From Jewess Sol Hachuel, to Christian Meriam Ibrahim, 200 Years of Sharia’s Brutal Injustice For Non-Muslim Women of Faith

85-000089The striking cover art which adorns my 2008 The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, Alfred Dehodencq’s “Execution of a Moroccan Jewess” is based upon the actual execution of a Jewess from Tangier, Morocco, Sol Hachuel, believed to have occurred in 1834.

Accused, falsely, of having become a Muslim, upon adamantly and steadfastly maintaining her Jewish faith—“A Jewess I was born, a Jewess I wish to die,” the 17 year-old Sol was beheaded publicly for this contrived “apostasy” from Islam.

Meriam on Wedding DayFast forward nearly two centuries to a Sharia court in Khartoum, where on May 15, 2014, Meriam Ibrahim stoically refused to forsake Christianity,  her lifelong faith, and the religion of the mother who raised her.  Agence France Presse (AFP) described how just prior to her sentencing, “an Islamic religious leader spoke with her in the caged dock for about 30 minutes,”—likely one last ditch effort to convince Meriam to renounce her Christian faith, and become a Muslim. But despite the possibility of having her sentenced reduced, perhaps even annulled by “accepting Islam,” Meriam refused this coercive conversion, and calmly told the presiding Sharia judge the objective truth:

I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.

In response, Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa, addressing Meriam by her father’s Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah, rendered his Sharia-based punishment sentence:

We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged.

Judge Khalifa also sentenced Meriam to 100 lashes for “adultery.”

The circumstances of Meriam Ibrahim’s arrest and “conviction” are eerily reminiscent of those almost 200 years earlier surrounding Sol Hachuel’s brutally unjust plight, and ultimate martyrdom. These shared dynamics, which negate basic freedom of conscience, provide stark evidence of the Sharia’s depressing persistence as a force of religious oppression—regnant, unreformed, and unrepentant—into our era. What follows is a brief overview of the morally bereft Sharia “charges,” sham legal proceedings, and heinous “punishments”—all antithetical to Western conceptions of law and justice—the cases of Sol Hachuel and Meriam Ibrahim illustrate in common, two centuries apart.

A detailed, near contemporary account of Sol Hachuel’s heroic martyrdom–based on eyewitness interviews–was published in 1837 by Eugenio Maria Romero. The younger of two children of Chaim and Simcha Hachuel, Sol was described as a beautiful young woman. Her father was a merchant of very modest means, but also a highly educated man who conducted Talmudic study groups in the Hachuel household. Through these community gatherings, Sol acquired enough Jewish religious instruction to develop an unyielding confidence in her own Judaic beliefs. Typical of families that were not prosperous, Sol’s mother kept house, leaving her daughter practically to herself. Sol developed a friendship with a Muslim woman Tahra de Mesoodi. Apparently Tahra entertained the pious Muslim hope–a particularly important impetus under the code of Maliki Islamic Law predominant in Morocco–to convert infidels to Islam.

Based solely on Tahra’s denunciation of Sol to the Basha Arbi Esudio–which included the false claim of Sol’s conversion to, and subsequent reversion from, Islam–an allegation punishable by death (for apostasy) under the Sharia, Islamic Law–the Basha had Sol brought before him. Sol told the Basha forthrightly she had never intended to convert to Islam. Then, (in the first of three iterations), Sol pronounced the memorable line which became her epitaph,

A Jewess I was born, a Jewess I wish to die.

The Basha, Arbi Esudio attempts to assure Sol’s conversion to Islam by enticement and coercion. He offers her protection from parental interference, wealth (in the forms of silk and gold), and “happiness.” Arbi Esudio then threatens the obstinate Sol for having adopted Islam, and “reverted” to Judaism. But to no avail.

Dispatched to a lightless dungeon, Sol was detained incommunicado, with an iron collar around her neck, and chains on both her hands and feet. Bribery alone secured her modest favors from the jailers. Her utterly distraught parents acting in a manner that became customary for Moroccan Jews, devoid of political rights and security, appealed to a European diplomat to obtain Sol’s release. Don Jose Rico (an “honorific” title?) , the Spanish vice-consul made a vigorous but ultimately unsuccessful effort to free Sol. The Basha ordered Sol to be sent to Fez to allow the Sultan to decide her fate. Arbi Esudio also required that her hapless parents pay $40.00 for Sol’s transport to Fez (the imperial capital), as well as the fee for her execution. Fortunately the impoverished Chaim Hachuel received $40.00 from Don Jose Rico thus avoiding the brutal punishment of 500 blows of the bastinado for non-payment. As Serels observed in his 1991 scholarly analysis of Moroccan Jewry (A History of the Jews of Tangier), “A Jew at this time had to pay even for his own death.”

Romero’s 1837 chronicle subsequently describes how Sol was bound and transported by mule, to Fez:

The most obdurate heart would have felt moved at so unfeeling an act. Sol was suddenly seated on the mule; her feet fettered, and tied with a strong cord which fastened round her hands, hurting her delicate flesh, a thousand turns and twists around her body fastened by the same rope to the trappings of the beast.

In Fez, the Sultan decided to have the Cadi prosecute and judge Sol. The Cadi summoned the Chahamim (Jewish sages), who (in conjunction with a concerted effort by the Jewish community) attempted to spare her life. Informed by the Cadi that Sol would be beheaded if she did not profess Islam, and that the overall Jewish community might be endangered, the Chahamim tried to persuade Sol to convert. Sol rejected their advice, and accepted her martyrdom. Romero recounts the Cadi’s reaction having overheard the discussions between the Chahamim and Sol:

…he dispatched them. Immediately he went to his desk, took out the papers containing the cause of the Jewess, wrote on it her contumacy, referring to her repeated blasphemy of the Prophet and his dogmas, and condemned her to be publicly beheaded.

Having refused even a pretense of conversion, Sol was condemned by the Sultan to beheading in a public square in Fez. Sol prayed and fasted as the day of her execution approached.

Romero provides additional details which capture all these elements of the final execution day narrative: the fanaticism of the Muslim masses, the conduct of the executioners and their heroic victim, and the reaction of the Jewish community. On the day of her beheading, Sol was dragged to the execution site, where the executioner brandished his sword two or three times over her head. Sol was allowed to wash her hands, and recite the Shema prayer, as she requested. Apparently, the Sultan had instructed that the executioners wound Sol (which was done), in the hope of her last minute conversion to Islam. However, upon seeing her own blood, Sol professed her innocence, and denounced her persecutors. With that utterance, she was beheaded. Impressed by the courage and sincerity of this Tangierian Jewess, Fez’s Jewish community paid to have not only her corpse and head retrieved for burial, but also the blood stained earth, consistent with Jewish law. Sol Hachuel was buried, wrapped in linen cloth, in the Jewish cemetery of Fez, and subsequently bestowed the appellation Hasadiqua–the saintly.

Compassion, mildness, grief, and every sentiment that could move the heart, were depicted on the countenance of the lovely victim; but pity is a feeling little known in Fez: the streets were crowded with Moors of all ages and sexes, who made the air resound with their discordant cries. “here comes”, said they, “she who blasphemed the Prophet–death! death! to the impious wretch!”

These men [the executioners], hardened by cruelty, gave the order to march [Sol] to [her] death; they tied a strong rope round her neck, and commenced dragging her as if she were a beast.

[Sol] then raising her streaming eyes to heaven, she repeated with the utmost devotion, the Shema, which having concluded; kneeling and casting her eyes to the ground, she said to the executioner–”I have finished, dispose of my life!”

One of the executioners seizing the arms of the victim, bound them tightly behind her; then brandishing his scimitar in the air, holding her beautiful tresses, he slightly wounded her; in an instant, her bosom and clothes were covered with blood–“There is yet time”, said he, “to become Mahometan, and save your life!” But turning toward him, she said, “Do not make me linger–behead me at once–for dying as I do, innocent of any crime, the God of Abraham will avenge my death!” These were her last words–the executioner raised his arm–it fell–the scimitar separated the head from the trunk–in an instant, the most constant of her sex, fell a bleeding, lifeless corpse–she ceased to exist.–Horrid spectacle!

The Jews had engaged some Moors to take up the corpse, and gather the earth that was spotted with her innocent blood, the moment the execution was over. They faithfully performed the charge, wrapping her mortal remains in a fine linen cloth, [and] delivered it to the Jews assembled in their cemetery, where they were digging a deep grave for her, adjoining to one in which reposed the ashes of a Sage of great reputation. The same day the Jewish martyr was interred amidst the tears and sobs of a numerous concourse of people who attended her obsequies…

Sol Hachuel’s martyrdom illustrates, starkly, the plight of Moroccan Jews–lower caste, non-citizen dhimmi pariahs–subject to the sacralized discrimination of Islamic Law. Leon Godard’s 1860 travelogue Description et histoire du Maroc characterized the prevailing mid-19th century conditions for Moroccan Jewry (noting their status as being “somewhat better” in Tangier):

…in the cities, the Jews live in separate quarters surrounded by high walls called the Mellah, or the salted earth, dry and cursed. They are locked in from sundown to sunrise and on Holidays, all day. They pay the Moorish guards who protect them by guarding the door of this Ghetto, rarely cleaned, where foul-smelling trash accumulates and where a strange population swarms. It is divided by Synagogues and ruled by the rabbis who have great authority. They are the ones who allocate the capitation tax that the government sets for each Mellah, and who make sure the poor are helped using the common goods. They have eight days to pay the tax; after that, and without warning the Mellah can be pillaged. They have to give gifts to the Emperor at the four Muslim holidays and when there is a happy event like a birth or a marriage, they have to entertain the imperial family. According to the laws, the Jews cannot cultivate earth, -own land or houses outside the Mellah,- use buildings as security,- ride a horse in front of a town or even in the country other than on a saddle for a mule ,- or hit a Muslim, even to defend themselves except in their own house if it has been violated, -be a witness in front of a Court or speak in front of tribunals. If allowed to speak in front of a tribunal, they have to be squatting in front of the judge. They cannot raise a bid for food in a Muslim market, -or walk in some streets, in front of Mosques or Koubas, without holding their slippers in their hands,- or get married without the permission of the Sultan…They have to dress only in black or dark color, -wear a black hat different than the turban and not to tie with more than one knot the black scarf holding their headgear ,- place to the right the opening of their Yallah or black or blue coat, so that the left arm is not free and the hood falls on the same side, – keep the black hat always visible, trying not to pull down the hood, – run to carry their dead to the cemetery, and be careful not to encounter a Muslim funeral…

David Littman compiled and translated primary source documents from the Alliance Israelite Universale’s Moroccan archives covering the period between 1903-1912, some 70 to 80 years after the execution of Sol Hachuel. Repeated eyewitness accounts depict graphically what Littman aptly characterizes as, “…the humiliation, misery and exposure to physical violence which was still the lot of the ordinary Moroccan Jew in the first decade of the twentieth century.” A confirmatory official report presented (by Jacob H. Schiff) to United States Secretary of State Elihu Root in November 1905, entitled, “Jewish Restrictions in Morocco, Especially in the Interior” stated bluntly, in the accompanying enclosure, “which restrictions, when read by an American, appear most grotesque.” Finally, Serels provides this summary analysis of Moroccan Jewish behaviors in dealing with their oppressed status under Muslim rule, all of which are displayed in the tragic narrative of Hasadiqua, Sol Hachuel:

The Jews had four responses to their lack of political rights and security. First bribery; second prayer and fasting; third, appeal for foreign intervention and protection; fourth, silent resignation to the consequences.

Prior to her being sentenced to death by hanging yesterday (May 15, 2014) for “apostasy,” (immediately preceded by sustaining 100 lashes for “adultery” ), I summarized the relevant details about Meriam Ibrahim’s “conviction” under The Sudan’s liberty-crushing Sharia “legal-code.”

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, 27, is a graduate of the School of Medicine at Khartoum University and lifelong Christian. Meriam, met and married her naturalized American husband in Khartoum in 2012, and they have a 20-month old toddler son. Currently 8-9 months pregnant with their second child, Meriam was sentenced to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery by the Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif, Khartoum, Sudan on May 11, 2014.  A year ago, a purported relative of Ibrahim opened a case against her (and her husband) in Halat Kuku Court of Khartoum North for alleged “adultery” under article 146 of the Sudan Criminal Code because of her marriage to a Christian. Ibrahim’s husband Daniel Wani was accused of proselytizing a Muslim, and eventually authorities added the apostasy charge to Ibrahim herself. She was arrested on February 17, 2014, and is currently detained in Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison along with her 20-month-old son, Martin Wani. Meriam Ibrahim was charged with the so-called Sharia “hadd offenses” under Sudan’s Penal Code of adultery (per article 146), and forsaking Islam, “apostasy”( per article 126).

Ibrahim’s Sudanese Muslim father abandoned the family when she was 6 years old, leaving her to be raised by her Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother. During a March 4, 2014 “hearing” Ibrahim testified before the Public Order Court that she is a Christian, showing her marriage certificate—which designates her as Christian—as formal proof of her religion. Moreover, three potential witnesses from Western Sudan who traveled  to the hearing to validate Ibrahim’s lifelong adherence to Christianity were denied the opportunity to provide evidence. Implying that her sentence might be annulled or reduced if she converted to Islam, the Public Order Court informed Mrs Ibrahim she had until Thursday, May 15, 2014 to pursue this option.

Dismissing the international outcry over Meriam Ibrahim’s Sharia-compliant, if Western human rights repugnant, “conviction,” Sudan’s Minister of Information, Ahmed Bilal Osman, replied with candor and defiance:

It’s not only Sudan. In Saudi Arabia, in all the Muslim countries, it is not allowed at all for a Muslim to change his religion.

Two centuries after Sol Hachuel’s martyrdom to Sharia injustice, Meriam Ibrahim’s “sentencing” should be deemed by contemporary Americans as far more “grotesque” and she and indeed all the abhorrently persecuted Christians within Islamdom must not be compelled to suffer “silent resignation” to the dehumanizing ugliness of Sharia-mandated “consequences.”

Finally, I urge all Americans to echo the public appeal issued yesterday by the Center For Security Policy (reproduced below), and cajole the U.S. State Department, directly, or via their elected Representatives to demand that the Sudanese government immediately release Meriam Ibrahim, and her U.S. citizen toddler son. Moreover, the American public must also insist that the U.S. State Department—as per the Center For Security Policy appeal—transport Meriam, and her son and husband, both U.S. citizens—immediately to the U.S. having secured their release.


CSP Statement Urges Department of State to Demand Release of Sudanese Christian Woman and Her American Citizen Child

15 May 2014

WASHINGTON, DC The Center for Security Policy strongly urges the Department of State to demand that the government of Sudan immediately release Meriam Ibrahim, a 27-year old Sudanese Christian woman married to a naturalized American citizen and their 20-month old American citizen child from prison, where she and the toddler are being held after she was sentenced to flogging and death on charges of “apostasy” and “adultery” under Sudan’s Islamic legal code.

Ibrahim is the daughter of a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Christian mother who was raised by her mother as an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian from the age of 6, when her father abandoned the family. She is a graduate of the School of Medicine in Khartoum and married her naturalized American citizen husband, Daniel Wani, in 2011. Their toddler child, Martin, is an American citizen, but is being held in jail together with his mother, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child. Ibrahim’s husband is accused of proselytizing Ibrahim to abandon Islam and she herself was arrested on 17 February 2014 for alleged “apostasy” and “adultery,” as under shariah her marriage to a Christian is considered null and void.

Despite severe psychological pressure to recant her Christian faith, Ibrahim remains steadfast in refusing to do so, even under threat of a death sentence (the prescribed penalty for ‘forsaking Islam’ under Sudan’s Penal Code, which conforms to Islamic Law). Today, 15 May 2014, Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa pronounced her sentence: to be lashed 100 times for adultery and then hanged.

The Center for Security Policy finds such penalties for the so-called hadd offenses under shariah abhorrent and in violation of all civilized concepts of human rights. That American citizens are being subjected to such treatment requires an urgent response from Secretary of State John Kerry. We therefore urge Secretary Kerry to demand the immediate release of Meriam and Martin and then expedite them and Ibrahim’s naturalized American citizen husband Daniel to safety and the protection of their religious freedom, in the U.S.

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