|Ghazi Salah Eldin|
In a TV statement quoted in the Khartoum daily, al-Ray al-Aam, on 21 December the NCP’s Ghazi Salah Eldin described the tendency to blame Sudan’s problems on the Islamic Movement as ‘intellectual laziness’. Ghazi then made the valid point that the ‘Southern question’ has been in evolution since the 1950’s, well before the Movement gained the hegemony it now enjoys. I agree in principle to Ghazi’s claim. The Islamic Movement is not to blame for all of Sudan’s calamities. In a sense, the Movement’s failure to manage these problems constructively is a symptom of Sudan’s colonial making and post-colonial entrapment. Much as the Southern nationalist movement has been reacting to this entrapment rather than challenging it the Islamic Movement’s incapacity to challenge the post-colony beyond its standard reactive re-approbation of Islam as a political tool is a feature of its failure to re-imagine the post-colony beyond the coordinates of the country’s colonial political architecture.
That however is not a carte blanche for the Islamic Movement to fail and insist on forgiveness. The same ‘intellectual laziness’ that plagues the opponents of the NCP in Ghazi’s terms has long replaced the vigour and excitement of the Islamic Movement’s youth. Ghazi himself complained to his fellow Islamists in a conference of the Islamic Movement held in 2008 of the sclerosis blocking its intellectual arteries.
Now, if we attempt to judge the Islamic Movement by the themes that engaged it most in an intellectual sense the major issue that strikes out I suppose is the law. Born out of a circle of lawyers the Movement has always regarded the rule of Islamic shar’ia as the ultimate national claim of the Sudanese post-colony. In so doing the Movement in a sense was responding to a public demand for redemption from the colonial wedge driven into the country’s legal culture, whereby the ‘native’ shari’a was subdued to common law if at all considered as deserving of recognition. Shari’a however in the hands of the Islamic Movement remained a reactive instance of no ‘healing’ substance. In the name of shari’a the legal system suffered an undeniable degradation from a budding national institution of justice, striving if you like for independence from a permanently intrusive executive, to a disciplinary instrument of the state. In a recent interview with the Khartoum paper, al-Ahram al-Youm, Khalafalla al-Rasheed, the former head of the judiciary, and a prominent legal scholar who presided over the committee that drafted the NCP’s 1998 constitution, went as far as saying “I don’t know where this notion of Islamic shari’a laws and non shari’a laws came from. There is no Islamic law. All that has been done is the inclusion of the five shari’a penalties in the criminal code”. He further re-affirmed, “There is no such thing as Islamic law in the Sudan, only the shari’a penalties in the criminal code”. Al-Rasheed went on to explain that Sudan’s criminal code in essence is an Arabic version of the respective British code. He added, “Personally I don’t think there is such a thing as Sudanese law. There are various interacting tendencies that have not yet evolved into a body of law. Since the end of colonialism we are involved in amending the laws, and at the end we fail to reach an agreement”.
If anything shari’a and its rehabilitation as a legal framework is the sin qua non of the Islamic Movement’s political project. However as Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim once suggested in an interview, Ghazi’s political Islam compares well to China’s contemporary communism. In what ways you may ask?