Writers and filmmakers are using Meriam Ibrahim's story — of the persecution that she suffered in a Sudanese prison for her faith — without her permission, causing the Christian convert a new form of persecution at home in the United States.
Last May, Ibrahim's story of persecution made headlines around the globe after she was found guilty of apostasy and received a death sentence while pregnant with her second child. Even though her mother was Christian, she was charged with apostasy because her father was a Muslim. Sudanese law calls for children to take the religion of their father, meaning that Ibrahim was guilty of practicing Christianity.
While still shackled in prison, Ibrahim delivered her child. She was released in June and became an instant icon for refusing to deny her faith — and to convert to Islam — in the face of death. Ibrahim now lives in New Hampshire with her husband and children.
Cashing in on persecution?
Ever since their arrival in the U.S., the couple has been in communication with authors and filmmakers alike who want to tell their story. Strongly desiring her story to be portrayed accurately, Ibrahim has boldly condemned them for wanting to make a profit off of her persecution without receiving her official stamp of approval.
Her release was arranged in part by an author, who soon afterwards took the liberty to write Ibrahim's story in a book.
"Now a new book by an Italian author, Antonella Napoli, has driven her to renew her call for her and her husband to be allowed to tell their own stories," Christian Today reports. "Napoli, a journalist and activist who campaigned for Meriam's release and is president of the charity Italians for Darfur, has written My Name Is Meriam about Meriam's ordeal."
Ibrahim indicated that she refused to sign a copy of a proposal because she had already been in communication with another publisher about her story.
"[Being written about without giving permission feels like] new persecution from some weak people who do not know the meaning of faith, but are working to collect money from the tears of the oppressed," Ibrahim told Christian Today. "[Writing unauthorized books will] plunder my right to make my story to the world by the way that I choose it."
Ibrahim shared that she is being persecuted all over again. "[The publishers are] killing me and the whole of my family," she continued. "[The book is] like the rope around my head."
Having spearheaded Ibrahim's release via the Italian campaign, Napoli insists that when she interviewed Ibrahim and her husband, Daniel — at the U.S. embassy in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum following her release — it profoundly affected her.
"I am a journalist, but also a human rights activist," Napoli told Christian Today, noting that she attempted to contact the couple in the U.S. about her book proposal, but that an American publisher had already offered her a book deal.
Napoli then backtracked, still wanting to tell her take on Ibrahim's story.
"Napoli says she told them that she would write about the campaign itself and about her own encounters with the family, pointing out that she was entitled to write about events she had witnessed and taken part in herself," Christian Today's Mark Woods retold. "She said that she was continuing to help other Christians persecuted in Sudan, including two pastors at risk of the death penalty."
Lights, action, persecution …
The Christian Sudanese couple is also undergoing problems regarding the movie rights of Meriam's story.
"[Meriam and Daniel said] a film to be entitled I Am a Christian, set to star Fox News contributor Stacey Dash and God's Not Dead star Kevin Sorbo, was unauthorized and that they objected to efforts by the production company, Christian Lives Matter, to make it," Woods indicated, according to the couple's earlier account given to Christian Today. "The title echoes her words of defiance to the judge in court."
Woods said Ibrahim insists that the film moving forward without her permission is as painful as her unjust sentencing in Sudan.
"Meriam said that knowing the film was being made without their permission made her feel like she did when she was sentenced to death in Sudan," Woods added. "She said she thought that they would be on her side because they are Christians, but feels that the filmmakers are 'killing me and killing my dream.'"