Why has a Pregnant Woman in Sudan been sentenced to death this week?

sudan21n-1-webPictured above is Meriam Ibrahim with her husband, Daniel Wani, at their 2011 wedding. 

Today she sits on death row in Sudan for the “crime” of getting married to a non-Muslim. The new York Daily News reports …

A distraught and desperate husband who traveled from New Hampshire to Sudan has been allowed to visit his pregnant wife on death row, only to find her shackled in chains.

Meriam Ibrahim, 26, was sentenced to death last week by a Sudanese court in Khartoum after being convicted of apostasy. The Christian woman, who is eight months pregnant, had refused to denounce her religion.

Her husband, Daniel Wani, arrived in Sudan Monday after leaving New England.

“Her feet are shackled. Her legs are swollen,” Tina Ramirez, executive director of Hardwired, a U.S.-based advocacy group against religious persecution, told the Daily News. “It’s just outrageous. She’s eight and a-half months pregnant.”

Wani is appealing his wife’s execution, which officials said won’t be held until Ibrahim gives birth and nurses her infant.

So how did this happen?

She was arrested last year after her father’s family claimed she was born a Muslim, but married a Christian. She had been released, pending her trial, but was imprisoned in February on an added charge of apostasy, after saying in court that she has been a Christian all her life.
She was reared by her mother.

“I was never a Muslim,” she told the Sudanese high court. “I was raised a Christian from the start.”

…Under Sudan’s criminal code, Muslim women are allowed to marry only Muslim men. Converting to another faith is punishable by death.

This is not just utterly abhorrent and deeply immoral, but also illustrates the true colours of Islam, a belief that at it’s heart is essentially intolerant, misogynistic, very violent, and not actually true at all (but perhaps you did not need me to tell you that last part).

But why has this happened, how has such a belief emerged and thrived?

Belief systems tend to go through a process of natural selection, and those that evolve specific attributes (ideas) that give them a distinct advantage will adapt and successfully leverage human psychology and emotions to enable it to thrive, especially when competing against other variations of belief.

The idea of murdering people for simply believing the wrong things is by our rational standards, not only truly abhorrent, but is also excessively intolerant, and yet it is like this because it was an idea that gaves the belief a distinct survival advantage:

  • It is generally OK, for a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim women, but the idea of a Muslim women marrying a non-Muslim man is generally strictly forbidden – This ensures that the belief that gets passed to the next generation is Islam and not some other belief, and so the belief that promotes and enforces this will have an advantage.
  • Fear is a powerful emotion, and is one that most beliefs tap into – obey or you will burn in the next life. In this case the example of somebody actually being put to death for leaving their belief creates a powerful psychological pull of fear in the minds of those that still belief, and so it strongly motivates them to stick with the belief. The idea of putting those that quit to death gives the belief a distinct survival advantage.

The reason for other practises also starts to become a bit clearer as well …

  • Anti-gay … because breeding quickly and rapidly growing your population of believers must happen if the belief is to outbreed other competing beliefs
  • One Husband and four wives … because once again this will ensure a rapidly growing population of believers. Notice that the idea of one wife and fours husbands does not exist; it offers the belief no advantage at all.
  • Intolerance is also a virtue to be nourished, because tolerating alternative beliefs would be a disadvantage.

Religious beliefs are what they are, not because they are actually true at all, but rather because they have been through centuries of natural selection and so what thrives does so because it has successfully embedded itself by utilising our psychology and taps into our emotions so that it can live within us and pass on to the next generation.

The evolution of belief never stops, new variations will pop up all the time, and those that prove to be better will thrive, while those that can no longer compete with the newer better variations will wither and fade.


What is going on in Sudan is abhorrent by every measure, and now also needs to continue having a media spotlight thrown upon it. It is vitally important that the prevailing idea is robustly challenged, and shown to be what it actually is … intolerant, violent and highly immoral by any measure.

This prevailing belief conflicts with some of the most basic and fundamental human rights ever conceived, namely freedom of thought and freedom of speech. If such a belief should indeed prevail in the modern world, then it is those basic rights that will wither and die.


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