Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 6 February 2013

Sharia inflation: a preacher speaks politics


By Magdi El Gizouli

February 6, 2013 - The allies of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) recently welcomed the professional Moslem cleric turned politician Yusif al-Koda in their Kampala habitat. Yusif and the Chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement in North Sudan (SPLA/M-N) Malik Agar, also the Chairman of the SRF, signed on 31 January a joint political statement of four articles: the guarantee of the unity of the country, public freedoms, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, peaceful transition of power and the federal system of government; the guarantee of citizenship as a basis for rights and duties without regard to religion, race, colour, geographical or political affiliation; issues of dispute between the political forces such as the system of rule and the relationship between state and religion should be deferred till further dialogue, preferably in the context of a constitutional conference. The fourth article stated that Yusif al-Koda’s organisation, al-Wasat Islamic Party, is a political party registered according to law in Sudan that ascribes only to peaceful popular struggle and dialogue as means of change, an indemnity note I guess.

The SRF event was titled ‘al-Wasat Islamic Party signs the New Dawn Charter’, which is simply not true. Yusif did not sign the Charter, and once that became clear the Sudan [Islamic] Scholars’ Board, the highest formal religious authority in the country, withdrew the apostasy charge it had threatened with to discipline its dissident member. The Secretary General of the Board, Mohamed Osman Salih, told the Sudan News Agency that every Moslem is obliged to acknowledge the rule of Allah, as laid out in the Holy Quran and the Sunna of his prophet. Salih said the press misinterpreted his criticism of al-Koda’s step as an apostasy declaration while his concern was to explain the religious obligation to adhere to sharia, and the violation of this obligation that follows from agreeing with the proposition of the New Dawn Charter to separate between religion and the state. The semantics of the debacle are worth detailing. The Charter does not actually spell out separation between religion and the state as such; instead it calls for “constitutional and legal provisions based on the separation between religious institutions and state institutions to guarantee that religion is not exploited in politics”. The convoluted phrase was arrived at to satisfy the ideological histories and preferences of the motley of forces that signed the Charter. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), for instance, feeds from strong roots in the Islamic Movement; its top cadres, almost without exception, look back to a history of student activism in the ranks of the Movement in the 1980s and in the service of its regime in the 1990s. The SPLA/M-N figureheads and Abd al-Wahid al-Nur would have preferred a frank declaration of secular creed, while some of the visitors from Khartoum, representatives of the National Consensus Forces (NCF), possibly argued for deferral, as did Yusif al-Koda, but did not get it, since it is deferral that they agreed upon in their own charter, the Democratic Alternative.

The limits of this sharia poetry were put on display when al-Koda joined the debate. The Saudi-trained preacher presented his grievance against his former custodians in the ruling NCP in distinctively secular terms; he complained of nepotism, corruption, lack of public freedoms and so on. The hosts, delighted by the presence of a Salafi sheikh in their midst, borrowed the sharia discourse to impress upon their potential Youtube audience the NCP’s abuse of the transcendent values of Islam for the sake of power, an argument that once abstracted copies the puritanical twist at the heart of every ‘revivalist’ political project under Islamic banner. Plainly put, Yusif al-Koda seemed for a moment closer to passing the test of secularism than the SRF allies, and why not? Yusif is the younger brother of two other ‘political’ Kodas: Osman al-Koda who as a fresh communist soldier, barely twenty, freed the Communist Party Secretary General, Abd al-Khalig Mahjoub, from detention in the Shajara military barracks south of Khartoum shortly before the abortive 1971 coup, and Mubarak al-Koda, a committed Islamic Movement functionary who served in several minor posts in the NCP government over the years. Yusif on the other hand moved from Ansar al-Sunna preacher to TV fatwa-man to pro-NCP Islamic moderate to full-blown opposition politician with a Turabist taste for surprises. The pathways of the three brothers are typical of the adaptive response of Sudan’s rural communities to the shenanigans of the urban political elite, each positioned neatly in a strategic locus of the rainbow.

In 2001, Turabi’s party, the Popular Congress Party, signed a memorandum of understanding with the SPLA/M that was supposed to function as a voucher into the post-NCP Sudan. The agreement landed Turabi in prison but did not encase the SPLA/M in sharia baraka (blessing) considering that its new ally was the country’s most prominent sharia proponent. Today, recognized opposition to the NCP joins the PCP, Sadiq al-Mahdi’s National Umma Party (NUP) and shreds of Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), none of which are sharia-shy, but the holy flare remains nevertheless elusive. Rather it is the fringe Salafis whom al-Koda fled to the political elite who appear more successful in harnessing the dream of Islamic ‘liberation’.

The author is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute. He publishes regular opinion articles and analyses at his blog Still Sudan. He can be reached at m.elgizouli@gmail.com

The views expressed in the 'Comment and Analysis' section are solely the opinions of the writers. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not Sudan Tribune.

If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to comment@sudantribune.com

Sudan Tribune reserves the right to edit articles before publication. Please include your full name, relevant personal information and political affiliations.
Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 6 February 2013 13:57, by Paul Ongee

    Whether the New Dawn is calling for secular state or not, it is none of NCP business. What Sudanese people want is “peace and democratic transformation,” nothing more and nothing less. We keep telling you guys whenever you go to Mosque or bed; remember first that Sudan is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious society.

    repondre message

    • 6 February 2013 13:58, by Paul Ongee

      Every religion on this planet is like Apple, Nokia or Samsung mobile phone; it is a means of communication between you and the same God that all of us worship. The most important thing is “being a Sudanese first” then religion second. Competitive interpretation of the Holy Quran is NEVER the least answer to the long conflict afflicting Sudanese society since 1821, 1947, 1955, 1983 and 2013.

      repondre message

The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.

Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis

A new approach to peace 2018-04-23 06:16:35 By Miroslav Laják When the United Nations was created, its founders envisioned a different kind of world. A world in which disputes were resolved in meeting rooms and not battlefields. A world (...)

Bring Sudanese troops home now 2018-04-21 15:25:57 By Salah Shuaib The Sudanese troops fighting hard now in Yemen, who were sent there by order of al-Bashir, should return home. The process of implementing this task is much challenging. But, we (...)

Dissolution and formation of the Cabinet - 2013 2018-04-20 08:00:00 Amb Telar Deng The events that led to the 2013 dissolution of cabinet can be traced back to the deep mistrust that fermented back in 1991 when leaders failed to close ranks. After the 1991 (...)


Latest Press Releases

Petition on the Deteriorating Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in Sudan 2018-04-22 10:01:20 UN Secretary-General, New York African Union Commission, Addis Ababa UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva Petition on the Deteriorating Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in Sudan (...)

Abyei celebrates Mine Awareness Day 2018-04-05 08:52:03 4 April 2018 | Abyei - The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) commemorated the International Day for Mine Awareness and (...)

Appeal for forgiveness and pardon of John Agou Wuoi 2018-03-07 08:28:08 H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, President and Commander-in-Chief, of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), Republic of South Sudan (RSS), 5th February, 2018. Through: Hon. Michael Makuei Lueth (...)


Copyright © 2003-2018 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.