Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Life

May 31, 2014

GLOBAL FAITHS: Christian woman condemned to death, lashings — why?

Readers of The Goshen News may have read or heard about the case in Sudan of Meriam Yehya Ibrahim. She was sentenced to death May 15 for apostasy and to 100 lashes for adultery.

Meriam is originally Ethiopian, and her mother, a Christian, was married to a Muslim man. According to Islamic thinking and law Meriam is therefore Muslim, even though her father left the family when Meriam was only 6 years old and her mother raised her as a Christian. Meriam is therefore charged with apostasy.

According to Islamic law it is a crime for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man (although a Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman), so Meriam’s marriage several years ago to Daniel Wani, a non-Muslim American, is considered null and void. And since Islamic law nullifies her marriage she is considered guilty of a second offense, adultery for having engaged in sex with her husband.

Meriam’s marriage certificate identifies her as Christian. Three witnesses were reportedly prepared to testify to her “lifelong adherence to Christianity,” but they were not permitted to testify in court. Her husband is a wheelchair case, dependent upon Meriam for help. Why they were in Sudan is not clear.

Meriam’s crimes, according to Islamic law, incur the two penalties. First, the shari’a punishment for apostasy — and that of Sudanese law since 1991 — is death. And second, the punishment for adultery is 100 lashes.

The law of death for apostasy comes from an incident in the life of Muhammad when some Meccans feigned acceptance of Islam when Muhammad seemed to be winning, but then renounced Islam when Muhammad seemed to be losing. Muhammad reportedly commanded his followers to kill those Meccan hypocrites.

From this one incident Islamic jurists have rationalized the penalty of death for conversion to Christianity, even if some Muslims may do it ever so sincerely.

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