It was reported yesterday that a woman in Sudan has been sentenced to death for the crime of apostasy – leaving the Muslim faith – after she married a Christian man.
It’s appalling and obscene, but unfortunately not very shocking. Sharia is absolutely clear on death as the punishment for apostasy, and surveys show worryingly high percentages of Muslims living in the UK – not ‘extremists’ but the supposedly moderate bulk of believers – agree with it.
For me, 20 is the most sympathetic of the 22 creationists. As far as we can tell, she’s not a victim of paralysing fear like 2 or 3, a credulous automaton like 12 or 18, nor the sad product of a broken education system like 9 or 10.
All we know about her is two things:
1. She subscribes to the idea of unthinking wonder.
This is the one which inspired me to respond to any of these at all. At first I laughed at 5 like everyone else, but later I convinced myself that she couldn’t possibly be as stupid as her question seems to be. I simply refuse to believe that she’s asking a question to which the answer, “the rotation of the earth relative to the sun,” would make her go, “oh, yeah, that makes sense, thanks.”
Today’s Richard Dawkins-centred Twitter row is about child marriage and Islam. It was sparked by his circulation of a Huffington Post article on the tragic case of an 8 year old girl in Yemen who died of internal injuries caused by the wedding night sex with her new 40 year old husband. A 2009 law to set the minimum age of marriage in Yemen at 17 was repealed by conservatives as “un-Islamic”.
Many of the religious apologist responses pointed out that poverty, not Islam (or any other religion), is the key factor in the prevalence of child marriages. Indeed a recent report by World Vision UK, linked from the Huffington Post article circulated by Dawkins, identifies the girls most at risk of child marriage as tending to be “poor, under-educated and … rural” and living in areas with high death rates, civil conflict and “lower overall levels of development including schooling and healthcare”. “Poverty, weak legislative frameworks and enforcement, harmful traditional practices, gender discrimination and lack of alternative opportunities for girls (especially education) are all major drivers of early marriage,” the report summarises.