This week’s court ruling in Sudan sentencing Dr Meriam Yahya Ibrahim to death for abandoning Islam is highly regrettable but should come as no surprise to observers of the Muslim world.
It seems unlikely that the Sudanese authorities would proceed with carrying out the death sentence in the face of global outrage. The sentence has already been postponed for two years to allow Dr Meriam to give birth and wean the baby – she is currently eight months pregnant. However, the terrible damage to the image of Islam has already been done and keeps being done repeatedly because similar cases arise in different parts of the Muslim world on a regular basis.
At the heart of this is a major issue facing the Muslim world.
I provided the following quote to the Sunday Times which today reports on this story.
“It is so tragic that in the 21st century, someone can still be sentenced to death for wanting to change their religion. We can only hope that the Sudanese authorities come to their senses and recognise the disservice they are doing to the way Islam is viewed by the rest of the world and rescind this death sentence. Ultimately, the issue of apostasy is part of a far wider question that much of the Muslim world is still struggling with – how to reconcile traditional Islamic doctrine with modern notions of human rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of association and sexual freedoms.”
There is some debate in the Muslim world about these issues, though the retrograde influence of conservative Muslim ‘scholars’ is sadly still very strong.
Europe benefited immensely through drastically curtailing the baleful influence of the Church, leading to greater freedoms in virtually every area from the social sphere to the sciences. It is difficult to see how the Muslim world can make similar progress without also reducing the influence of conservative teachings.