Sharia law for the Sudan

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has announced that the Sudan will become Africa’s first theocracy and will give state sanction to Sharia law.

In a 12 Oct 2011 speech to university students in Khartoum, President al-Bashir stated: “Ninety-eight percent of the people are Muslims and the new constitution will reflect this. The official religion will be Islam and Islamic law the main source [of the constitution]. We call it a Muslim state.”

Sudan’s Churches have disputed the president’s claim of a near uniform Muslim population, noting that over a million Christians reside in the North. However, their complaints are not likely to deter President al-Bashir.  The International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2009 issued a warrant for the arrest of the Sudanese president on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region.  President al-Bashir was the first sitting head of state to be charged by the Hague-based court with war crimes, and the first Arab leader to face the prospect of being tried for atrocities by an international tribunal.

In 2008 the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, accused Bashir of directing a campaign of mass murder that has left more than 300,000 civilians dead and driven more than 2.7 million from their homes in Darfur.

International condemnation has not halted al-Bashir and his government is currently being courted by rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.  Saudi Arabia and Sudan have signed an agreement to mine the bed of the Red Sea—with the kingdom providing the financing for the project and royalties shared between the two states.  Last week Iran’s President Ahmadinejad travelled to Khartoum and gave his country’s support to the embattled president.

While Sudan is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, with only a small Shia presence in Khartoum, the government of President al-Bashir has adopted a pan-Muslim domestic policy.  Christians and animists have been the target of the regime’s ire.

Migrants from the southern half of the country before partition this year, Southerners are considered foreigners under laws introduced by President al-Bashir’s government, and have until the Spring of 2012 to obtain residency papers or leave the country.

Along Sudan’s unsettled border with South Sudan in South Kordufan State, Nuba Christians are being driven from their homes by government forces and have been forced to flee south for safety.

Sudanese newspapers report that the Khartoum government has begun the process of Islamisation in the North as well.  Three churches in Omdurman, Khartoum’s sister city across the Nile, have been notified that the land upon which they were built is owned by the government.  The churches have protested this claim and offered title deeds in support of their ownership, but the government has slated the buildings for demolition.

The Barnabas Fund has reported the government has increased “threats and pressure on churches.”  Some pastors “have been warned not to conduct church services, on pain of death, while some churches are closing their schools and considering emigration to the South.”

“The future for non-Muslims and non-Arabs in Sudan is looking increasingly untenable, threatening the very existence of the Church there,” the Barnabas Fund said.