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Sudan Islamists warn Bashir over Shariah constitution

February 28, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – A coalition of radical Islamic groups in Sudan has threatened to unseat the country’s President Omer Al-Bashir if he fails to heed demands for a constitution based on Shariah laws.

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Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in prayer after winning national elections in 2010 (Reuters)

Sudan’s far-right and Islamist groups have been lobbying to have the country’s 2005 Transitional Constitution replaced with an Islamic one after the mainly Christian South Sudan gained independence in July last year.

To that end, they formed the Islamic Constitution Front (ICF) and proposed the Draft Constitution of Sudan, which is based entirely on Shariah law and according to a report earlier this month, prohibits the appointment of women in the judiciary.

On Tuesday, the ICF held its foundation conference in the capital Khartoum, and the coalition members who include the Salafi Ansar Al-Suna, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Just Peace Forum (JPF), signed its founding statement which called for the application of Shariah laws.

The conference, which was attended by a host of political parties, saw some ICF representatives boldly warning the government and President Bashir of an uprising by Islamists if their proposed constitution is not adopted.

Addressing the opening session, the ICF member and Imam of the Grand Mosque in Khartoum, Shaykh Kamal Riziq, regretted the fact that it was them who took the initiative to propose the Islamic constitution rather than the government itself.

He went on to warn that the government was now facing a choice between adopting their constitution and leaving.

“I find no qualms in telling the government that it should either rule by Islam or go unregrettably” he declared.

Omer Hadra, another ICF’s member and representative of the Khattmiya religious sect, took it a step further, threatening to topple President 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 Bashir, added that Sudan’s new homogeneous reality had ended the debate on ethnic and religious diversity.

The ICF’s secretary general, Shaykh Al-Sadiq Abdella Abdel-Majid, vowed that they would have a strong word with the government should it fail to apply what he termed as God’s rules. He warned that they would not compromise on Shariah no matter the challenges and obstacles.

Bashir, an Islamist himself, is unlikely to feel threatened by the warnings. He was, after all, faster than the radical Islamists themselves in declaring the intention to transform Sudan into an entirely Islamic state.

In December 2010, as it became certain that South Sudan was going to secede, Bashir gave a speech in which he announced that Sudan’s constitution will be amended to be fully based on Shariah. He also said that Arabic will be the only official language.

In a related context, the ICF’s leader Abdel Majid accused unnamed Sudanese political parties of working in collaboration with Western countries, including the United States and United Kingdom, to eradicate Shariah laws in the country.

The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) is seeking to include opposition parties in the debate about the new constitution. The party announced this month that a committee had been formed to receive proposals from political parties on the new constitution.

Unlike Islamist groups, mainstream opposition parties tend to advocate a “civilian constitution”.

However, they assiduously avoided calling for a secular one on account of the negative perception of the word secularism in Sudan’s Muslim conservative society.

(ST)