by FRC Media Office
August 28, 2014
FRC President Tony Perkins joins Megyn Kelly to discuss the persecution of Iraqi Christians & the state of religious freedom in the Middle East.
FRC President Tony Perkins joins Megyn Kelly to discuss the persecution of Iraqi Christians & the state of religious freedom in the Middle East.
The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has reignited debates about moral culpability, civilian casualties, and the actual history of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. What drives both sides in the conflict? What are their ultimate goals? In a recent article, I examined the stated purpose of Hamas, a terrorist group with the self-articulated goal of destroying Israel and the Jews.
How can such a claim be taken seriously? In the West, we find it hard to grasp the fact that calls for genocide can be issued with utmost conviction and commitment. How can a movement of individuals desire the destruction of an ethnic group? Can it really be out of pure racism or hatred? Surely there must be another explanation.
And so we come to one of the darkest movements of our day: Islamism. The Islamist movement is defined by Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum as “an ideology that demands man’s complete adherence to the sacred law of Islam and rejects as much as possible outside influence, with some exceptions (such as access to military and medical technology). It is imbued with a deep antagonism towards non-Muslims and has a particular hostility towards the West… Islamism is, in other words, yet another twentieth-century radical utopian scheme. Like Marxism-Leninism or fascism, it offers a way to control the state, run society, and remake the human being. It is an Islamic-flavored version of totalitarianism.”
Again, the idea of Islamism as an ideology that is actually serious about promoting a totalitarian society strikes our Western sensibilities as strange. Surely, we may think skeptically, there must be some misunderstanding, some nuance to the situation that simply isn’t apparent.
As complex as every movement is upon deeper examination, the core tenants of the Islamist movement are very black and white. At the root of Islamism is a desire for the establishment of Islamic government under Islamic law, and an accompanying hatred of and desire for the destruction of the Jews. Hamas’ Charter is a clear example of this, but Islamism is much bigger than simply Hamas. The history and statements of the movement itself prove it.
Islamism, German analyst Matthais Kuntzel explains, was born in the 1930s, and it grew into an immediately recognizable organization. “It was the Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, that established Islamism as a mass movement,” Kuntzel writes. It was and remains to this day the ideological reference point and organizational core for all later Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hamas.” Incidentally, Hamas was spawned by the Muslim Brotherhood, and Article Two of its own charter declared it to be one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine.
The Brotherhood itself was founded by Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian born in 1906. Middle East scholar David Meir-Levi writes, “While still in his teens, the young al-Banna and friends…met frequently to discuss the situation in the Middle East, to argue about the ills of Arab society, and to lament the decline of Islam. Their angst was in large part a reaction to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the end of the Muslim Caliphate, the British occupation of Egypt, and the resulting exposure of Arab society to Western values.”
Though the group began as an organization which met to preach on the need for moral reform, the face of the Muslim Brotherhood soon changed. “As the group expanded during the 1930’s and extended its activities well beyond its original religious revivalism, al-Banna began dreaming a greater Muslim dream: the restoration of the Caliphate. And it was this dream, which he believed could only become a reality by the sword, that won the hearts and minds of a growing legion of followers.”
The “Caliphate,” according to the Encyclopedia Britanica, is “the political-religious state comprising the Muslim community and the lands and peoples under its dominion in the centuries following the death of the Prophet Muhammad.” () In other words, the goal of the Brotherhood is to re-establish Islamic hegemony over lands once ruled by Muslim leaders.
Kuntzel further analyzes the primary goals of Islamism in its formative days. He writes, “It is true that British colonial policy produced Islamism, insofar as Islamism viewed itself as a resistance movement against ‘cultural modernity.’ The Islamists’ solution was the call for a new order based on sharia. But the Brotherhood’s jihad was not directed primarily against the British. Rather, it focused almost exclusively on Zionism and the Jews.”
Meir-Levi introduces a major player in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood: the Hajj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. In the Great Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, Al-Husseini “incited his followers to a three-year war against the Jews in Palestine and the British who administered the Mandate. In 1936 the Brotherhood had about 800 members, but by 1938, just two years into the ‘Revolt,’ its membership had grown to almost 200,000[.]”
The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood was not peaceful, either. “To achieve that broader dream of a global jihad,” Meir-Levi writes, “the Brotherhood developed a network of underground cells, stole weapons, trained fighters, formed secret assassination squads, founded sleeper cells of subversive supporters in the ranks of the army and police, and waited for the order to go public with terrorism, assassinations, and suicide missions.”
Islamism has a history of violence and the pointed goal of re-establishing an Islamic Caliphate. Here, the history of Islamism grows even darker.
“It was during this time,” Meir-Levi writes, “that the Muslim Brotherhood found a soul mate in Nazi Germany. The Reich offered great power connections to the movement, but the relationship brokered by the Brotherhood was more than a marriage of convenience. Long before the war, al-Banna had developed an Islamic religious ideology which previewed Hitler’s Nazism. Both movements sought world conquest and domination. Both were triumphalist and supremacist: in Nazism the Aryan must rule, while in al-Banna’s Islam, the Muslim religion must hold dominion. Both advocated subordination of the individual to a folkish central power. Both were explicitly anti-nationalist in the sense that they believed in the liquidation of the nation-state in favor of a trans-national unifying community: in Islam the umma (community of all believers); and in Nazism the herrenvolk (master race). Both worshipped the unifying totalitarian figure of the Caliph or Führer. And both rabidly hated the Jews and sought their destruction.”
The historical ties between the Nazism and Islamism are not simply ideological similarities. The relationship between the two movements is frightening. Meir-Levi adds:
When the Second World War broke out, al-Banna worked to firm up a formal alliance with Hitler and Mussolini. He sent them letters and emissaries, and urged them to assist him in his struggle against the British and the westernized regime of King Farouk. The Intelligence Service of the Muslim Brotherhood vigorously collected information on the heads of the regime in Cairo and on the movements of the British army, offering this and more to the Germans in return for closer relations. During the ‘Great Arab Revolt’ of 1936-9, which al-Husseini helped organize and which Germany funded, the swastika was used as a mark of identity on Arabic leaflets and graffiti. Arab children welcomed each other with the Hitler salute, and a sea of German flags and pictures of Hitler were displayed at celebrations.
Additionally, when al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, fled from British troops sent to end the Arab Revolt, he found his way to Berlin, where he worked with the Nazis for the remainder of World War II. Kuntzel notes, “Based in Berlin from 1941 to 1945, he had directed the Muslim SS divisions in the Balkans and had been personally responsible for blocking negotiations late in the war that might have saved thousands of Jewish children from the gas chambers.”
Chuck Morse, a journalist, radio show host, and author who has written extensively on the ties between Islamism and the Nazis, states, “It should be noted that the main line of propaganda used by Hitler and the Mufti against the Jews was that there was a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. This was the basic thesis used against the Jews by Hitler in Mein Kampf and previously, in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery that was widely disseminated in those years.”
Al-Husseini’s actions are further documented by Meir-Levi: “On March 1, 1944, the Mufti called out in a broadcast from Zeesen: ‘Arabs! Rise as one and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. Kill them with your teeth if need be. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor.’ His goal, with the help of the Nazis, was ‘to solve the question of the Jewish elements in Palestine and in other Arab countries as required by national interests, and in the same way as the Jewish question in the Axis lands is being solved.’ His own memoirs, and the testimony of German defendants at the Nuremberg trials later on, showed that he planned a death camp modeled on Auschwitz to be constructed near Nablus for the genocide of Palestine’s Jews.”
After the end of World War II, however, Western leaders allowed al-Husseini to escape punishment “to avoid spoiling their relations with the Arab world,” as Kuntzel puts it. It was this same al-Husseini who, along with al-Banna, spearheaded the movement to reject a two-state solution in 1947.
[W]hen the question of Palestine came before the United Nations, he and Hassan al-Banna urged the Arab world to unite in opposition to it. The two men saw in the UN resolution for the partition of Palestine an example of the ‘Jewish world conspiracy,’ even though the plan provided for an Arab state in Palestine alongside of the Jewish one. But in their view a state for the Arabs of Palestine took a back seat to the eradication of Zionism and the annihilation of Palestine’s Jews. No Arab head of state had the courage to contradict al-Husseini’s rejectionism, and the Arab world’s enthusiastic reception of his message of hate and genocide ended any possibility of the peaceful implementation of the UN resolution and the creation of an Arab and a Jewish state side by side in the Palestine Mandate (80% of the Mandate had already been allocated to Jordan, whose population was more than two-thirds Palestinian Arab).
The wars against Israel in the following years further illustrate that the hatred of the Jews was not merely rhetoric. It was a firm belief which drove the Islamists to action.
As the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Arabia and Morocco invaded Israel in 1948, the general-secretary of the Arab League, Abd al-Rahman Azzam (aka Azzam Pasha), who had previously stated privately that he considered the partition of Palestine to be the only rational solution, now stood shoulder to shoulder with the Mufti. ‘This war,’ he declared on the day of the Arab attack, ‘will be a war of destruction.’ It was: but it was the armies assembled by Arab generals, many of whom had fought with Rommel in behalf of the Third Reich that were destroyed.
Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb, who visited the United States in the 1950s and was upset by what he perceived as the West’s cultural corruption, perpetuated the core ideologies of Islamism and the hatred of the Jews. Meir-Levi examines Qutb’s influence on Islamism:
But whatever America’s intentions, Qutb declared in his seminal essay, ‘Our Struggle against the Jews,’ it was crucial to understand that the Jew was the root of all the world’s evil. Picking up on the Nazi ideology he had ingested as a member of the Brotherhood, Qutb wrote that Jews were responsible for the world’s moral decay, and the West’s animalistic sexual depravity. It was the Jews who had created the anti-Islamic doctrines of atheistic materialism, godless socialism, and democratic individualism. The Jews, therefore, were the perpetual enemies of Islam. This essay, arguably the single most important manifesto of Islamic fascist anti-Semitism in the modern world, was distributed in millions of copies throughout the Islamic world with the help of Wahabbist Islamic sect in Saudi Arabia.”
Qutb, whose understanding of American history reads a like a junior high parody, even hated the fact that Americans have green grass lawns. He was instrumental in providing continuing momentum for the Islamist movement.
Kuntzel brings us full circle in his statement addressing how we interpret these behaviors from a Western mentality.
The refusal…to recognize the substance of Islamist ideology — the death cult, the hatred of the Jews, and the profound hatred of freedom — leads back again and again to the mistaken ‘discovery’ that the ‘root cause’ of terrorism is U.S. policies. Ultimately, the refusal to recognize al-Qaeda’s true motives results in a reversal of responsibility: The more deadly the terrorism, the greater the American guilt.”
The same pattern explains the bizarre reaction to the Middle east conflict that is widespread in the West: The average observer, ignorant of the anti-Jewish content of the Hamas Charter, has to find some other explanation for terrorism against Jews, which must be — Israel. It is not the terrorists who are guilty, but their victims. Finding suicide terrorism incomprehensible, Westerners rationalize it as an act of despair that invites sympathy…Here, too, following the principle of ‘the more barbaric the anti-Jewish terror, the greater the Israeli guilt,’ the bombers’ victims become the scapegoat for global terrorism. The old stereotype of Jewish guilt is thus amplified in contemporary form — and only encourages the terrorists.
The hatred of the Jews within Islamism is not an antiquated notion that has died away through the years. It continues to this day. Meir-Levi observes, “The long legacy of Arab and Palestinian Nazism, and the Hitlerite themes of lebensraum, ethnic cleansing and genocide, continue to echo in the Middle East today. Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, said of the Jews after the Lebanon war of 2006: ‘If they gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them nationwide.’ Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas Foreign Minister, says: ‘I dream of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it.’ And most chillingly, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former President of Iran, looks ahead to the next holocaust and final solution: ‘The use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once said, “Now, as for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say ‘Never again,’ we mean never again.”
The infamous al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, expressed a hatred toward the Jews which even played into his opposition toward America. He said in a letter addressed to the American people, “The Jews have taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense…Your law is the law of rich and wealthy people…Behind them stand the Jews who control your policies, media and economy.”
In a post-9/11 trial in Hamburg, the ideas of Mohamed Atta, one of the pilots who flew aircraft into the World Trade Center, and the others among the conspiracy came under scrutiny. Kuntzel reports, “One participant in the Koran circle meetings, Shahid Nickels, said Atta’s Weltanschauung was based upon a ‘National Socialist way of thinking.’ Atta was convinced that the Jews were striving for world domination and considered New York City the center of world Jewery, which was, in his opinion, Enemy No. 1. Fellow students who lived in Motassedeq’s [another of the al-Qaeda cell responsible for the 9/11 attacks] dormitory testified that he shared these views and waxed enthusiastic about a forthcoming ‘big action.’ One student quoted Motassedeq as saying ‘The Jews will burn and in the end we will dance on their graves.’”
The violence of the Islamist movement is especially clear today within Iraq, where the self-proclaimed Islamic State has declared itself to be the new Islamic Caliphate. The article “ISIS and the Birth of Early Islam” compares the violence in Iraq today to the violent expansion of Islam in its early years, stating, “When an invading force entered a non-Muslim land, individuals had three choices: convert to Islam, pay a tax (jizya), or die. Fast-forward to today and this is the very same thing that is happening to Christians in Iraq by the Islamic State.” The same article observes, “Christian homes are being marked with the Arabic letter ? (nun) for Nazarene, reminiscent of the Jewish Star of David in the early days of Nazism in Germany. Thousands are fleeing, dying, or being left for dead by having food and water sources cut off from them.” Other Islamic nations and organizations are not happy with the creation of ISIS, but one fact is clear: ISIS is the product of a virulent Islamist ideology that utilizes violence against those who do not adhere to its tenants.
The movement of Islamism and its calls for genocide of the Jews now and throughout history are real. Let us recognize the Islamist movement as the threat it is, and stand up against the perpetuation of a belief that calls for the annihilation of Israel and all Jews.
It is hard to ignore the disturbing reports emerging from Iraq which contribute to mounting evidence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) extermination of Christians and anything reflecting the Christian religion. Congressman Frank Wolf and others have spoken persuasively and forcefully on this tragedy. Yet judging by the actions (or lack thereof) of our president and the other leaders of the free world, one wouldn’t think much was going on in Iraq. However, the available evidence shows that ISIS’s extermination of Christians is one of the clearest cases of genocide since World War II.
What little President Obama has said about preventing atrocities in foreign lands has centered on the Responsibility to Protect – a relatively recent doctrine which is not clearly established or grounded in international law. While its validity can be debated, there exist clearer grounds on which to address the plight of Iraq’s Christians – the obligation to prevent genocide contained in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948.
After the horror of the Nazi ideology and ensuing Holocaust was fully realized, the nations of the world gathered together, formed the United Nations, and affirmed they would never let such horrors happen again. The Genocide Convention laid down into international law a binding treaty arrangement in which contracting nations agreed to “undertake to prevent and to punish” genocide. As part of this obligation, parties could “call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action … as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide.” Some argue that the “obligation to prevent” is not a clear, independent requirement of the treaty, but that argument is overcome by the clear language and purpose of the treaty, and a decision of the International Court of Justice holding that the treaty contains a clear, independent obligation to prevent genocide. Indeed, the whole point of the treaty was to prevent horrors like the Holocaust from happening again.
According to the Convention, genocide consists of “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” –
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
While only one of these acts is required to have genocide, ISIS clearly appears to have engaged in at least the first three acts listed above. It appears to have undertaken them with the “intent to destroy” Christians and Christian heritage in Iraq “in whole,” and at least “in part.” Christians are a “religious group.” If the elements of this crime are not met in this case, I’m not sure when they are.
The responsibility to prevent genocide contained in the Genocide Convention requires that the United States and other parties to the treaty act to prevent genocide when they recognize it is occurring. It is difficult to deny that genocide of Iraq’s Christians is currently underway. In other instances, nations have refrained from calling genocide “genocide” (such as in the Darfur region of Sudan several years ago, or in Rwanda in the early 1990s) out of fear of triggering their legal obligation to act to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention. Is this the effect the treaty was intended to have? It is inconceivable that a mechanism designed to prevent future atrocities would be used as a reason to avoid denouncing those atrocities. Yet there is reason to believe nations have and will continue to operate this way.
While governments may try to craft arguments against their obligation if they do not want to address the issue, that will become more difficult as more facts come to light. The evidence from Iraq is clear – ISIS’ stated intent is to target Christians, which is a classification based on religion, one of the requirements for genocide. No nation which is a party to the Genocide Convention should be able to escape its requirement to act to prevent what ISIS is now doing to Iraq’s Christians.
Over twenty years ago, President Clinton hesitated to take decisive action to stop genocide in Rwanda. He avoided calling it genocide precisely because of the concerns expressed here – the United States would be obligated to do something if genocide was recognized. As a result, over a million lives were lost. Several years later, President Clinton went to Rwanda and admitted his error.
Yet this is precisely the point of the binding legal “obligation to prevent” contained in the Genocide Convention – it should not be able to be manipulated according to the shifting winds of foreign policy. It was always understood that binding obligations were necessary to prevent nations from wavering in the future when memories of the Holocaust started to fade.
The Genocide Convention was designed to prevent future horrors. Yet the nations of the world now stand by as genocide of Christians occurs before their very eyes in Iraq. All the elements of this crime are met, and we have an obligation to prevent it. What are we waiting for? That same question, which was asked of Nazi appeasers in the 1930s and President Clinton in the 1990s, will someday be asked of us about Iraq.
FRC President Tony Perkins speaks on Meriam Ibrahim’s recent release and arrival to Italy.
Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins expressed deep gratitude and relief early this morning after learning that Meriam Ibrahim and her family arrived in Italy.
Meriam is a Sudanese Christian, married to a U.S. citizen, who was sentenced to death by a Sudan court for the “crime” of converting from Islam, and 100 lashes for “adultery.” Meriam spent months in a notoriously rank Sudanese prison with her 21-month-old son and her newborn daughter. More than 53,000 people signed a WhiteHouse.gov petition launched by FRC asking President Obama to grant her expedited safe haven in the United States. Yesterday, Perkins testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations regarding her case.
Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins testified today before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations regarding the case of Meriam Ibrahim. You can read the testimony here.
Nearly 53,000 people signed a WhiteHouse.gov petition launched by FRC asking President Obama to grant her expedited safe haven in the United States.
This week, a movie will be released about persecution coming to modern day America, the persecution of Christians. Not for failing to renounce a belief but for failing to go along with a pluralist law that asks all religion to set aside their differences under the guise of anti-terrorism. I encourage you to go see this movie and consider its implications for the future of America. (Note: it is not for children and includes some violent images). Here is a synopsis of the plot from the movie’s website:
The new movie Persecuted opening in July 2014 depicts evangelist John Luther as the last obstacle in the way of sweeping religious reform. When a Senator frames Luther for the murder of an innocent teenage girl, an unprecedented era of persecution is unleashed. An evangelist turned fugitive, Luther’s mission brings him face-to-face with the coming storm of persecution that will threaten the entire Christian community in America.
America has long had a tradition of religious freedom for individuals. It is difficult to imagine a world of persecution in America, such as what is being experienced regularly by Christians in the Middle East or by those in Communist dictatorships such as North Korea. Perhaps, we will never see such persecution. But that does not mean we won’t see persecution. The one thing that is hardly tolerated in America is stating that something is wrong. We must be politically correct.
Political correctness is not only annoying, it is dangerous. Orwell once said that “freedom was the ability to say that 2+2=4.” If a man can no longer speak the truth, he is no longer free. John Luther was told to stop speaking the truth or risk everything. When faced with such a choice, would you be silent?
As we have just witnessed in some of the responses to last week’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, there are those in our country who would not only diminish religious liberty through government coercion but denigrate as an archaism that our culture should jettison. According to C.J. Werleman in Salon, “The hyper-religious conservatives on the bench of the nation’s high court, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, see the federal government as being controlled by ‘secular humanists’ who wish to make war against the purity of the Christian belief system. Like the 89 million Americans who count themselves as evangelicals, they seek total cultural and political domination … The American Taliban is on a roll” – and America is a “corporate theocracy.”
Yikes - all that from a decision that says a privately-held company can’t be forced by the government to serve as a conduit for potentially abortifacient drugs. Who knew?
Granted, Werleman’s comments are extreme. Still, they nonetheless reflect the rage of those for whom religious liberty is a matter of ultimate privacy – one’s personal thoughts and occasional, four-walled worship. Rather, religious liberty is the very foundation of all other liberties: If our liberties and dignity do not come from a personal, sovereign Creator, from whence do they come? And if they do come from Him, then government’s role is one of stewardship of those rights, not manipulation or erasure of them.
So, when government seeks to curtail religious liberty, it is affronting the God Who gave it, and asserting its authority to abate all other freedoms. If the ability to believe and practice (in public as well as private life) one’s faith is eroded, what is the foundation of our other rights and liberties? The whim of the state is an unnerving master.
FRC has been at the forefront of the effort to “preserve, protect, and defend” our religious liberty, which is why we wanted you to know about our most recent publication, “Hostility to Religion: The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty in the United States.”
This publication, collated by the Director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, Georgetown-trained lawyer Travis Weber, contains a list of documented accounts of hostility toward faith in the United States today, broken down in the following four definable types of incidents:
“Hostility to Religion” can be both downloaded and shared on-line at no charge. Please use this resource in considering the stakes for people of faith in a culture in which articulate religious belief is viewed by some as comic and pathetic and, thus, unimportant and disposable. We need to keep making the argument, graciously but consistently and firmly, that religious liberty matters – to everyone.
On Friday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins,” Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) guest hosted for Tony and had a very special guest on the program. Referred to as “Marie” during the interview because revealing her true identity could put her in great danger, she is one of the most important influencers on the ground in Nigeria. Marie is working to secure the rescue, and subsequent restoration, of the nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram two months ago. She is working with the captured girls’ mothers and with several of the girls who have escaped from Boko Haram’s custody in order to raise awareness of the situation and to call the Nigerian government to act on behalf of the innocent girls. Join FRC in praying for Marie and for this deplorable situation in Nigeria. Take a moment to listen to Congressman Gohmert’s fascinating interview with Marie here.
Just when it looked like Sudanese mother Meriam Ibrahim and her two children would finally be free from the grip of injustice, they were snatched back into the clutches of the Sudanese authorities, who detained them when they arrived at an airport to leave Sudan today. Though it’s unclear on what basis they are being detained, we call on Sudan to immediately release Meriam and her children. In addition, the United States government, specifically Secretary of State Kerry and the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum – must pursue high level engagement on Meriam’s case. Sudan needs to know that the United States and its high level officials are watching whether Sudan pursues justice or regresses backwards into permitting the unjust detention of Meriam and her children to occur once again.
Yesterday, in a heartening turn of events, a Sudanese appeals court overturned a lower court ruling in which Meriam had been sentenced to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery. According to Sudan’s official SUNA news agency (as reported by the Independent), “The appeal court ordered the release of Mariam Yahya and the cancellation of the (previous) court ruling.”
This was certainly a good bit of news, as numerous human rights organizations and governments had pressured Sudan and called on the ruling to be reversed. The U.S. government had been slow to respond, however, only recently issuing statements bearing on the matter. Numerous groups had spoken and petitioned on Meriam’s case, including the Family Research Council. And in Sudan, Meriam’s attorneys had filed appeals and vowed to fight to the end.
It is important to note that the Sudanese court ordering Meriam’s release got this issue right. Yet her re-arrest appears arbitrary – no basis for her detention has been offered – and it will be increasingly harmful to Sudan’s relations with the United States and the other countries outraged by the original charges against Meriam. Moreover, in the eyes of the many of the activists and NGOs which have spoken out on her case, Sudan’s reputation as a just and reasonable country will continue to degrade until it safely releases this family and allows them safe passage out of the country.
Many have made their voices heard around the world on Meriam’s case. In addition, however, voices within Sudan have made it known that they wanted justice for Meriam too. Here, Muslim men (Meriam’s Sudanese attorneys) are defending a Christian woman (Meriam) in her quest for justice. These attorneys strongly believe in her case, and despite receiving death threats for defending a Christian, they vowed to fight to the end and exhaust all appeals. Furthermore, other Muslims in Sudan have been demonstrating on Meriam’s behalf.
While her attorneys and others in Sudan were on her side, not everyone was happy with Meriam’s freedom. When she was released, Meriam had to go into hiding due to threats against her life. Now, as she is trying to leave the country along with her family, she is being detained by Sudanese national security forces for an unknown reason. We call on Sudan to immediately release Meriam in accordance with the court order overturning her conviction and sentence. In addition, Secretary of State Kerry and the U.S. Embassy in Sudan must pursue high level engagement on Meriam’s case. Sudan needs to know that the United States and its high level officials are watching whether Sudan pursues justice or regresses backwards into permitting the unjust detention of Meriam and her children to occur once again. Sudan is close to bringing justice to Meriam, and must not fail her now.
We have witnessed Meriam’s attorneys and the protesting crowds expressing their support for Sudan to take ownership of this issue and be ready to handle religious freedom challenges when they inevitably arise in the future, for this issue is not going away. Indeed, it has already shown itself again: On April 2, 2014, Sudanese police arrested Faiza Abdalla near Sudan’s eastern border. Though details are scant, it appears that Abdalla, whose parents converted to evangelical Christianity before her birth and raised her in the same faith, was arrested because she has a Muslim name and yet professed Christianity. Her Catholic husband fled Sudan two years ago because of persecution, Morning Star News reported. As in the case of Meriam Ibrahim, Sudanese officials voided her marriage and accused her of apostasy when she refused to deny Christianity.
There is no reason for these cases to recur—Sudan’s apostasy laws are inconsistent in light of the commitments it has made under its Constitution and international agreements, and must be repealed. Sudan’s 2005 Interim Constitution states that the government “shall respect the religious rights to … worship or assemble in connection with any religion or belief and to establish and maintain places for these purposes.” Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a party, states: “[e]veryone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.” The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states, to which Sudan is a party, states that the “[f]reedom of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed. No one may, subject to law and order, be submitted to measures restricting the exercise of these freedoms.”
Sudan’s apostasy laws are in conflict and inconsistent with these legal authorities, which provide a religious freedom that includes the freedom to choose one’s beliefs. Sudan has given its word and agreed to abide by these sources of authoritative law, and yet the apostasy laws under which Meriam was jailed and Faiza is detained are still being used to work injustice in Sudan. As a matter of integrity for the Sudanese nation and its legal system, and to avoid ongoing and future injustices like Meriam’s and Faiza’s, Sudan must repeal its apostasy laws.
 2nd Sudanese Woman Jailed for Her Faith, Baptist Press, May 28, 2014, http://www.bpnews.net/printerfriendly.asp?id=42656.
 2005 Interim National Constitution of the Republic of Sudan, art. 6.
 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), art. 18, 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force Mar. 23, 1976 [hereinafter ICCPR].
 Organization for African Unity, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, art. 8, June 27, 1981, CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 I.L.M. 58 (1982).