Occasionally a shaft of sunshine breaks through the gloom that seems to envelop most of the world in this season of our dismay. Such a shaft broke through the clouds over Khartoum on Monday, when a Sudanese appeals court ordered Meriam Ibrahim freed from the cell where she has been living with her two children under sentence of flogging and the gallows.
She was taken immediately to a safe house, security she will need. Her half-brother, who told the authorities last year that Mrs. Ibrahim had “abandoned” the Muslim faith imposed on her by birth, now threatens to kill her by stoning.
Mrs. Ibrahim never abandoned a Muslim faith; she was raised as a Christian by her Christian mother, but in Shariah law she was a Muslim because her father, who abandoned the family when Meriam was a little girl, was a Muslim. Hence the capital “crime” of apostasy, or “abandonment of the faith.” She was offered her freedom if she would renounce her Christian faith, and declined. “If they are going to hang me unless I renounce Christ,” she told her husband, “they might as well hang me now, because I will never do that.”
The decision by the appeals court was not unexpected. The court that sentenced her was something of a kangaroo panel, even by Sudanese standards, and the Khartoum government was eager to rid itself of the outrage aimed at it from across much of the world. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said the verdict “has no place in the civilized world,” and both Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labor minority in the Parliament, and Nicholas Clegg, the deputy prime minister and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, called her treatment “abhorrent.”
The sentence was denounced throughout Europe, and bills have been introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to grant permanent residence for Mrs. Ibrahim and her two children, a son, 20 months old, and a daughter, born a month ago. One of the few silent voices in the West has been that of Barack Obama — one pundit calls him “as silent as Mohammed’s tomb.”
More than 53,000 Americans signed a petition to Whitehouse.gov. calling on the Obama administration to extend safe haven to the Khartoum 3, who are eligible for American citizenship. Indeed, by virtue of their birth to an American father, they may be American citizens already. The State Department, like the president, has been of no known help so far.
Her husband, Daniel Wani, is eager to reunite the family in Manchester, N.H., where he lives. He suffers a debilitating disease that confines him to a wheelchair, but he has been in Khartoum for weeks working for his wife’s release. He got very little help and no encouragement from the American Embassy in Khartoum.
Mr. Wani heard the news of his wife’s release on Sudanese state radio, and hurried to the prison with her lawyer, Elshareef Ali, to greet her. “They have released her,” Mr. Ali told reporters, “and she’s on her way home.”
But not quite. President Obama can write a happy ending to this grim story by instructing Secretary of State John Kerry to apply a boot where it will do the most good in his department, and get all the documents in order to send Mrs. Ibrahim to her real home. The president says a lot about amnesty, and doing the right thing by the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens swarming across the border, and here is his opportunity to lend a hand to an American citizen trying to get his family home.