Nation’s rulers removing Islam as ‘official state religion’

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Sudan’s transitional government has agreed to eliminate Islamic law, or Shariah, separating religion from government.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok reached the accord with the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, Abdelaziz Al-Hilu. The deal was brokered by the executive director of the World Food Program, David Beasley.

The agreement, to be signed later this week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, ends 30 years of Shariah as the governing law in Sudan.

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“The state shall not establish an official religion,” the agreement specifies. “No citizen shall be discriminated against based on their religion.”

“For Sudan to become a democratic country where the rights of all citizens are enshrined, the constitution should be based on the principle of ‘separation of religion and state,’ in the absence of which the right to self-determination must be respected.”

The global Christian charity Barnabas Fund explained the deal came less than two weeks after the government signed a peace accord with an alliance of rebel groups.

The accord ended decades of conflict in Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, which left hundreds of thousands dead and millions more displaced.

Shariah had been established under dictator Omar al-Bashir, who was removed from office by the military in April 2019.

In April 2020, the nation’s apostasy law, which carried the death penalty for leaving Islam, was abolished.

Middle East Eye reported the plan to eliminate Shariah has caused conflict among civilian and military members of the transitional Sovereignty Council of Sudan.

One of the arguments is over the participation of several rebel groups in the committees established after al-Bashir fell.

One of the issues is the recognition and accommodation of different racial, ethnic, religious and cultural groups.

The agreement states, “Freedom of belief and worship and religious practice shall be granted in full to all Sudanese citizens.”

Significantly, the parties agreed to stop hostilities until security arrangements are in place.

The Middle East Monitor said noted that under the new leadership, Sudan is emerging from international isolation. The African nation has been on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1993.

The report said the U.S. has conditioned Sudan’s removal from the list on its normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel. Israel’s Mossad chief is believed to have met with a top Sudanese official in the UAE.

The UAE recently established diplomatic relations with Israel.

Islamic leaders in Sudan have openly opposed the changes, insisting that the government continue to ban other religions.

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