Pregnant Christian to hang for apostasy - a test for Baroness Warsi
It is all over the mainstream media - Telegraph, BBC, Independent, Express - and many others. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, who was born to a Muslim father but brought up a Christian by her mother, married a Christian man from South Sudan. Mrs Ibrahim is eight months pregnant. But a court in Khartoum has found her guilty not only of apostasy - despite never having been a practising Muslim - but also of adultery, since her marriage to a Christian is void, and so her pregnancy is irrefutable proof of her sexual sin.
For the unforgivable crime of apostasy, she has been sentenced to hang. For the heinous sin of adultery, she has been sentenced to a flogging of 100 lashes.
It is not clear to His Grace how she has been found guilty of adultery, on account of there being no alleged infidelity to a third party. But we must assume that the judge is morally and theologically illiterate and, to him, fornication and adultery are synonymous.
Mrs Ibrahim has denied the charges. She is reported to have told the judge: “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.”
Naturally, this sentence has been condemned by the international community. In a joint statement, the embassies of Britain, the United States, Canada and the Netherlands expressed “deep concern” over her case. “We call upon the government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one’s right to change one’s faith or beliefs,” they said.
Baroness Warsi is the Minister for Faith and Communities. She said earlier this year: "I have made the issue of religious freedom a personal priority. The threat to religious freedom, I believe, has become a global crisis. As a result, the UK government has elevated it to a key priority in our human rights work, and, more broadly, we have shown that we understand the huge importance of religion at home and abroad."
The problem she has is that while, for her, terrorism is nothing to do with Islam or or any strain within Islam, and terrorists are not Muslims, or followers of any path of her prophet, this sentence is wholly consistent with certain quranic injunctions. Yes, the liberals or moderates will point to the verse which says: "There shall be no compulsion in religion." But others will point to the very words of Mohammed: "It is not permissible to spill the blood of a Muslim except in three (instances): A life for a life; a married person who commits adultery; and one who forsakes his religion and separates from the community."
In short, Baroness Warsi must understand that there can be no religious freedom where such application of the Quran is foundational to their legal code. Where there are dhimis, there can be no equality; where there is jihad, there can be no peace or justice. Certainly, we in the West can quibble over the relative authority of the Hadith or Sunna, and apply our scholarly methods of theological criticism to the Qur'an to justify theories of abrogation, but this "global crisis" of the diminution of religious freedom needs more than agitated jurists, theologians, philosophers, ethicists and historians drinking coffee on an ad hoc Foreign Office committee: it needs unequivocal condemnation followed by meaningful political action.
And there is no point insisting that combative words and retributive actions are likely to make the situation worse for Christians across Islamic lands. The oppression is already appalling: those who suffer cannot fathom Baroness Warsi's utopian assertion of "moderate Islam" when its true spirit persecutes, tortures, slaughters and condemns.
Spiritual liberation cannot come from a committee: it must be foundational to all our political, legal and economic notions of justice. Islamic political culture is simply not conducive to the protection of human rights. Doubtless it is 'islamophobic' to say this, but the assertion is supported not only by the plight of Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, but by many other examples of the poor record on human rights in many Muslim countries, particularly those with Islamic political orientations.
The position of religious minorities - in particular the dhimi Christians and Jews - is one of chronic discrimination and non-equality. Gender inequality permeates Islam - we permit it even here in the UK, where gender segregation is pouring out of the mosques and into our university campuses. Some brave Muslim women are embracing feminism in order to defend their rights, but there is no political will to support their quest. Bizarrely, we tolerate their subjection in the name of religious equality.
You don't have to go to Sudan, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan: many moderate and enlightened British Muslims affirm the death penalty for apostasy and the flogging or stoning women for adultery. This is considered just: it is the the will of Allah. And it is a very small step from that belief to the burning down of the odd church and beheading the occasional kafir.