Monday, 20 December 2010

Bashir’s shari’a reboot

“If South Sudan secedes we will change the constitution. Shari’a and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion of the state and Arabic the official language”. Thus spoke President Bashir on 19 December to a rally in al-Gedaref in Eastern Sudan. The president’s declaration clarifies what the deputy chairman of the NCP, Nafie Ali Nafie, termed a ‘rebirth of the Ingaz project’ come secession of the South.
Bashir is freaking out I guess. A reboot of the 1989 Islamic agenda in the rump North Sudan is an unsurprising NCP tactic; it can claim no other grounds for its continued hegemony. What is notable though is how this claim still challenges Bashir’s adversaries. The Umma Party chief and Islamic scholar in his own capacity, al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, responded to Bashir’s announcement on al-Jazeera TV with his famous formal logic of ifs and ors. He stated if the shari’a that Bashir was referring to is the shari’a of freedom, equality and social justice then his declaration is welcome, whereas if Bashir meant shari’a as a tool of subjugation and punishment it is not acceptable. Sadiq, hopeful in an appeasement with the NCP through an all parties conference, argued that if a new Bashir constitutional make-over was channelled through democratic means the Umma party would be ready to consider it. Sadiq had issued a day before an unsubstantiated ultimatum to the NCP demanding the formation of a broad-based government in the North after the referendum. He declared that he stands before two choices in case the NCP fails to realise his demand, either to decidedly join the camp calling for the overthrow of the regime or to step down from the leadership of the Umma party and relinquish his political role. Sadiq might as well go home and retire now for all the NCP cares. For some undisclosed reason Sadiq al-Mahdi imagines that the NCP would surrender its fate to an all parties’ judgement just for the sake of it! Hassan al-Turabi, the Popular Congress party chief and the mastermind of Sudan’s political Islam, was even more challenged by Bashir’s declaration. Speaking to al-Jazeera TV he failed in making any coherent argument except that Bashir was attempting to buy the people’s favour by stressing his Islamic credentials before a drop of the telephone line put an end to his rumblings.
Whatever is written in the constitution, the pre-Naivasha shari’a or the post-Naivasha bill of rights, never restricted the powers of the NCP security apparatus nor controlled the patriarchal excesses of the country’s police. Shari’a as disposed by the state in Sudan is in essence a biopolitical disciplinary tool. In his re-approbation of shari’a Bashir is tickling the patriarchal fantasies of his constituency. He found no other example of shari’a significance than the row over the leaked footage of a woman being flogged in an Omdurman police station. This is what he had to say “if she is lashed according to shari’a law, there is no investigation. Why are some people ashamed? This is shari’a”. Well Mr al-Mahdi, here is your answer.     

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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.