Suzy Ismail

How I lost two unborn children: a Muslim looks at respect for life

Suzy Ismail
By Suzy Ismail
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May 10, 2012 (PublicDiscourse.com) - In a world preoccupied with material wealth and convenience, the gift of life is often minimized and sometimes forgotten altogether. Modernity encourages us to view “unwanted” life as a burden that will hold us back. For Muslims, however, just as for many in other faith traditions, life must be acknowledged, always and everywhere, as a true blessing.

In the pre-Islamic period, the practice of female infanticide was widespread in much of Arabia, but it was immediately forbidden through Islamic injunctions. Several verses of the Quran were revealed that prohibited this practice to protect the rights of the unborn and of the newborn child: “When the female infant, buried alive, is questioned for what crime was she killed; when the scrolls are laid open; when the World on High is unveiled; when the Blazing Fire is kindled to fierce heat; and when the Garden is brought near; Then shall each soul know what it has put forward. So verily I call” (81: 8-15). Indeed, there are many verses in the Quran that remind us of the sanctity of life. We are told that “Wealth and children are an adornment of this life” (18:46), and we are commanded to “Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin” (17:31).

While the religious injunctions reverberate through faith on a spiritual level, the blessings of life touch us daily on a worldly level, as well. As the mother of three beautiful children, I can truly attest to and appreciate the gift of life. But I also understand how heartbreaking it is to lose it.

I want to share with you the story of how I came to realize life’s fragility and the importance of making the most of our spiritual journeys here on earth. Over thirteen years ago, my husband and I were eager to start our family. We were ecstatic when, a few months shy of our first anniversary, we found out that we were expecting. Very early on, we began playing the “new parent” planning game, picking out names and nursery colors even before our first doctor’s appointment.

A few months into the pregnancy, the doctor scheduled a routine ultrasound. Giddy with excitement, we entered the darkened room and waited in great anticipation to see our child. There on the screen—fuzzy, yet discernible—we could see our baby’s outline. We imagined the features and jokingly guessed who the baby might look like. But the ultrasound technician did not laugh with us. As she solemnly stared at the screen, we followed her gaze. As inexperienced as we were, we could tell that something was not right: our baby had no heartbeat.

After losing my first child, I truly began to understand the meaning of life. When the heartbeat we’d heard so clearly on the Doppler suddenly ceased, our baby’s life ended in the womb, before he or she even had a chance to begin in the outside world.

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But strong faith and an unshakeable belief in a just God is a great formula for filling any emotional void. As the Quran states in Verse 156 of Surat Al-Baqara, there are great blessings for those “who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say: ‘Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return.’” Losing our first baby led to a deeper appreciation of God’s magnificence and the miracle of His creation.

Several months later, we found out we were expecting again. This time, the excitement was tempered with worry. Our first ultrasound came much earlier in the pregnancy, and we eagerly scanned the screen for the telltale beating before glancing at fingers and toes or eyes and nose. And there it was, strong and steady! We breathed a sigh of relief. Our baby was alive.

As the months of this second pregnancy progressed and the baby bump grew larger, we began to hope. Each ultrasound revealed a little more of our child and each kick confirmed that this time we were really going to begin our family. As the due date quickly approached, we felt more confident in choosing baby items and room colors. We even chose the name for our baby girl. Her name would be Jennah, which means Heaven in Arabic.

With just a few weeks left before my scheduled delivery date, I went into labor. As we sped to the hospital and I was wheeled into the darkened ultrasound room, out of habit, my eyes went directly to the heart area on the screen that I knew all too well by now. That tiny heart, which I had sought out so many times in the previous ultrasounds, had stopped beating.

That day, so many years ago, I delivered Jennah, my stillborn daughter; and that day we buried Jennah. We hadn’t known how fitting her name would really be. As the infection that had ended the pregnancy sped through my blood in the days that followed, I recognized just how delicate life really is. Nothing can bring life into perspective as much as loss. And nothing can affirm faith as much as life.

Today, as I look at my three beautiful children, I know that God is good. No, God is great, or in Arabic, Allahu Akbar. And what gives me the greatest solace in times of trial is the verse in the Quran that states: “It may be that you detest something which is good for you; while perhaps you love something even though it is bad for you. God knows, while you do not know” (2:216).

As Muslims, we believe in the power of life to change others, and we believe even more in the power of God. In any disaster, in any calamity, and in the face of any death, we are urged to repeat “inna lilah wa inna ilayhee raji’un”—“To God we belong and to Him we return.” In the end, only He knows what is best for us.

I could share with you so many stories from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Quran that illustrate the power of God in our lives: the creation of Adam, the patience of Job, the perseverance of Noah, the purity of Joseph, the judiciousness of Solomon, the trials of Jonah, the obedience of Abraham, the wisdom of Moses, the devotion of Jesus, and the inspiration of Mohamed. I could share these stories with you, but they are available to all in the Holy Scriptures.

Instead, I want to share with you the story of an amazing woman whom I met recently at a conference. This woman truly exemplifies the spirit of respecting life. Melinda Weekes had recently returned from a trip to the Sudan, where she was helping to enact a policy of slave redemption. For years and years, a rampant genocide was perpetrated in southern Sudan by the wealthy slave traders of the north. They would pillage and torch the mud huts of the villagers, and then capture the women and children to sell them into slavery.

Heartbroken by what was happening in Sudan, this woman traveled across the world to help free these slaves by buying them back from the traders and returning them to their villages. Upon their return, she helped them rebuild their lives by establishing schools and educating their girls so that they could break free from oppression. Describing the strength of these women in the face of modern-day slavery, Melinda shared story after story of the things she had seen on her trips to Sudan. She spoke of one of the most powerful experiences she had had, when she sat with a woman who had lost her home, her husband, and her children, and had suffered incredible harm at the hands of her slave master. She asked the woman, “How do you survive? How do you manage to continue living?” The woman responded, “When the world pushed me down to my knees, I knew that it was time to pray. I am blessed to still have these old knees that allow me to kneel, blessed to be able to prostrate, blessed to be able to pray. And I am blessed because I have God.”

I ask you today to reflect on women like these, to reflect on their inner strength, and to reflect on your own life as you know it. I ask you to accept life as a gift and to understand that your life belongs to a greater power, to a higher authority that breathed life into your soul at your beginning and decreed that you should live it with good morals, good ethics, and a good heart that can truly make a difference in the lives of those around you.

In the memorable words of Mother Theresa:

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.

I’d like to end with a prayer, a Muslim ayah (verse 286 from Suratul Baqara) from the Quran:

On no soul doth God place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Pray:) Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; help us against those who stand against faith.

I ask you today once again to respect life, for there is no greater gift. Respect life, yours and the lives around you. For when we lose respect for life, we lose respect for humanity, and when we lose respect for humanity, we lose respect for God’s creation, and when we lose that, we have lost everything.

Suzy Ismail is a Visiting Professor at DeVry University in North Brunswick, New Jersey and is the author of When Muslim Marriage Fails: Divorce Chronicles and Commentaries. This article has been adapted from remarks made in the Princeton University Chapel for Respect Life Sunday. It was originally published in Public Discourse and is reprinted with permission.

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Kermit Gosnell considers himself a ‘martyr’: Gosnell filmmakers

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By Ben Johnson

HUNGTINGDON, PA, May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Spending life in prison without parole for murdering several newborn babies, Kermit Gosnell spends his days listening to music and thinking of himself as a “martyr,” according to the makers of the forthcoming Kermit Gosnell film.

Producers Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney, and Magdalena Segeida interviewed Gosnell for hours at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania – and they came away saying the doctor is remorseless, self-pitying, and enjoying far more liberty than they thought would be granted to a mass murderer.

The producers visited the central Pennsylvania penitentiary and spoke to the the late-term abortionist up-close – a little too close, they say. McElhinney said Gosnell sat uncomfortably close to her throughout the multihour session.

“We have just come back from Pennsylvania where we were the first journalists to sit down in prison to interview Gosnell,” the producers said in a mass email to their supporters. “The two hours we spent interviewing the former abortion doctor were two of the most disturbing hours of our journalistic careers.”

“The interview was one of the creepiest we have ever conducted,” the mass email continued.

Gosnell, they recounted, “is thought to have murdered hundreds if not thousands of babies in a 30 year killing spree.” Yet he has access to music, a subject he discussed at length. At one point, McElhinney said, Gosnell burst out into song.

Ann McElhinney told The Daily Signal, “I’m amazed at how pleasant his life is, the freedoms he has.”

Far from having repented of his crimes, Gosnell continues to justify his actions, they said.

“In his own version of the story, he’s a martyr – he’s part of a hounded class,” McElhinney said.

That assessment corroborates the views of others who interviewed the onetime proprietor of the “house of horrors,” where newborn babies had their spines severed, untrained staff administered fatal doses of drugs to poor women, and aborted fetal remains were found stuffed into every available crevice.

In September 2013, Steve Volk interviewed Gosnell for Philadelphia Magazine. Gosnell, he wrote, “sees himself as having performed a noble function in society.”

"It's not as if he feels guilty about what he did,” Volk said. "He believes he was a soldier at war with poverty.”

By plying his trade in poverty-stricken West Philadelphia, in a majority minority neighborhood, Gosnell believed he helped reduce the city's low income population.

“In this larger spiritual sense, he believes he was performing a service for people,” Volk said.

After his conviction, Gosnell sought to work with Hillary Clinton's embattled charity, the Clinton Global Initiative or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on issues of "prison and justice reform.”

"He believes that he gained insight into what it's like to be pushed into the system, without the capacity to explain himself," Volk said.

Gosnell's self-confidence has seldom been questioned, from the dismissive way he treated police who searched his home – playing Chopin on the piano as they searched his flea-ridden basement – to the way he carried himself in court. Defense attorney Jack McMahon had also told reporters after the guilty verdict that the mass murderer “truly believes in himself.”

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The filmmakers, who have produced several right-of-center documentaries, plan to make a big budget, big screen film about Gosnell's life. They continue to raise funds for their efforts at GosnellMovie.com.

But they may need a breather after encountering Gosnell himself.

“I’m still recovering, actually,” McElhinney told the Signal.

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Josh Duggar apologizes, admits ‘wrongdoing’ as young teen amid molestation accusations; resigns from FRC

By John-Henry Westen

Editor's Note: This is a developing story.

Update (May 22 9:54 a.m.): The Family Research Council's statement has been added below.

May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In response to allegations in the media that he molested minor girls when he was in his early teens, Josh Duggar has admitted in a public statement that he acted "inexcusably" at the time, and has resigned from his position at the Family Research Council.

A 2006 police report leaked to the media states that Josh was investigated for sex offenses, including "forcible fondling" against five minors.

According to the report, the first allegations surfaced in March 2002, the same month he turned 14. At the time the family dealt with the allegations internally. A year later, however, when further allegations were made, the family sent Josh to work with a family friend for three months, after which his father took Josh to see a state trooper.

According to the report, the trooper gave Josh a "stern talk" about what would happen if he "continued such behavior," but no formal action was taken at the time.

The issue emerged again in 2006, after a family friend had written details about the allegations in letter and placed it in a book, which was subsequently loaned out. This resulted in a call being placed to a child abuse hotline, which in turn led to a formal investigation being opened. By this point, however, the statute of limitations had expired, and as there had been no new allegations or evidence that the abuse was ongoing, the case was dropped.

Although Josh was never charged, his now-wife, Anna, says that he confessed his actions to her and her parents two years before he asked her to marry him.

"I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions," he said in a statement today. "In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption."

Anna said she was "surprised" when Josh had voluntarily admitted what he had done to her and her parents two years before proposing to her. "I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it," she wrote today. "For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was -- even every difficult past mistakes."

"I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis," she added. "If it weren't for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right."

LifeSiteNews is continuing to investigate this developing story. Following are the Duggar family’s statements responding to media reports about the incidents.

From Jim Bob and Michelle:

Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.

Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday.

It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.

From Josh:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. 

We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life.

I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.

From Anna:

I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock. It was not at the point of engagement, or after we were married - it was two years before Josh asked me to marry him.

When my family and I first visited the Duggar Home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it. For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was -- even every difficult past mistakes.

At that point and over the next two years, Josh shared how the counseling he received changed his life as he continued to do what he was taught. And when you, our sweet fans, first met me when Josh asked me to marry him... I was able to say, "Yes" knowing who Josh really is - someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended. Someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right.

I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis. Your investment changed his life from going down the wrong path to doing what is right. If it weren't for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right. Thank you to all of you who tirelessly work with children in crisis, you are changing lives and I am forever grateful for all of you.

Family Research Council statement:

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement regarding the resignation of Josh Duggar:

"Today Josh Duggar made the decision to resign his position as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years.

"Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work.  We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time.  We will be praying for everyone involved," concluded Perkins.

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Albert Heringa's sense of duty ‘justly’ carried more weight than the legal prohibition of the act, the Dutch appeals court said. VARA video screenshot
Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

Dutch court acquits man who euthanized his mother after doctor refused

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits

May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- A Dutch appeals court acquitted a 74-year-old man earlier this month of the murder of his mother in 2008, because he acted in an “emergency situation”: the woman wanted euthanasia and had not obtained it from her family doctor.

The decision is a surprising one, even in the Netherlands, and will probably be followed by an appeal from the public prosecutor, who has already published a communiqué reminding the public that euthanasia and assisted suicide “are and remain, in the eyes of the prosecutor, exclusively to be performed by a doctor.”

As it stands, the decision marks a new step down the slippery slope of euthanasia. The decision justifies an act of euthanasia contrary to the letter of the law on the grounds that the accused, Albert Heringa, was careful to act in compliance with the law’s provisions.

Albert Heringa acted in accordance with his conscience of his own duty and he was right to do so, ruled the Arnhem-Leeuwarden appeals court, because his sense of duty “justly” carried more weight than the legal prohibition of the act, which in theory can only be decriminalized when performed by a medical doctor under strict conditions.

The accused said he was “very happy” about the decision. The Netherlands Right to Die Society (NVVE) hailed it as “a step in the direction we want to follow.” “Many people who consider their life complete wish to be helped by loved ones,” said its spokeswoman, Fiona Zonneveld.

The judges did not take into account the fact that Albert Heringa’s mother, “Moek,” was deemed ineligible for euthanasia by her doctor.

In 2008, Moek was 99. She had no grave illness; she was just old and blind and did not feel like living any longer, calling her suffering “unbearable” and “without hope of improvement.” When her doctor refused euthanasia on those grounds, she turned to her son who decided to help his mother die.

He was later to explain that his mother started hoarding her medication in order to kill herself through an overdose. The pills she was taking would not have been able to bring about her death, he argued, but would have made her health much worse. This was confirmed during the subsequent judicial enquiry.

Heringa decided to go to work “transparently,” filming his every gesture in view of the killing of his mother. He used an overdose of his own malaria pills together with sleeping pills and anti-emetics to poison her. The films were later used to illustrate a documentary on “Moek’s last wish,” which was aired in 2010 on Dutch TV. The appeals court judges took this “transparency” into account in their decision to acquit him.

The public prosecution was not so lax. Despite the “rectitude” of Heringa’s intention, it accused the man of not having acted in compliance with the law. In 2013, he was judged guilty but exempted from punishment. The prosecution appealed that decision, demanding a three months suspended prison sentence in order to underscore the illegality of his actions. But the Arnhem-Leeuwarden appeals court went even further than the first judges in exonerating him completely.

They invoked the euthanasia law, which decriminalizes euthanasia when no other “reasonable solution” is available to alleviate a patient’s suffering and thus avoid euthanasia, but in this case they equated the potential “reasonable solution” with the ability to find a doctor who would be willing to perform the act, as if euthanasia were a patient right. Heringa could not find one, therefore he was justified in taking the law in his own hands, the judgment says in substance.

This marks a double revolution. Firstly, the court overlooked the legal requirement that a doctor should perform euthanasia, and no one else. Secondly, it justified euthanasia on a woman who was simply “tired of living,” a situation for which the euthanasia law definitely does not provide.

But this is just another element of the Pandora’s box that was opened when the Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002. Increasingly, regional control commissions, which verify all declared acts of euthanasia retrospectively, have cleared “mercy-killings” of elderly people who had multiple complaints but no single life-threatening disease. “Intolerable suffering” is being interpreted more and more widely. In Heringa’s case, it is simply his mother’s plea for euthanasia that justified the act in the eyes of the court.

The court even went so far as to say that Heringa would have had to live with a “sense of guilt until the end of his life” had he not taken measures to end his mother’s life.

In 2011, the Dutch medical association KNMG changed its position on “intolerable suffering,” declaring that “unbearable and hopeless” suffering can result from other causes than physical illness. Also, the End of Life Clinic founded in 2012 caters to euthanasia requests that have been refused by patients’ family doctors on conscientious or medical grounds. Would Heringa have found a doctor willing to perform euthanasia on his mother in this new situation?

Whatever the answer to that question – and no one will ever know – the fact of his acquittal is a definite sign that euthanasia is being treated more and more as a right and an acceptable option in the Netherlands. It is also good news for unscrupulous family members who might find it expedient to push their relatives towards the grave.

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