This post is part of our special coverage South Sudan Referendum 2011.
Recent comments made by the Sudanese President, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, about the implementation of Islamic Law in North Sudan if the South separates have sparked controversy:
A group of radical Muslim clerics on Friday overtly faulted the Sudanese government for accepting south Sudan’s referendum on independence, and demanded imposition of Islamic Shar’iah law in the entire country whether citizens of the mainly Christian region of south Sudan like it or not.
South Sudan, whose population mostly follows Christianity or traditional beliefs, is bound for secession from the Muslim-ruled north in a referendum vote due in January 2011, a plebiscite stipulated by the 2005’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which in 2005 ended nearly half a century of intermittent civil war between north and south Sudan.
Under the CPA, north Sudan maintained Islamic laws whereas the south was given extensive autonomy under a secular government led by the former southern rebels Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM].
The legitimate League of Muslim Preachers and Clerics (LLMPC), a group of radical clerics existing in parallel to the official clerical body known as the Association of Muslim Scholars, marched in protest on Friday, 24 December, and held a press conference in which the group’s leaders declared rejection to south Sudan’s referendum on independence and called on the government to implement Shari’ah law in full.
Yousif Magdi, a Sudanese Coptic Christian blogger had this to say about Al-Bashir's announcement:
The President of Sudan Omer El-Bashir recently said that if the 2011 referendum's result was the separation of the southern Sudan, then the Sudan's Constitution will be modified to make the new Sudan a country that doesn't (if I can call it) respect the coexistence of religions and races, and everyone will be ruled by the Islamic law “Sharia”. And Islam will be the official religion in Sudan.Where doesn't that leave us as Christians, I feel that the situation will be exactly as it in Saudi Arabia.The Future is very dark and isn't promising at all.
Over at The Sudanese Thinker, Drima blogged about a video of a young Sudanese girl getting flogged and voiced his support for a secular state in Sudan after expaining some of the nuances of Islamic law. The video of the flogging triggered outrage amongst Sudanese in Sudan and overseas.
Punishments such as flogging should be abolished completely:
What we should be outraged about is not how this punishment should have been applied “properly,” but instead, we should be outraged that such punishments continue to exist at all. Flogging should be abolished completely, and we should stop shying away from criticizing troubling aspects of all organized religions.
Yes, there are things about Sharia—dietary laws, the amount of money you should pay for charity, rules that eliminate the practice of usury—that in many ways are actually good and beneficial when we willingly apply them in our lifestyles, and they are not imposed on us.
However, deeply troubling punishments such as stonings, beheadings, and lashings are not good, not humane, and not fit for modern times, and we need to have a frank conversation about that. But when is it going to happen on a large scale? When? If anything, that conversation needs to happen now.
Muhanned, a Sudanese blogger in Khartoum, shares his thoughts on the video and tells a story about how he was once wrongly arrested by abusive policemen in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum:
The police media said that the girl that appear in video is lesbian ! , if she was in Islam she should punished by 40 hits using used whip and medium force ( not strong to kill and not weak ).
and the executioner should not raise his hand until his underarm can be shown . But in this video the police men exceeds the limits of Islam..
Maybe I don't know what really she did but I just want to tell you about what the police men did with me ..
One day I was walking between the Nile street and the Friendship Hall – main building of conferences- while I was walking a police car stopped near me and the policemen start hitting the people to make them go away from their places.. I just asked the lieutenant “What is going on?” but he ordered his soldiers to put me inside police car .. The soldier hit me by a stave and put me inside car..
When we went to police station – Almogran police station “alnezam alaam” – lieutenant pushed me into investigations room and start writing the accusations which is :
1- Intercepting the policemen while they was doing their job!!!!
2-Cursing and slanging using dirty words.!!!!
3- Hooliganism and incitement of the masses…
4- Reduce the prestige of the policemen…
5- Resisting arrest!!!
All of these because I said “What is going on!!!” , after that they searching on my mobile phone for sex videos and do the same with my laptop !!!
There was another lieutenant started shouting on me face and ordered me to sit on the ground when I refused he said “You are no respected man and your curiosity got you to police station…
Then I asked them to make a phone call to my family – Just to tell them where I am – but they refuse then I asked them to call my lawyer but they also refuse . Finally the major told them to let me go after 2 hours in station …
So until when we will still keeping silent while there is abuse of authority????
Regarding the referendum itself, Southern Sudanese blogger, Black Kush, discusses the subject noting that Khartoum is panicking:
The referendum for South Sudan independence is fast approaching and Khartoum is panicking. It is currently using all it has to either stop the plebiscite or disrupt it.
The recent complain at the Constitutional court is one of them. Saying that the referendum register should have been done before three months as per CPA and therefor the referendum is illegal is flawed. NCP is trying one of its last arsenals. The whole CPA was delayed tactically by the NCP. Going by that reasonging, even the census was illegal, the election was illegal and many others. There was no parliamentary debate to amend the dates, which was not necessary as per the CPA because it gave the Presidency to decide the most appropriate time. These challenges will fail.
In another post, he analyses propaganda tactics by the government in Khartoum:
All signs are that the NCP is panicking ahead of the referendum for South Sudan secession in January. The various statements coming from the NCP is a clear sign that they have failed to convince the South about unity and are now using blame tactics to deflect the blame for the upcoming secession of the South.
The following were some of the points and events:
1. Bombing south Sudan territory twice
2. Claiming that South Sudan is supporting the JEM rebels in Darfur
3. Claiming that the SPLM is preparing to topple the government in Khartoum
The claims are as baseless and ridiculous as the people who uttered them. I leave the first two to you but claiming that the SPLM want to attack the north and topple the government is more that ridiculous, but utterly bizarre.
The goal of the struggle of the people of South Sudan, notes John Akec, is to live in their own country as free citizens:
Those who know the history of the struggle of the people of South Sudan will recall how hundreds of combatants needlessly lost their lives when fight broke out in 1983 in Bilpham in Ethiopia between the forces of “separation” and forces of “unity” in the SPLM and Anya Nya II, as we were told later. Looking back in retrospect, it should be abundantly clear that the bloody confrontation was really a power struggle dressed up in form of differences over goals and strategies.
So what is the goal of the struggle of people of South Sudan? The goal was and still is for South Sudanese to live in their own country as free citizens with equal rights and dignity as the rest of Sudanese…
Put in another way, the goal is to have a country where no one is discriminated against on the basis of religion, tribe, ethnicity, or social standing. The goal, in the words of Dr. John Garang, is to have Sudan “where no body is above me, and I am above nobody.” And if I must borrow the Afro-American expression, it is basically a Sudan “where nobody is gona carry nobody!”
Give me such a Sudan, and I will see no reason to wage war on anyone nor do I see need for seeking to break away. This is not to say we have attained such a Sudan of equality.
Nesrine Malik , blogging at Comment is Free, manages to shed more light on the mood in Khartoum.
There is also a residual bitterness and dented pride. War has crippled the country for so long only to end in a relinquishment of the regions most wealthy in natural resources. Ironically, there is a view that the National Congress party (NCP), even though it is desperate to avoid secession, made a tactical error in its eagerness to sign the comprehensive peace agreement without establishing a strategic plan to avoid separation. Those in the north who actively support separation – the likes of the Al-Intibaha contingent – get no thanks from southerners for their attitude appears to be one of racist good riddance.
But the overall result is that there is no real current of opinion against separation but bubbling resentment and uncertainty, exacerbated by an administration that seems just as clueless. I cannot help but feel that the tables have turned. The south now enjoys the virtue of the victim.
As a people, the northerners are worried, not about the split but about their own day of reckoning when they will no longer not be able to use the south, the war, or western designs in the region as a pretext.
This post is part of our special coverage South Sudan Referendum 2011.