THERE has been worldwide condemnation after a Sudanese woman was
sentenced to death after being convicted of apostasy.
Meriam Ibrahim, aged 26, was convicted on 11 May, but given four
days to reconvert to Islam and escape the death penalty. Mrs
Ibrahim, however, who is pregnant, denied that she had ever been a
Muslim. The court has postponed her sentence until her child has
She has also been sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery: the
sharia court did not recognise her marriage to her Christian
husband as legitimate, as it considers her a Muslim.
The death sentence has been denounced by the former Archbishop
of Canterbury Lord Carey. Speaking to The Sunday Times, he
said: "Isn't there something fundamentally wrong with Islam at its
core that it cannot allow people to change their religion? Moderate
Muslims . . . have to say enough is enough."
He also said that British Muslim leaders should publically
acknowledge that Muslims could convert to Christianity if they
Reports suggested that Mrs Ibrahim was the daughter of an
Ethiopian Christian woman and a Muslim Sudanese man. She was raised
as a Christian, however, after her father left the family when she
was a young child, according to various news agencies and
It was unclear what had led to her arrest earlier this year. One
Sudanese official, the speaker of parliament Fatih Izz al-Din, told
a local radio station on Friday last week that Mrs Ibrahim's
brother had filed a complaint after only finding out recently that
she had married a Christian. He also claimed that she had been
brought up as a Muslim, contrary to other reports.
She married her husband in 2011 and the couple have an
18-month-old son. The advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide
(CSW) said in a statement last week that Mrs Ibrahim and her son
Martin are currently in prison. Her lawyers have said that they
intend to appeal against both the death sentence and the 100
Muslim women in Sudan are banned from marrying non-Muslims, and
children must follow their father's religion by law. Despite the
introduction of sharia in the 1980s, death sentences are rarely
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry MP, has
written to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, urging him to lead
international efforts to ban all blasphemy and apostasy laws
worldwide. In his letter, Sir Tony said: "This is barbarism. A
woman being sentenced to death for her religious belief. This has
gone beyond being a matter of 'deep concern'. This is an abuse of
basic human rights that shames the whole international
"We can no longer tolerate the intolerable. There is nothing to
prevent the UK taking a lead on this issue, both in the UN Council
on Human Rights and the UN General Assembly."
On Thursday, the Anglican Bishop of Khartoum, the Rt Revd
Ezekiel Kondo, also condemned the ruling. In a statement, he said:
"The verdict reached by the court on Mariam is a clear and direct
perscution on Christians and the Church in the Sudan."
He also drew attention to what he claimed was a second alleged
apostasy case in Khartoum where a young man has been accused of
converting from Islam to Christianity.
The Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, said in a statement on
Thursday last week: "This barbaric sentence highlights the stark
divide between the practicesof the Sudanese courts and the
country's international human-rights obligations. I urge the
government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion or
On Friday last week, Sudanese officials suggested that the
situation could still change. The official Sudanese state news
agency reported that Mr Izz al-Din had also said that the death
sentence might not be final and would go through to the supreme
court if there was an appeal.
Reuters news agency reported on Friday that a spokesman for
Sudan's Foreign Ministry, Abu-Bakr al-Siddiq, said: "Sudan is
committed to all human rights and freedom of faith granted in Sudan
by the constitution and law."
The statement from CSW also said that Mrs Ibrahim has been
prevented from accessing necessary medical treatment and from
receiving visitors while she has been incarcerated. Her husband,
Daniel Wani, told the Reuters news agency that he feared for his
wife's health if she was forced to give birth in prison.
On Monday, the Sudanese Chargé d'Affaires was summoned from his
embassy to the Foreign Office by Mr Hague to discuss Mrs Ibrahim's
case. A Foreign Office statement said that the diplomat, Bukhari
Afandi, was told that the Government had deep concerns about the
death sentence, and requested that he urge the Sudanese government
to overturn the decision.
The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK,
Bishop Angaelos, denounced both Mrs Ibrahim's sentence and the
forced conversion to Islam of more than 200 Christian schoolgirls
in Nigeria after their abduction by Boko Haram (News, 16 May).
Question of the week: Should Muslim states repeal their