Role of religion at issue in disputed Sudanese transition

While leaders of the pro-democracy movement in Sudan seem reluctant to make Islamic law a source of legislation, the country’s ruling military council insists that “Islamic Sharia and the local norms and traditions in the Republic of Sudan should be the sources of legislation” (BBC, May 8). At a time when tensions between the democracy movement and the military that in April ousted President Omar al-Bashir after a 30-year period of rule have grown dangerously and make the immediate political future quite uncertain, one should keep in mind that the debate is not only about civilian rule but the political role of religion in Sudan. A draft constitutional document presented by a coalition of protest groups and political parties to the Transitional Military Council (TMC) in early May was criticized by the military rulers for omitting any reference to Islamic law, which had been used by the former president as a source of legitimacy and is defined as Sudan’s guiding principle by its current constitution (Al Jazeera, May 8). Not only the military but also Islamic activists have started criticizing pro-democracy leaders for what they call misguiding people. According to them, the mistake of the former regime was in its selective application of elements of Sharia rather than the implementation of the whole law. They do not want a secular country with a legal system inspired by liberals, notes RFI Afrique (May 25).