The Obama administration merely watches as a foreign country prepares to hang an American for her faith. The government of Sudan has convicted one Dr. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishig for the “crime” of religious apostasy.
Born in Sudan to an Orthodox Christian mother and a Muslim father who abandoned the family early on, Dr. Ishig was convicted earlier this month and sentenced to death for holding close her Christian faith and refusing to convert to Islam.
For four months Dr. Ishig, pregnant with her second child, has been shackled to the floor of her cell in Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison in Khartoum, a Third World hellhole that Human Rights Watch describes as filthy and overcrowded. She shares a cell with her 20-month-old son Martin.
This week, Dr. Ishig gave birth to a girl, Maya. Now that she’s no longer pregnant, her captors, practicing their usual contempt for women, say it’s time to impose the rest of the sentence. She is to be lashed 100 times, and then hanged.
The sentence is on appeal, and Dr. Ishig was told she would be spared if she converts to Islam. In an interview with The Daily Mail of London, her husband Daniel Wani said his wife told him during a rare prison visit that she would die rather than renounce her Christian faith. “If they want to execute me,” she told her husband, a New Hampshire resident and also a Christian, “then they should go ahead and do it, because I’m not going to change my faith.”
She has never been a Muslim, and could not and would not “pretend to be a Muslim” just to save her life. These are the words of a genuine martyr.
The United States has not brought any real pressure to bear on the Khartoum regime of President Omar Bashir to encourage him to free Dr. Ishig, Martin and Maya. In fact, a State Department spokesman won’t even confirm the facts of the case, offering the sorry bureaucratic excuse that Mr. Wani failed to file the proper forms to obtain the help of his government.
The indifference of the administration to the couple’s ordeal — not even a Twitter hashtag campaign from the first lady — is striking. President Obama just can’t get tough with Muslims. His weakness in defending American interests emboldens the nation’s foes everywhere. He can do more to resolve this outrage if he can summon the will. Public opinion, led by religious leaders here, can light the fire under his backside that would encourage him to do the right thing.