A Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim

But there is one good thing: Meriam Ibrahim and her family are safe, out of Sudan.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag flew to Rome with her family after more than a month in the US embassy in Khartoum.

There was global condemnation when she was sentenced to hang for apostasy by a Sudanese court.

Mrs Ibrahim’s father is Muslim so according to Sudan’s version of Islamic law she is also Muslim and cannot convert.

She was raised by her Christian mother and says she has never been Muslim.

Welcoming her at the airport, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said: “Today is a day of celebration.”

Then she went to meet with the pope, which doesn’t sound like fun to me, but maybe if I’d been in her situation it would seem like the best fun in the world.

Lapo Pistelli, Italy’s vice-minister for foreign affairs, accompanied her on the flight from Khartoum and posted a photo of himself with Mrs Ibrahim and her children on his Facebook account as they were about to land in Rome.

“Mission accomplished,” he wrote.

A senior Sudanese official told Reuters news agency that the government in Khartoum had approved her departure in advance.

Mrs Ibrahim’s lawyer Mohamed Mostafa Nour told BBC Focus on Africa that she travelled on a Sudanese passport she received at the last minute.

“She is unhappy to leave Sudan. She loves Sudan very much. It’s the country she was born and grew up in,” he said.

That’s sad. It appears that Sudan did not love her back, though.

A last twist of the knife:

Last week, her father’s family filed a lawsuit trying to have her marriage annulled, on the basis that a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.

And you’re not allowed to leave Islam, and you’re in Islam if your father is a Muslim, even if you never even met the guy. But there is no compulsion in religion. Uh huh.


  1. Ed says

    This really gets me because a few weeks before I heard about Ms. Ibrahim’ s case, I was given a very nicely written and attractive pamphlet by some Muslim group which of course presented Islam in glowing terms. There was a whole section on how Muslims have no problem whatsoever with Christians. In fact they have so much in common with Christains that there are cases where Islamic law allows intermarriage! How much more tolerant do you want, huh?

    Since I’m not either one it doesn’t directly affect me (except as someone who cares about human rights and thinks that marriage should not be governed by religious rules at all) but still I thought there should have been some mention of how strictly regulated and controversial intermarriage is, and how whatever tolerance there is only seems to apply if the man of the house is Muslim.

  2. johnthedrunkard says

    ‘Intermarriage’ means that Muslim men are allowed to rape any Xian women they happen to capture.

  3. says

    Funny thing about the ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’ verse. It is almost always (quite conveniently) quoted out of context. It actually means the exact opposite, that you can’t be internally compelled to see the one and only Truth, but you sure as hell can be punished for being evil enough to refuse to see it. The rest of the verse and the one following it:

    [ 2:256] Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.

    [ 2:257] Allah is the Protector of those who have faith: from the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into light. Of those who reject faith the patrons are the evil ones: from light they will lead them forth into the depths of darkness. They will be companions of the fire, to dwell therein (For ever).

    The ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’ verse turns out to be literally a preamble to explaining how/why anyone who believes otherwise is wrong, evil, and doomed to utter damnation.

    Cuz that’s not normative or exclusionary at all.

  4. says

    Also, re: intermarriage in Islam. I’ve wanted to write about this so many times, not least because I have so many friends suffering from this problem. Obviously most of what I have to say is in the context of Lebanon, but you would have no idea what a huge, pervasive problem the struggle for interfaith marriage is in Lebanon. You know that we don’t have civil services for marriage so people can only follow religious laws to get married, and they can’t have legitimate public relationships without getting married either, and even when it’s not literally illegal for them to get married in Lebanon without their families agreeing to some roundabout conversion thing–which almost never happens because of all the governmental bureaucracy involved in conversion and shitty sectarian social politics– the stigma makes it even worse than Islam technically dictates.

    Examples: I have a couple of atheist friends from Sunni and Shia families who after being disowned by their parents and struggling for years before finally getting parental permission to get married (another shitty prerequisite can you fucking believe it), have now spent years trying to find a shiekh who will agree to marry them. Every cleric they’ve gone to, even the ‘progressive’ ones, refuse because of fear of upsetting each other’s communities, especially as the woman is Saudi and the man is Lebanese and you gotta know the Shia-Sunni enmity is great between Hezbollah and the Saudi gov’t, so obviously this young couple can’t be married.

    I have another couple of atheist friends, an Iraqi man from a Shia family and a woman from an Armenian Orthodox Lebanese family who have had to hide their relationship for almost a decade now, down to having to have home-abortions when accidents have happened, despite the fact that it’s technically legal for him to marry her in both Lebanon and Iraq. The stigma is just too great, and it’s very often Christian families who resist interfaith marriages because the only legal ones are Christian women marrying Muslim men, which means in their thinking their daughters are going to basically be inducted into her husband’s family, faith, and customs, and basically they will lose an entire branch of family from their community. It’s literally thought of in terms of those things. Ironically, Christian families seldom have problems with their sons marrying Muslim girls who convert, not only because men are less scrutinized in general but also because they would be bringing somebody into the fold that way; instead of losing a daughter, one is gained.

    And I have had friends who struggled for years through solid interfaith romances before having to break up because they couldn’t keep up the secrecy or their families just kept giving them grief, and more often than not these romances have been Christian women with Muslim or Druze men, and Druze friends of all genders with non-Druze partners, because the Druze are even bigger sticklers about no interfaith marriages than Muslims are–they don’t allow it under any circumstances whatsoever. Just last year there was an honor crime in Lebanon where the family of a Druze woman who had eloped lured her and her husband back under pretense of accepting their marriage and castrated him. In fact, a sizable chunk of the honor violence in Lebanon has to do with interfaith romances.

    Last Wednesday one of my short stories came out, and it deals with a Muslim-Christian romance in Lebanon–I won’t give the ending away, but after reading it one of my friends back home from a Druze family who’s had to hide her boyfriend from a Muslim family for years messaged me saying that she’s often considered doing what the couple in my story did to end up together.

    The story is here, btw. Sorry for the shameless plug, but it’s really relevant, not just to the stigma of interfaith marriage, but to more general feminist issues, especially how rape cases are treated and handled in Lebanon as well (Article 522 of the Lebanese penal code exonerates a rapist who marries his victim):


  5. Decker says

    What is most shocking about this case was the total inaction of the Obama administration.

    The women’s father is an American citizen and the child Meriam gave birth to in prison, thus, an American citizen as well.

    The negotiations for her release were done via the British embassy in The Sudan, and upon her release she was greeted by a small Italian delegation that included one cabinet minister. She was flown out of The Sudan aboard an italian jetliner accompanied by that same delegation and upon landing in Rome was greeted by several other politicians as well as the Pope.

    The American diplomatic corps did NOT lift a finger to help her. They stood back idle, arms at their sides, while the Europeans did all the heavy lifting.

    The behavior of the Obama administration, the inaction and studied passivity throughout this entire ordeal, is just shameful.

    A pregnant women, wife of an American citizen, was imprisoned by a bunch of primitive psychos, was forced to give birth ( to an American citizen)cooped up in some fetid hell-hole and America’s political class just stood back and watched.

  6. Katherine Woo says

    Marwa Berro, very strong textual analysis. Seeing that verse misused by faitheists particularly grates, especially because were it a Bible verse they would be all over the context.


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