A Sudanese court has sentenced a woman to hang for apostasy – the abandonment of one’s religious faith – for renouncing Islam and identifying as a Christian.
The case, thought to be the first of its kind to be heard in Sudan, involves a pregnant, 27 year-old-woman named Mariam Yahia Ibrahim.
Ibrahim identifies as Christian. However, the Khartoum court considers her to be Muslim, because her father was Muslim.
In addition to hanging for apostasy, the judge also sentenced the woman to 100 lashes after convicting her of adultery because her marriage to a Christian man is not valid under Islamic law.
“We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam,” Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa told the woman on Thursday, addressing her by her father’s Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah. The judge continued:
“I sentence you to be hanged to death.”
Khalifa also sentenced Ibrahim to 100 lashes for “adultery.”
The judge made his ruling despite international outrage and appeals by Western embassies for compassion and respect for religious freedom.
Ibrahim was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013, and the court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014 when she said she was a Christian and not a Muslim.
There is some debate about the crime of apostasy in Islam. Some progressive apologists for Islam claim apostasy is really not a crime, backing up their argument by citing the Koranic verse which states:
There shall be no compulsion in religion.
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.
Amnesty International condemned the sentence as “appalling and abhorrent.”