The story of Meriam Ibrahim’s imprisonment in Sudan is circling the globe.
Few of the stories pinpoint how she happened to be in this situation. This blog is not written in order to report news or even commentary. This blog is about cultural issues that confront Christians in the US. This post is about what happens when Sharia law is the native, natural, norm for a culture, and it is a warning for anyone, including Christians, who think that Americans should accommodate the desires of Muslims in the US to live by Sharia law.
By the time you read this post, there may be more clarity about whether Meriam will be released from prison during the time she is allowed to nurse her newborn baby. That issue is only a part of the government’s penalty decisions. The only change is the location of her confinement. Free people around the world do not want her simply “permitted” to nurse her baby. Free people in every nation want to see the nation of Sudan do the right thing. Meriam must have the religious liberty to choose and live by her faith.
In the US, we are accustomed to expect children to do what they want when they reach adulthood. Some choose to follow their parents in their careers, their religion and their fashion choices, but most American adults move in directions quite different from their parents. Not so in many nations of the world, including Sudan.
How did this tragedy happen?
News reports that try to explain how Meriam Ibrahim came to be condemned to be beaten and then executed by hanging do not explain enough for most Western minds to grasp the situation. US culture cannot wrap its collective brain around the notion that Meriam did something wrong because her mother reared her as a Christian. Yet the offense is not merely an aberration of Sharia law, as some comments suggest. The problem goes all the way to the Constitution of Sudan. In the Sudanese Constitution, Section 27 says,
There shall be guaranteed for every community or group of citizens the right to preserve their particular culture, language or religion, and rear children freely within the framework of their particularity, and the same shall not by coercion be effaced.
The problem with Meriam is that her father is Muslim. The fact that he abandoned the family when she was six years old is irrelevant to the Sudanese Constitution and the laws established on the foundation of that Constitution. Meriam was born in a Muslim community to a Muslim father. It is irrelevant to the law that Meriam’s mother was Christian. The government views Meriam as a member of a Muslim community, and the Constitution guarantees that Muslims may “preserve their particular culture, language or religion, and rear children freely within the framework of their particularity.”
American readers need this statement translated.
The pertinent facts are:
- Meriam’s father is Muslim
Every child of a Muslim father is regarded by Islam as a Muslim. Therefore the community where Meriam was born regards her as Muslim.
- The government says that no person’s religion may “by coercion be effaced”
When Meriam’s mother reared her as a Christian, she imposed her will over the will of the community, the will of the state and the will of Islam
- A Muslim woman is forbidden to have sexual relations with a non-Muslim.
Therefore, when Meriam had sexual relations with her Christian husband, she broke the law and must be punished. She thought she was a Christian marrying a Christian. The community thought she was an apostate Muslim having adulterous sex with an infidel. She has done it enough times to become pregnant by this man twice.
This is the reason the court sentenced her to 100 lashes.
- A Muslim who is guilty of apostasy is automatically sentenced to death. However, if the guilty party renounces the new faith the execution may be stayed and the guilty party may be restored to the Muslim community where she belongs.
If Meriam refuses to renounce her Christian faith, she will be executed, and both of her children will be turned over to Muslims, because in the eyes of the community and in the eyes of the state, they are Muslim.
- Meriam’s husband has no standing to speak in the court.
To the court, he is not her husband. He has no legal relationship of any kind with her.
The Quran teaches that children of Muslims are Muslims
While this behavior sounds barbaric to Americans, it is common in countries where Islam shapes the law. In central Asia, it is very common for government always protects the religious tradition of the family. This is why proselytization is a crime in many places. This is also the reason that in all Asian countries and in many African and even Eastern European nations, the worst accusation that can be flung at an idea or a religion is that might be Western or American. In many countries, the mere possibility of a Western connection shuts down communications.
However, beyond rejection of Western ideas, the nations willfully preserve any person’s birth culture so strongly that situations like Meriam Ibrahim’s arrest, imprisonment and conviction are quite normal. Her brother accused her of leaving Islam, and his accusation has stood throughout the proceedings of the court. Today, she and her children, born and unborn, are imprisoned. After she is executed, her children will be turned over to the community that Sudan regards as her birth heritage. She is not now and never was free to choose to be a Christian. Her personal commitment to faith in Christ is simply not important, because she was born Muslim and always will be Muslim in the eyes of the government of Sudan. It sounds quite far-fetched, but when you think about it, this idea goes all the way back to the birth of Jesus; his earthly parents were directed to return to the community of origin for their family for a census, and the timing coincided with Jesus’ birth.
The teachings of the Quran are not subject to appeal on any grounds
This cultural tradition persists in Sudan, and that is why Fox News reports “powerful political forces in Sudan are arrayed against Ibrahim. Sudanese Parliament speaker Fatih Izz Al-Deen said claims she was raised as non-Muslim are false. She was brought up in an Islamic environment, and her brother, a Muslim, filed the complaint against her.” Amnesty International said Ms Ishag was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion, because her Muslim father was absent. “It’s not only Sudan. In Saudi Arabia, in all the Muslim countries, it is not allowed at all for a Muslim to change his religion,” Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said earlier.
This same attitude is why the girls abducted by Boko Haram will not likely be returned to their families. Boko Haram wants Sharia law to prevail in Nigeria. Boko Haram enforces Sharia law on abducted women and girls by forcing them to convert to Islam and then to marry Muslim men. In the eyes of any Muslim who believes the Quran, nobody can ever leave Islam. Once the girls have said the words required of them, they will be Muslim in the eyes of all Muslims, and they will no longer have any right to leave the Muslim community. The girls were not kidnapped in order to obtain a ransom. They were kidnapped in order to change the world into the ultimate Islamic community.
Social media do not affect the social dynamics in Muslim cultures
Many Westerners look at the kidnapping of the girls in Nigeria or the imprisonment of Meriam Ibrahim through a Western social and political lens. Westerners feel emotions about family, society, justice, and religion that have no bearing whatsoever on the problems. Christians in the US who are tempted to be kind and accommodating toward Islam and its agenda to inject Sharia law into US courts would be wise to subject this situation to close scrutiny and serious prayer. This kind of situation is true spiritual warfare.
None of the people involved in these events have any interest at all in the issues that consume the American public. This is the reason that no #BringBackOurGirls campaign will make any difference to the Boko Haram. This is why Sudan will not let #Meriam go.