Officers of the Sudanese security apparatus closed the Mahmoud Mohamed Taha Centre in Omdurman on Sunday, in order to prevent the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of his execution.
On 18 January 1985, the Islamic reformist was publicly hanged in Kober prison in Khartoum North, after his conviction of apostasy. Taha had been detained in Omdurman two weeks earlier, for distributing pamphlets calling for an end to the Sharia law, imposed by President Jaafar El Nimeiri in September 1983.
His followers used to arrange peaceful sit-ins on 18 January each year. “Many times before, security agents raided the centre located in Omdurman’s El Sawra on the 18th, preventing the commemoration ceremony, and briefly detaining the attendants,” Taha’s daughter Asmaa Mahmoud told Dabanga.
“This year, the security apparatus decided to cancel the ceremony on the grounds that the centre’s permit had expired. Security officers ordered us to break up the celebration, and to close the centre. When they actually began to close the doors, we left and completed the commemoration elsewhere.”
'Second Message of Islam'
The Islamic reformist, born in 1909, was involved in Sudan’s fight for independence, and imprisoned for that involvement. While behind bars, he began to see Islam as a religion in need of liberalisation and reform. Islam, Taha reasoned, needed to become more progressive, and embrace human rights.
He developed what he called the “Second Message of Islam”. His theory was that the Koran contains two general, yet contradicting messages. The Koran verses revealed to the Prophet Mohamed when he was living in Mecca, take a different approach to religious freedom, and equality between the sexes than the verses revealed after the Prophet had left for Medina. According to this vision, the Mecca verses have universal value, while the Medina verses were only meant to instruct the Muslims at the time of the revelations.
The Republican Brotherhood, formed by Taha in the 1950s, and known for its resistance to Islamic fundamentalism, has still numerous followers in Sudan.