“She is in shackles.” That was the headline chosen by the Daily Mail, their second piece on this story. The woman in shackles is a pregnant woman married to an American. Her name is Meriam Ibrahim. She has been sentenced to lashings and death. (More on that in a second.) Her 20-month-old son, an American citizen, is with her in her cell because the father is deemed unfit to care for the child. Considering her condition, her marriage, her cellmate, and the recent #bringbackourgirls campaign, this seems like the kind of story that should be all over the American news, but for some reason the bigs aren’t covering it.
CNN did a few minutes on it last week. ABC had an article. British press is on it with stories in the Daily Mail, Telegraph, HuffPo UK, The Independent. New media is on it as well. PJMedia has four posts. TIME posted an article claiming the story is really about treatment of women, and I think they’ve hit upon why the story hasn’t caught the eye of the Twitterati.
The Christian persecution in this story isn’t as easy to hide under the more socially-acceptable oppression to complain about: patriarchy. As Michael Rubin noticed simply by going to Boko Haram’s own statement, the kidnapped Nigerian girls isn’t a story about female persecution but religious persecution. Boko Haram is targeting kids because they are soft targets. They killed a bunch of boys a few months ago to little fanfare.
Obscuring motivations leads us to a false understanding about how men and women are treated, relatively. In the frantic coverage of how badly girls get treated, few will remember the horrifying end given to the boy students. Boko Haram burned the boys alive in their dorms. They shot those attempting to escape, or “slaughtered them like rams” if they caught them. They let the girls go before lighting the building on fire, telling them to go to a Muslim school and get married.
It is easy to ignore the religious motivation for the girls’ kidnapping under the horrible drama of the actual event. But Meriam is in shackles in Sudan because she is a Christian. A Sudanese court has found her guilty of 1) adultery, for having sex with her husband—she is married to a Christian but since her absent father was Muslim, the court considers her a Muslim and therefore does not recognize the union, and 2) apostasy, refusal to renounce her Christian faith. For the adultery, she received a sentence of 100 lashes, stayed until she gives birth sometime in early June. For the apostasy, she was sentenced to death, stayed until her baby turns two. (That turns the breast-is-best wars on it’s head. Breastfeeding is important enough to stay the execution, but the mother/child relationship is not enough for mercy? Ponder the attitudes toward women packed in that delay; they are plenty, but still not enough to overshadow the religious nature of this injustice.) And the reason her toddler is in the cell with her, the court also considers him Muslim based upon his maternal grandfather, therefore his Christian father is an unacceptable caregiver.
For Christian persecution, the US State Department, even at the behest of New Hampshire’s Senators, can hardly even muster a delayed and infamous-as-it-is-ineffective “sternly worded letter.” There is comparatively little press coverage. Not even a hashtag campaign.
Leslie Loftis is a senior contributor at The Federalist.