No more “multi-ethnic,” “multi-cultural” and “multi-religious” Sudan — not that those assurances were ever much good for the Christians of the southern part of the country, anyway. More on this story. “Sudan mulls Islamic law after southern secession,” from Deutsche Welle, January 26:
As referendum results make southern Sudan’s independence from Khartoum nearly certain, northern Sudanese are unsure what is in store for their country. The president has promised to base the constitution on Sharia law.
Results from a week’s worth of voting showed that more than 95 percent of people in Southern Sudan wanted to break away from the Khartoum government with more than 98 percent of votes counted. Official results are expected to be released at the end of January.
In his first public speech since the referendum, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said on Tuesday he would support the new Southern state.
“Secession has become a reality, but we will not be sad … we will go to the South and celebrate with them,” Bashir said. “We will support the new Southern state and will hold onto its stability because we are neighbors and will remain friends.”
While people in Southern Sudan are happy with the vote’s outcome, anxiety is increasing in the country’s North. Many people there fear that their freedom could be limited if the conservative form of Islam prevalent in the North gains ground as soon as the predominantly Christian South segregates from the country….
“If Sudan segregates I will change the constitution,” he said before the referendum, adding that southerners staying in the North after calling for independence would be treated as foreigners. “All that belongs to the South will go there. The Sharia is the original source of our laws.”
Basing the constitution on Sharia law represents a major change from the current interim constitution, which recognizes the “multi-ethnic,” “multi-cultural” and “multi-religious” aspects of Sudan. Adopted under the 2005 peace deal, the interim constitution is set to expire in July when Southern Sudan is expected to declare independence.
A return to a more conservative form of Islam would be particularly hard on women, according to journalist Zeinab Saleh. She has been following the case of a woman who was whipped after reportedly walking in public with her fiance.
“We women are a disgrace in their eyes, anything could happen to me here,” she said. “This young woman was portrayed as if she were a prostitute, only because she crossed the street with her fiance or boyfriend. They have a problem with the female species – how can I live in this kind of environment?”
Sudan’s progressive Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi recently called on the Sudanese people to learn from the recent events in Tunisia and stand up against this government. He was arrested and released 48 hours later.
“We are giving the (ruling) National Congress Party a choice – to have a transitional government authorized by a new constitution, and then to conduct free and fair elections,” he told a news conference ahead of a demonstration last week.
“If they don’t agree to that, we are going to fight them in the streets,” he added. “We’re not an armed party and we’re not going to stage a coup, but we are going to change the regime.”