This Time, They Really Are Our Girls: Bring Them Back!

The most outrageous story in world news these days is the persecution of Meriam Ibrahim and her family. Ibrahim is a 27-year-old Sudanese woman who is described in some news accounts as a doctor, although I am not sure this is correct. Ibrahim is married to Daniel Wani, who lives in New Hampshire and has been an American citizen since 2005. News stories describe him as a biochemist. Meriam Ibrahim applied for American citizenship three years ago. It would have been routinely granted by now, but for bureaucratic slowness.

Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani

Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani

Last September, in Khartoum, Meriam was arrested and charged with adultery and apostasy. In other words, she is a Christian, and she married a Christian. She says that she was raised as a Christian by her mother and has never been a Muslim. But the Islamic court in Khartoum, applying Koranic law, found that since her father (who abandoned the family when Meriam was a small child) was a Muslim, Meriam was a Muslim whether she knew it or not. Since she professes Christianity, she is an apostate: hence the death sentence, as required by the Koran. As for the adultery, that is another way of saying that she married a Christian, a marriage that cannot be recognized under Islamic law. So the court in Sudan has sentenced Ibrahim to 100 lashes for adultery, to be followed by death by hanging.

Martin Wani, American citizen chained to a prison wall

Martin Wani, American citizen chained to a prison wall

Meriam and her husband have a 20-month-old son named Martin. He has been designated a Muslim by the court in Khartoum, so his father has been denied access to him. Instead, he is chained to a wall in the prison where his mother awaits execution. Meriam gave birth to a second child yesterday, a girl. She was a few weeks pregnant when first charged in the Islamic court. Her hanging has been postponed until the girl is weaned.

I have not seen a technical discussion of this issue in news accounts, but it appears highly probable that one or both of Ibrahim’s children are American citizens. Under current law, this depends on whether Daniel Wani had spent five years or more in the U.S. prior to their births. Given that he first emigrated to America in 1998, it seems more than likely that both children are citizens. Conceivably the younger child could be a citizen, but not the 20-month-old boy.

So Sudan’s outrageous treatment of Meriam Ibrahim and her two children directly implicates American interests. Her husband, the children’s father, is a citizen. Both children are probably Americans. And Meriam herself would be an American citizen by now, if the federal government had acted timely on her application.

One might expect the full might of our government to be brought to bear to save this family from Koran-dictated destruction. Unfortunately, that is not what has happened:

[W]hen the case grew more serious Daniel went to the American Embassy in Khartoum for help.

“I thought this would be the one place which would help me, but they told me they didn’t have time to do anything,” Daniel said. “I was upset because now that I am American citizen I thought they would help me.

“I was threatened. They said ‘well your wife isn’t American, so we can’t help’. I felt disgusted. My home is in America and still they won’t help. It’s getting uglier and it’s not going in the right direction.”

Mr Wani said the State Department asked him to provide DNA evidence proving that Martin was his biological son. He added: “I have provided wedding documents and the baby’s birth certificate, but this is clearly not enough. It’s very upsetting that they don’t believe me.

“They want me to take a DNA sample in Khartoum, then send it to the US for testing. It’s as if they don’t believe a word I say.”

It is hard to see how Daniel could possibly get a DNA sample from his son at this point. Nor is there any apparent reason why the Obama administration should doubt that Meriam’s children are her husband’s.

If Barry Obama were not the limpest, most pathetic excuse for a president in American history, he would come down on the two-bit government of Sudan like a ton of bricks. Remember when Michelle Obama posed with a #BringBackOurGirls sign? While I sympathize with the 200-300 young women threatened with slavery in Nigeria as much as anyone, they are not in fact “our girls.” They are Nigerians. Meriam Ibrahim and her husband and children are actually our people. Their persecution, pursuant to Islamic law, is not just an outrage, but an insult to all Americans. So, President Obama: it is time to man up. Put aside your weird relationship with Islam, and do what it takes to bring these Americans home.

One more thing: the Islamic authorities in Khartoum told Meriam Ibrahim that she can avoid hanging if she will simply abandon Christianity and become a Muslim. Ibrahim replied that she has been a Christian all her life, and she will not renounce her faith. One might think that American Christians would take some interest in her story. “It is neither right nor safe to go against one’s conscience,” Martin Luther said, when interrogated at the Diet of Worms. “Here I stand, I can do nothing else.” But to my knowledge, no mainstream Christian denomination has taken up Meriam’s cause. Certainly not my own, which claims descent from Luther and, I believe, has more African adherents than any other Christian denomination.