(CNSNews.com) -A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told CNSNews.com that the pregnant Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for apostasy in the Sudan should be “immediately released.”
“If [apostasy’s] the only charge they have against her, of course she should be immediately released,” Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for CAIR, replied when CNSNews.com asked him: “Does CAIR believe that the Sudanese authorities should immediately release Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag from prison?”
Hooper added that the adultery charge against Ishag was “based on the apostasy (charge).”
Last Thursday, the 27-year-old Ishag, who is married to a Christian man, was sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy after refusing to recant her Christian faith within the proscribed three days.
Ishag, who was imprisoned with her 20-month-old son, was also sentenced to a hundred lashes for adultery because her marriage to a non-Muslim is considered invalid.
“Does CAIR condemn the prosecution for apostasy and death sentence given to Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag?” CNSNews.com also asked Hooper.
“Yes, as we have stated in the past, we don’t believe that personal religious beliefs are a matter of state intervention, whether it’s in Sudan or as the previous case, I think, was in Afghanistan,” he replied.
“We just don’t think it’s appropriate and we don’t think it’s a reflection of Islamic beliefs that people who leave the faith should face any state intervention. And that’s not to say that that’s even the case in this situation because from what I understand, the woman herself says she was never Muslim so it wouldn’t even come into it, but I think it would be the same regardless of the situation,” he explained.
CNSNews.com asked Hooper if CAIR believes that a Muslim should be free to convert to another religion without facing any civil or social penalties.
"I mean, in the time of the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, there were a number of people who converted out of Islam, came back to Islam, and he never imposed any such sentence on these people. So if the prophet himself didn't do it, and the Quran states quite clearly there is no compulsion in religion, you can hardly make an excuse for these kinds of things based on either the actions of the prophet or the words in the Quran," Hooper said.
CNSNews.com asked if CAIR believes the Sudanese authorities' actions had no basis in Islam.
"No, we don't believe that it's the purview of the state to intervene in personal religious beliefs and that's based on our reading of Islam and Islamic principles," he replied, adding: "That's apparently their interpretation of things and we disagree along with the Fiqh Council of North America. They're a council of religious scholars, Muslim religious scholars, in North America."The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), at least 21 of whose members have apostasy laws in place, has been silent on the Christian mother’s death sentence.
CAIR also re-released a 2009 statement on “Islam and Apostasy” after consultation with the Fiqh Council of North America in response to Sudan’s recent actions, which states: “Religious decisions should be matters of personal choice, not a cause for state intervention. Faith imposed by force is not true belief, but coercion.”
CAIR's mission is “to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding,” according to the group's website.