Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016

In a prison in Khartoum, a dusty city on the banks of the ancient Nile in the African nation of Sudan, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim waits.

She is not alone in her confinement. Her son is with her. He is 20 months old. Her daughter is there, too. She was born in that prison one week ago.

Together with their 27-year old mother, they wait. Wait for her deliverance, wait for her execution by hanging. There is no middle ground.

Ibrahim stands convicted of apostasy; she renounced Islam and became a Christian. According to Ibrahim — and the speaker of the Sudanese Parliament disputes this — she was raised a Christian after her father, a Muslim, abandoned the family when she was 6. Under Sudanese law, anyone whose father was a Muslim is automatically considered a Muslim. Converting from Islam is against the law and Muslim women are forbidden from marrying outside their faith.

Ibrahim’s “crimes” against that code were apparently reported by her own brother. She was tried and ordered to disavow her faith by May 15. But she refused to do so and for that, they gave her the death penalty. Before she dies, she is to be whipped 100 lashes, the court having also found her guilty of adultery. This, for having sexual relations with her husband, Daniel Wani, a Sudanese Christian who has U.S. citizenship.

Her death, thank God, is not imminent. Ibrahim’s lawyer is appealing her sentence. And the court has given her two years to nurse and wean her daughter before it is carried out. So Ibrahim waits. Outraged governments in more civilized places — including the United States — have urged Sudan not to do this evil thing. Petition drives have netted 650,000 signatures in the same cause. So, like Ibrahim herself, the world waits.

And watches.

And wonders:

Is there no end to the barbarism that men — and usually, it is men — will commit under the rubric of faith?

The Bible defines faith as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Martin Luther King defined it as “taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

But it is too often the case that in practical terms, faith has less to do with hope and assurance and the courage to take steps in the dark than with justifying just this kind of theological bullying. How in the world does Sudan — or any nation or group — believe it can “require” faith? Can faith ever truly be faith if it is imposed by force of law or threat of violence? Is faith faith if it is not freely chosen? If someone swore at gunpoint that she loved you, would you believe her?

You’d be a fool if you did.

Unfortunately, many of those who claim to be faith’s most zealous defenders do not trust what they profess to believe, have no confidence that its appeal is strong enough that people will come to it and stay with it by the free movement of their hearts. They insult their own religions by suggesting people must be held to them — and shielded from other beliefs — by government and/or by violence. We see that in Sudan. We have seen it in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, America. What they model is not faith but fear, not the still small voice that compels footsteps on unseen stairs, but the loud, shrill outcry of cowards whose belief is so fragile as to totter at the first gust of contradiction, so frail as to require the enforcement of laws.

Meriam Ibrahim could have been free — perhaps still could be free — with a few simple words: Jesus is not Lord. She wouldn’t even have to mean it. Just mouth the words and get out. Surely, you think, Jesus himself would understand if she did.

But she won’t. Instead she waits, ready to accept whatever comes. Let her captors note her courage and perhaps finally understand the tragic futility of what they do.

Laws don’t give faith. And laws cannot take it away.

Screenshot: YouTube

  • Daniel Jones

    You evert wonder why I balk at the crap we get handed about “Christian America” or attributing the Constitution to God?

    Look at this mess.

    Forced faith is not faith.
    State religion is forced faith.
    State religion is not faith,

    Have a nice day.

    • Annemb

      Excellent post!

    • Brenda Robert


      ❦❦❦ �❦❦❦ ❦❦❦ ❦❦❦ ❦❦❦ �❦❦❦

      • Daniel Jones

        “Brenda”, I don’t know which appalls me worst: your font, your spam, or your lack of column format.
        Regardless, I’m reporting and flagging this.
        Have a nice day.

  • charleo1

    Paul Harvey used to say, “It’s not one World.” Never truer we realize, when given a glimpse into an ancient Islamic culture, that hasn’t progress in a 1000 years. We are getting out of Afghanistan, after have taken our turn at trying to pull another of these lands that time seems to have forgotten, and their people, into the modern era. While their strict, uncompromising brand of religiously based resistance, fights us to the gates of Hell. And constantly appalls our moral, sensitivities, at their staggering levels of intolerance. So, you execute women by cutting off their heads at soccer games for infidelity And your daughters for being raped, and wanting an education? Then, it’s little wonder you feel you need to kill them for rejecting a religion in who’s name you carry out these atrocities. Which is the point. None of the Founders of the World’s great religions, if we believe their texts, ever intended for their followers to be forced into compulsory adherence. But, they are all intolerant in their own ways. And all have given man his openings, which he has used, and continues to use for his own purposes, to horrible effect. It’s why some are so hard on the intolerance we hear out of some factions of our religious communities, and others here in America. As has been proven throughout human history, intolerance, and repression, are always a slippery slope, when good men, and women see these things, and do nothing. We must hope we can exert some influence on the Gov. of Sudan, to save this Mother. If we believe as we are taught, that we are all God’s children. That this person that is our Sister, and is therefore a part of us all. We must remember, it wasn’t but a mere 1500 years ago, these same people we see today, trudging along their dusty unpaved roads in Afghanistan, or Darfur. With their laden down skinny donkeys, and their emaciated bodies, and economies, and 90% illiteracy rates. It was their ancestors that held much of the World’s repository of knowledge of science, mathematics, and astronomy, while Christianity, and a Feudal Europe suffered through it’s dark regressive period. It’s never one World. But I do believe in some karmatic sense, we all progress bit by bit, by taking the core commonalities present in all of the true religions. That we are all called on by our destinies, our Creator, or our Better Angels if you will, to be our Brother’s keeper. To help our fellow man. In the faith, that when even one of us prospers by that altruism. All of mankind will share in the harvest of that seed.

    • Annemb

      Thank you for a well-articulated post with so many facts!

      I was a listener of Paul Harvey who, himself, was wise and said so many truisms.

      I have signed numerous petitions regarding this situation. When I shared this with our Bible study group I was told that another group discussed this same situation.

      My mom taught me when a little child that we are ALL children of God. And yes, this means that we are brothers and sisters. We need to act on this truth, speak and take action when necessary – fearlessly and with great courage.

      I wonder if the founders of the world’s great religions get together and discuss not only their Faith, but the intolerance committed by those who claim to be members of their Faith…and shake their heads in disbelief of the “interpretation” their “followers” use to judge and condemn others.

      Thanks again for your excellent post.

      • CPAinNewYork

        Karl Marx considered religion to be the narcotic of the working class. To him, the religious leaders of the day joined with the political and business leaders to subjugate the working classes.

        He was right. He was “cut off at the pass” by smart politicians like Bismarck who read the tea leaves and decided that obdurate resistance to the demands of labor would only result in revolution. So, they “killed Socialism with kindness” and passed progressive legislation that gave the working classes a portion of what they were demanding, enough of a portion to make revolution not worth the effort.

        • Annemb

          You are right!

          Although I wasn’t aware of the other information you post, I do remember reading that Karl Marx said “Religion is the opiate of the people.”

          Thanks so much.

      • charleo1

        You’re very welcome. Thanks!

    • Sand_Cat

      Even if she isn’t “our sister” for religious reasons, or we have no religion, we must protest this atrocity.

      • charleo1

        My feelings as well. In my comment I used teachings set forth in all of the World’s great religions, including Islam. To point out what a direct violation of those principals executing this person would be. So, this is my problem in a nutshell with organized religion of all ilk. First, I find them to be power hungry. Their leaders, more often than not, self serving, and dishonest about core directives. And for the most part, I find them to be divisive, intellectually shallow in their ultimate ability to give man direction, and help him make sense of the World around him, be that the physical, or the spiritual one. And relying instead on the blind faith of the followers, to avoid answering the really big questions. They also espouse the view man, without religion, is incapable of having, or adhering to a moral code. Which, by my own experience alone, I find to be an outrageous assertion. Of course one can care about this woman whom they’ve never met, without a religious book to tell them they should!

    • Allan Richardson

      There is another lesson in history for us. As the 11th century opened (1000 AD), Christian Europe was backward, dominated by a Church that had, for centuries, presided over feudal wars and the “forgetting” of both the infrastructure technology and the culture of ancient Rome and Greece. Christian Eastern Europe, under the Greek Byzantine Empire, had shrunk from its greatest extent because of the expansion of the Muslim empire (after having fomented riots that burned much of the ancient world’s literature and knowledge at Alexandria and other places). Meanwhile, the Muslims had built a civilization that was not only in charge of the largest land area since first century Rome, but they respected all Christians and Jews, and the process of inquiring into the laws of nature. There were Arabic translations of classical books on philosophy, mathematics, etc. available throughout the Muslim empire, and Jews had a place of refuge from Christian persecution (the largest synagogue in the world was built in Toledo, and sages such as Moshe ben Maimon, aka Moses Maimonides, were respected by Jews and Muslims alike). A Muslim merchant could write a check in Toledo on his bank in Baghdad and the payee could be confident it would be good.

      What happened during that century? St. Thomas Aquinas taught Christians that honest investigation of the physical world, whether to learn the laws of nature directly from nature, or to invent more and better technology, could not conflict with Christian faith, since the same God who had given us Scripture, and a Church to help us understand it correctly, had also created the world. Several more centuries were required to free science from Church dogmas (and it’s not finished yet in the US), but the spark had been lit.

      Meanwhile, a Muslim teacher named Avicenna (the Latinized name by which he was known in Europe) began to teach other Muslim leaders the exact opposite: that the Muslim world had been slack in its faith, reading pagan books, consorting with “infidels” (which now began to be defined to include Christians and Jews), and neglecting the Koran. There was actual ART in Persia depicting human and animal figures! Avicenna taught that the ONLY subject worth studying was the Holy Quran, in which God, Allah, had told humans ALL WE NEED TO KNOW. The process that began in that century has continued to this day: progress in the sciences, math and philosophy began to run backwards in the Muslim world, while Europeans began to make progress, leading to the Crusades and the Age of Exploration.

      If we in the West once more abandon reason and experiment in favor of religious dogma, we will go the way of the Muslim world.

  • latebloomingrandma

    A few yeas ago, I read a book called “Spiritual Terrorism” . (can’t remember the author) At the beginning of the book, the author said something like—-good people will always be good, bad people will be bad, but it takes religion to have good people do bad things. You have to think about that for a while and digest it. The author was not against religion or faith, as he was a man of faith, but demonstrated how throughout history bad religion has been practiced and the evil that resulted. Coerced faith, which is not faith at all, is a big part of this .

    • Allan Richardson

      I remember a poem, but not the source, that stated “You have to be carefully taught” to hate whomever your society tells you to hate.

      • Beethoven

        That was part of the lyrics from a song in “South Pacific”.

  • Peter Brown

    The only true position is atheism, who cares what imaginary friend you follow and why, the imaginary friend certainly does not care only the idiots who tell you that there is an imaginary friend ready to kill you if you do not believe he exists. Makes no sense to me, but of course I am an atheist.

    • Elliot J. Stamler

      You are so blind that you don’t realize you are a direct doppelgänger of the radical religious right when you write such an insulting and absolutist statement: “The only true position is atheism.” That is the kind of statement made by the likes of Kim Jong In and Josef Stlin.

      • Allan Richardson

        I agree. If it turns out that all the gods are imaginary, but their devotees live with TRUE FAITH and treat everyone else as brothers and sisters, no harm is done. If God really exists, he or she is not worthy of worship if he or she commands hate and violence against those who worship the “wrong” way or do not worship at all. I believe in a God who is within the universe and within each of us, not only those with the “right” dogma.

        • Elliot J. Stamler

          I fully agree, Allan, and that is the theology of my own faith. My own faith and my reason tell me that conscience is the voice of God within each of us.

  • ExRadioGuy15

    Ever notice how it’s the Fascist GOP bastards that rail against “Sharia Law’ while advocating for a Christian version of it, in violation of the Constitution? That’s no accident…that’s Fascist GOP propaganda/red meat for their “base” of Religious Zealots/Fascist Christian Plutartheocrats. Luckily, the RZs/FCPers only make up about 30% of the party’s voters, which means the majority, GOP Progressives and Moderates, can remedy this situation by ceasing their efforts to get GOP politicians elected into office. In fact, if the “Progs” and “Mods” of the GOP wish to rid themselves of the Fascist and psychopathic Conservative, Fascist and sociopathic Tea Party and Fascism-suborning and sociopathic Libertarian wings of the party, they’ll have to start voting for the group of politicians that truly represent them now: Democrats. Despite what the other wings of the party say, GOP Progs and Mods have actual control of the party…so, DO SOMETHING about it! Your apathy, fear, ignorance and cognitive dissonance has caused this problem; it’s a problem only you can solve, so take action, FFS….

    • charleo1

      I think first the establishment GOP. (If I read you correctly,) if the Progs, and Mods, are going regain control of their Party. They are going to have to figure out a way to communicate what you set down to their to their now totally screwed up, and sufficiently frenzied, base. Without coming off as what they’ve been told to recognize as a RINO. Otherwise known as stinking turncoat in Congress, that collaborate, with the, Communist/Socialist/Maoists/Stalinist/ that are helping Obama destroy the Country. And there ain’t one of the Progs, or Mods, a bunch of gutless bastards anyway. That have the balls to stand up, and tell anyone the truth anymore. So, yes they’ve got a big problem. But it’s like every other problem, they have no answers for it. So, I’ll tell you what I think just may happen. The nut jobs just keep yelling, and obstructing, and gerrymandering, and mucking with the vote, buying every political office from meter reader to President, until the nuts, and Kochs finally get their steamroller built. And the results are going to make the Bush years look like that shining city Reagan was always yapping about, by comparison. And then, if the Country is still standing, maybe we’ll finally be rid of one of the most ignorant, and just down right chicken shit, bunch of ass holes, and proud of it, this Country of ours has ever survived. And then, we may, I say may, be all the wiser for it. But that may be what it takes.

  • CPAinNewYork

    Why anyone with so much as half a brain would voluntarily live in a Muslim country is beyond me.

    • wjca

      The problem is not Islam. The problem is theocracy.

      At the moment, most of the countries in the world today which have embraced theocracy, or anything near to it, happen to be Muslim. But the new governing party in India has inclinations towards Hindu theocracy. And a large segment of the US population seems quite enthused about achieving a Christian theocracy here.

      So you see simply a problem of Islam. But that is merely an artifact of this particular moment of time.

    • Daniel Jones

      Or a nation that literally equates gun ownership with sacred writ?

      If you grow up in a system that consistently promotes a fucking stupid idea, you’re going to find a lot of people all around you *buy* that stupid idea.

  • sleepvark

    I just wonder what kind of twisted arguments are being put forth by those forcing this issue, when the Qur’an very explicitly states in the 256th verse of al Baqara ( the second chapter) “let there be no coercion in religion!”
    This whole thing appears unislamic on its face. They need to learn to read classical arabic a bit better.

  • Bestuv Burke

    History’s lessons are crystal clear regarding the fact that many will have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of success only in a culture that, as a whole, advances fairly rapidly.