Grand mosque in Khartoum. [skyscraper city]
On Tuesday, February 28, Islamists gathered to begin a process of applying pressure on the Bashir regime to adopt a constitution for [north] Sudan that is based on Sharia law.
The Islamic Constitution Front (ICF) has proposed a Draft Constitution of Sudan, which is based entirely on Shariah law. They held their founding conference in Khartoum.
In one statement, the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Khartoum, Shaykh Kamal Riziq, said, "I find no qualms in telling the government that it should either rule by Islam or go unregrettably."
AllAfrica reported that Omer Hadra, another ICF's member and representative of the Khattmiya religious sect, took it a step further, threatening to topple president Al-Bashir if he does not approve the draft constitution.
"We will submit this Islamic constitution to you [Al-Bashir] and if you fail to apply it, I swear to God we will have you overthrown," Hadra said.
The leader of the far-right JPF, Al-Tayyib Mustafa, pointed out that Muslims now make up 97 percent of Sudan's population and all of them want to apply Shariah. Mustafa, who happens to be a close relative of Al-Bashir, added that Sudan's new homogenous reality had ended the debate on ethnic and religious diversity.
COMMENT: This thinking is wrong in at least two areas.
Though a large percentage of Sudan is now Muslim, it is incorrect to assume that all of them want to apply Sharia law. Consider Turkey for example: the majority of the population is Muslim, but they have lived under a secular rule of law for 90 years, since independence under Ataturk. Further, the call for Sharia law is not coming from groups like the Sudan Revolutionary Front - they are calling only for the overthrow of the Bashir regime because it is failing to meet the real needs of frontier regions of the country. These poor underdeveloped areas need health and education services.
Sudan is not made up of a single people with a common agenda. The reality is that there remain dozens of different peoples living in Sudan, each with their own identity, ethnicity, and language. And what of the three percent who are not Muslim? Thousands upon thousands of people do not necessarily follow the pronouncements of a few men gathered in a room in Khartoum.
Secondly, some ICF members are speaking arrogantly and irresponsibly. Their threats against Bashir reflect an immature understanding of the existing system of rule in Sudan. As a democracy, Sudan is governed by voters, who can legitimately overthrow the existing government through the ballot box. The statements above suggest incitement to revolution, perhaps even treason.
Bashir is in a tough place, though he himself has been pushing for a rewriting of the constitution to include Sharia law. But he's obviously not moving fast enough for the hardline Islamicists.
Bashir proclaims a strong centrist and Arab view for the future of Sudan, to the frustration of the outlying regions who find themselves outside the halls of power, and ill-served in terms of government services. His philosophical agenda for control has prevented him from accepting debt forgiveness from the USA because of a few limited conditions they asked for such as access for aid agencies to give humanitarian help.
The loss of South Sudan has now eliminated the major income source [oil sales] for the country, and Bashir is less able to fulfill his hopes of rebuilding the infrastructure of the country or of promising to deliver services for the good of the citizens.