abdelnabi, one of Meriam’s attorneys, claims the document attesting this change of faith is a fake. “I was never a Muslim. I was raised a Christian from the start,” Meriam told a judge. During the trial, Meriam refused to answer to her supposed Muslim name, “Afdal.”
Meriam recently gave birth to a baby girl in the hospital wing of the Omdurman Women’s Prison in Khartoum. She will be allowed to nurse her baby for two years before the death sentence is carried out, although her lawyers have appealed her sentence. After she recovers from childbirth, she is to receive 100 lashes, itself a life threatening punishment.
Fox News reports that Meriam Ibrahim has also spent her days shackled in her cell since she was sentenced and has had a difficult time during her pregnancy. Her one year old boy seems to be suffering from bad health and a poor state of mind due to prison conditions. Her husband Daniel Wani has not been permitted by the Sudanese government “to have custody of his son because the boy is considered Muslim and cannot be raised by a Christian man.” Their eighteen-month-old, Martin, confined along with his mother to a single prison cell, is no longer the cheerful smiling boy he once was. Life News.com reports “the couple’s children, Martin and newborn Maya, are U.S. citizens. Yet, the U.S. State Department has so far refused to recognize their citizenship.”
Purportedly, several Sudanese have been convicted of apostasy in recent years only escaping execution by recanting their new faith. Not all were so lucky to escape execution, as Fox News reports, “religious thinker and politician Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, a critic of Nimeiri and his interpretation of Shariah, was sentenced to death after his conviction of apostasy. He was executed in 1985 at the age of 76.” (Nimeiri was president of Sudan from 1969 to 1985.)
According to the Washington Times “Mrs. Ibrahim’s plight has particularly outraged Europeans. Leaders of Britain’s three main political parties, Prime Minister David Cameron and the archbishop of Canterbury are agitating for her release. The State Department insists that it is ‘fully engaged.’”
International pressure is building around this case, as people in Europe and the U.S. seem to be more and more concerned with Meriam’s fate. That is not to say that Meriam and her family are benefitting in any direct way from this outrage. Until some concrete action is taken, Meriam and her two children will continue to suffer for their Christian faith.
Meriam’s husband hopes that “the international attention will force Sudan to free his wife, but when it does, the couple might not be allowed to leave the country with their children.” And since they obviously would not leave without them, it is evident that the help they need extends beyond just the woman’s release from prison.
Earlier this month, Congressman Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) introduced legislation to grant Meriam permanent legal status in the United States, announcing his disappointment with the Obama administration’s lack of reaction in this case, and urging the president to get involved.
In an interview with Fox News’ Megan Kelly, Senator Cruz stated that he was also working on similar legislation in the Senate, and, reiterated the need for “American leadership” in this situation, while also urging fellow Americans to pray for Meriam and her family.
In the end, a brief overview of the problem presents itself as follows: Meriam Ibrahim has been imprisoned for her Christian faith. She is the wife of an American citizen and the mother of two children, who are also American citizens (whether this citizenship has been recognized or not).
Senator Cruz’s call to action is, hence, perfectly warranted. It would be “just” for President Obama to “stand up and lead” and “tell the goverment of Sudan, ‘Release Meriam Ibrahim now.’”
Georgiana Constantin is a law school graduate who has studied European, International and Romanian law. Her thesis on the UN and global governance was completed at the Romanian-American University in Bucharest. She is currently a Masters candidate for International and European Law at the Nicolae Titulescu University in Bucharest. Ms. Constantin, who is based in Romania, is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.