Several years ago, a national debate was raging over whether pro-life protestors could intrude on the properties of abortion clinics. Protestors had pushed onto the properties of a few clinics, causing some local jurisdictions to enact laws establishing protective perimeters which could not legally be crossed by persons not officially connected to those clinics. Pro-life groups spoke out against those laws, noting that over the years other protests had had no such restrictions. They complained that abortion facilities had been given special protections enjoyed by no other institutions.
In the midst of that debate, I heard a radio interview featuring Focus on the Family director James Dobson. The interviewer asked Dr. Dobson for his view on the issue of property rights vs. morality, with respect to the abortion clinics – particularly in view of the fact that some Christian leaders had criticized pro-life protestors for intruding on those clinics’ properties.
Dr. Dobson’s answer was a memorable one. He suggested that the issue really boiled down to whether Christians believe their own rhetoric. He said this regarding claims commonly made by pro-life people equating abortion to murder. Dr. Dobson questioned whether we really believed those claims by asking what we would do if we learned that a facility outside of our town was killing live children.
“Would we respect the property rights of that facility?” he asked. “Would we stand back and do nothing while live children were actually done to death?”
No! he exclaimed. God helping us, we would do no such thing! We would go out there with fire and sword, and destroy that evil place, and no delicacy about property rights would stop us. “At least,” added Dr. Dobson, “I hope that’s what we would do…”
Modern Americans get all wrapped around the axle over whether a fetus is actually a child, or on the question of when life begins. And we’re amazingly sensitive about property rights. These peripheral issues obscure the central issue: i.e., that facilities which destroy thousands of unborn children a year are being allowed to operate openly, with impunity. It’s a wicked, confused era.
I mention this vignette from the past because a similar drama is now playing out – not about “property rights,” but about the conflict between national rights and human morality. The locus of this new drama is Sudan, where Meriam Ibrahim, the wife of an American, is under sentence of death for the Sharia crime of “apostasy.” Mrs. Ibrahim is a Christian who has refused to renounce her faith and convert to Islam, as the law requires. Unless she is somehow delivered, she will eventually be lashed and then hanged for her “crime.” Columnist Suzanne Fields gives the following account in her Washington Times article of June 5, 2014:
“[Mrs. Ibrahim] is shackled to the floor in a filthy prison cell with her toddler son and her new daughter. The court was not without Shariah mercy: She has two years time to wean the infant before she is to be lashed 100 times, and then what is left of her is to be hanged until she is dead.
“She was convicted of apostasy, the abandonment of a religious belief, and adultery, capital crimes under Shariah law. She is considered an adulteress, since the Sudanese court vacated her marriage because in Sudan a marriage between a Muslim and a Christian is invalid, although she is a Christian married to a Christian.
“She told the court: ‘I am a Christian, and I am not an apostate.’ She never abandoned Islam because she has never been a Muslim. Her mother was a Christian and her Muslim father abandoned the family when she was 6. But Shariah law dictates that the child of a Muslim is a Muslim. Her husband [Daniel Wani], a biochemist, had fled Sudan during its brutal civil war, settled in New Hampshire and became an American citizen.”
Europeans are reportedly outraged over Mrs. Ibrahim’s situation. The Prime Minister of Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Britain’s three main political parties are all demanding her release. Our own Department of State says it is “fully engaged” on the matter (although what that actually means is unclear). Mr. Obama – unable to interrupt his work of releasing five terrorists in exchange for a possible U. S. Army deserter – has not found time to intervene on behalf of Mrs. Ibrahim. Nor has the normally vocal First Lady uttered a word in her support.
In the context of all this international/religious calculus, no proposal to rescue Mrs. Ibrahim via direct action is anywhere to be found. Internationalist pooh-bahs inform us that this is a Sudanese internal matter into which we have no business poking our noses. Their national sovereignty trumps any moral claims we might make on the situation. Rescuing Mrs. Ibrahim and her child by force of arms is strengsten verboten because that intervention would trespass on Sudan’s national rights. Obviously the Sudanese see things differently than we do on religious and personal rights, but that gives us no call to bust in with guns blazing. Their “morality” (using the term with extreme poetic license) is just as valid as ours, and must be respected.
Why Sudan is getting the kid-gloves treatment here is unclear to me – being the totally unhip rube that I obviously am. We made a huge fuss – although we wound up doing nothing, militarily – about Bashar al-Assad’s use of poison gas against his people in Syria. (OK, so he wasted a few thousand peasants who were probably starving anyway. Can’t we all just get along?) Mr. Obama was ready to send in the marines because his virtual “red line” was crossed (until someone mentioned that he had to get Congressional permission to do it).
In Libya we intervened to topple the dictator Qadaffi because Mr. Obama didn’t like the cut of his jib and said he “had to go.” Ditto for Hosni Mubarak of Egypt – outta here! I don’t recall much high (or even low) dudgeon about national sovereignty then. Somehow, we assume a “moral right” to intervene when we…well, when we think we should. At such times, fine points of “national rights” and “internal matters” are tossed aside like so much flotsam and jetsam.
Historically, we have had no problem intervening in other countries’ internal affairs when we believed they were doing reprehensible things. There was not a whisper of doubt about the righteousness of our ruinous bombing campaign and our outright invasion of Germany when their grossly immoral treatment of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Russians, and other groups they considered “subhuman” came to light. General Eisenhower called it our great “Crusade in Europe.” (Today he would be denounced as hopelessly politically incorrect.) But wasn’t Germany’s idea of “morality” just as valid as ours? What happened to leaving these internal matters to the Germans? Where did we get off interfering?
I’ll say it straight out – the Sudanese case of Mrs. Ibrahim is different because it involves Sharia law in a Muslim country. Mr. Obama doesn’t like to be seen interfering in such matters or opposing any actions taken by Islamic authorities. Is he a closet Muslim? I don’t know, but a child could recognize his bias. This is the jockstrap in the punchbowl that nobody in polite society wants to mention. It’s the dirty secret of this administration, and it’s time to raise hell about it. (That’s a religious term, actually.)
On the eve of revolution, Patrick Henry asked, “Are we so pusillanimous that we are weak-kneed?” In the wretched case of Mrs. Ibrahim, I pray not. If we have any warriors who can undertake such a mission, I hope they are forming up to go into that dark place and bring her out – whether or not our national “leadership” does anything except talk. If this ends with Mrs. Ibrahim hanging from a Sudanese gibbet, we’ll never sponge the stain from our national character, and Mr. Obama’s presidency will never recover from the shame of it.