by Usman Khan
Respect and tolerance are attributes charged with the potential to unite people and to establish meaningful peace; yet minorities in Muslim majority countries, particularly Christians, are all too often forcibly starved of both.
For example, in Sudan Mrs. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a Christian woman who is eight months pregnant, has been detained along with her 20-month-old child, and sentenced to receive 100 lashes for adultery, followed by death for the act of apostasy.
A simple issue that would have been thrown out on first hearing in any court that upholds justice has been morphed into a case of vital social and ethical consequences for Sudan. If upheld, the sentence will be another nail in the coffin suffocating vulnerable minorities. But the fact is that Mrs. Ibrahim has not committed any crime at all, but the courts have indeed acted with gross indecency that go against the very basic teachings of Islam. As a devoted Muslim, I often wonder how we could have arrived at this position. Particularly given that the concept of tolerance is so fundamental to what it means to be a Muslim. For example, the Qur’an informs Muslims that “There should be no compulsion in religion” (Q.2:257) and that each person has a right to leave Islam (Q.4:138) and enjoy freedom of religious belief (Q.109:7). This can only mean that a Muslim has a religious obligation to be respectful and tolerant of all of God’s creation, without prejudice; this includes Christians, Jews, people of no belief, and even those who decide that Islam no longer helps them achieve the objective of their life.
The court claims Mrs. Ibrahim is restricted since birth to the Islamic religious beliefs of her father; an absurd idea that smacks of intellectual defeatism and irrationality, where lashing out violently, albeit through the courts in this case, is the only choice available for those unable to present reasoned arguments that convinces the heart of Islam’s truth. Those who adhere to an aggressive interpretation of Islamic theology seem to want to drag people kicking and screaming to paradise, whilst forgetting that the quality of Muslim adherents must surely be a loftier ideal than a coerced quantity. Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the late 4th Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and once spiritual guide to millions of Muslims, aptly stated “Swords can win territories but not hearts, force can bend heads but not minds”.
One of the key objectives of Islam is the promotion of the family unit, yet this court has taken it upon itself to destroy that ideal through their autocratic annulment of their marriage and consequently falsely accused Mrs. Ibrahim of committing adultery – to make false accusations about a woman’s chastity is deemed a crime in the Qur’an (Q.24:5).
If the court’s self-proclaimed affiliation to Islam holds any weight, they should perhaps ponder over the fact that they have, through their actions, aligned themselves with the oppressive ruling elite who drove the Muslims of early Islam out of Mecca in two waves. It would also serve them well to recall that the first wave of Muslims fled to the protection of Ethiopian Christians and the second group fled to Medina where Jews, polytheists and Muslims signed a mutual covenant of peace.