Can Secularism save the Unity of Sudan? (1)
‘Look at our history. Those who hid their real beliefs under the disguise of religion decieved our innocent nation with big words like Shari’a . You will see that what destroyed this nation, what caused its collapse, was always the deception hidden under the curtain of religion.’
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
In the centre of the Sudanese political problems lies the position of religion particularly Islam in the political life of the country. Most of the political parties in northern Sudan in way or another support the Shari’ a law, unlike the parties in southern Sudan which view the Shari’a law as impediment to achievement of equality of all citizens irrespective of their religion. In this article I will try to answer the question whether some concessions the National Congress Party (NCP) able make unity attractive or these concessions will amount to make the Sudan a secular state which the Sudan People Liberation Movement favor most. Also, when democracy is forcefully implemented in Sudan will it going to stand the test of time?
Sudan now stands at the crossroad between keeping the unity of the country and its seperation into two parts. Only several months left for the southerners to decide at the referundum which will be held at January next year, and most probably the southern willy-nilly will opt for secesion. The NCP after winning the controversil elections in last April promised to make unity attractive and to hand Sudan to next generations united and strong. But the SPLM denounced these statements by saying that the time is over for making unity attarctive for southerners and Mr Pagan Amum went further by demanding secularim as good start for making unity attractive. It is easy for the observers of sudanese political life to notice how the religion affects the government affairs, meaning that laws and regulations are based on religion. Thus, the demand by some polticians for secularim seems rational and mostly needed for the sudanese democray to be functional. But what we mean by secularism in the sudanese context? will it be acceptable by the islamists especially by those in power and what model or version of secularim fits Sudan knowing that among the fifty-two majority muslim states, the constitutions of only two countries, Turkey and Senegal, prescribe securalism.
The most common definition of secularism is the seperation of religion and state. Nontheless, this narrow definition does not encompass many important charateristics of secular government. First, in a secular regimes sovereignty belongs to the nation and not to divine body. Since sovereignty belongs to divine body in theocratic regimes like Al ingath (National Islamic Front) before the Comprehensive Peace Agreements(CPA) going against the government is equivalent to going against the God. This why the war from political one turned into Jihad against the infidels. Second, religion is separate from state in a secular government. Religion does not affect the government’s affairs, meaning that laws and regulations are not based on religion. Third, a secular government is neutral towards all religions. As such, the regime can not have an official religion and does not protect one religion over another. In the same way, all individuals irrespective of their religions, are equal before the law. Fourth, a secular regime requires the education and the legal system to be secular. Fifth, a secular government requires freedom of religion and conscience. Therefore, secularism does not mean the absence of religion from the society. Individuals are free to exercise their religions and manifest their religious belief in both private and public sphere. Finally, a secular regime is based on pluralism which requires the governments’s respect for all religions and religious beliefs. It is important to note that the above mentioned characteristics of secularism describe a perfect secular government which does not exist at least to my knowledge. One can pose the question: How are they (the islamists) willing to hand Sudan to next generations united and secular or at least quasi-secular given that they have hostile attitude towards secularism?! We will try to provide an answer in the next paper.
By Benjamin S. Korun Tombe. Greece, Thessaloniki.
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