By: Abdullahi Osman El-Tom
For most people in the world, to be photographed carrying a bible is harmless and cannot be elevated to a noticeable event. No so in Al-Bashir’s Sudan. This is the story of Hawa Abdalla, an ordinary Darfuri woman activist, working in the IDP camp of Abushouk, Darfur, where she is employed as a civilian member of UNAMID peace-keeping authority. In May 8th, 11, the infamous government Sudan Media Centre (SMC), otherwise known as Sudan’s intelligence mouth, published Ms Abdalla’s picture posing with a bible in hand. Her very appearance with a bible in Al-Bashir’s Sudan alarmed many human rights activists in the country and abroad. The US based Human Rights Watch and Sudan’s Darfur Lawyers Association signalled their concern about Ms Abdalla‘s safety and they are rightly justified to do so. Ms Abdalla is now facing accusations of apostasy, proselytizing, Christianization of minors and many other crimes. No matter that ever since their insidious take over of the country, Al-Bashir and his fellow fanatics have never stopped proselytizing at home and abroad. But Sudan and its home-grown fanatics follow a logic that is alien to many other nations: it is their moral duty to proselytize while it is a crime for followers of other faiths to invite others to join their religions! While I hasten to stress the innocence of Ms Abdalla regarding the declared accusations, I equally remind the reader of the case of the Sudanese preacher and philosopher Ustaz Mahmoud Mohamed Taha. He was executed for apostasy in 1985, even though he remained to his death an internationally acclaimed Islamic leader and reformist.
Ms Abdalla’s predicament should not only be read within dynamics of Sudan’s national politics. Hers is part and parcel of national and international politics. In 2009, Hawa Abdalla was arrested by the security officer on alleged dissemination of information leading to ICC ruling against Al-Bashir. Her current arrest took place on May 5th. She was kidnapped by the security agents, transported to El-Fashir and later to Khartoum where her place of detention remains unknown to her lawyers, acquaintances and civil right activists. Just like her previous arrest, this too has its international dimension. It took place days before the successful US attack on Bin Laden and the subsequent call by his fellow fanatics for revenge. Like the fox in the Dinka children story spreading rumours among his prey that he has turned vegetarian, Al-Bashir claims to have renounced terrorism, espoused democracy and become a sincere champion of human rights. His false claims elevated him into a trusted ally of the US government and its war against terror, and fooled many at home to participate in his fake election for the presidency. Events of last two weeks, including arrest of Ms Abdalla, should make us all rethink Al-Bashir and his government. It is no exaggeration to state that Sudan has been turned into an incubator for Muslim fanatics and a nursery for national and international terrorism.
It is true that far too many “Muslim” dictators, including Al-Bashir” have tarnished the name of Islam locally and abroad by their unjust, oppressive and corrupt governance. However, and when it comes to the international image of Islam, none can surpass Bin Laden. It will take Muslims decades to recast Islam as a religion of peace, justice and mutual co-existence. Following outbreak of news regarding death of Bin Laden, Al-Bashir’s regime came pretty close to shutting down Sudan by way of official mourning of Bin Laden. The speaker of Khartoum’s National Assembly Ahmed Ibrahim Tahir addressed a Parliamentary Session praising Bin Laden as a Mujahid (holy fighter) and described the US war on terror as “genocide against Muslims”. He further added:
“if they [Americans] are so thrilled with his death, then they should lift their hands off Afghanistan and let the Afghans run their own affairs”, (www.Sudatribune, May 2nd).
The Speaker’s speech was interrupted by MPs who chanted Martyr, Martyr, in reference to Bin Laden.
The Parliamentary mourning was also echoed at the public level by Al-Bashir’s inner circle. Public prayers for Bin Laden, described by Alsudani.net as attracting thousands (and Islamtoday.net as hundreds) were organized and performed in a central park in Khartoum. The overseers of the prayers were the usual staunch supporters of the regime. It included influential member of the Official Association of Muslim Ulama (scientists) Sheikh Yousif Abdel Haye, Head of Sunna Supporters Group Sheikh Abu Zaid Hamza and Head of Just Peace Platform Al-Tayib Mustafa. The latter, who is an uncle and confidant of Albashir is notorious for his opposition to the CPA - which his group describes as “unjust”, and is well known for his hatred of almost every thing: the USA, Europe, Israel, South of Sudan, Darfur and of course the ICC. The prayers were accompanied by inauguration of Brigade of Bin Laden which many Mujahideen joined on the spot. The newly established Brigade is to be affiliated with the Just Peace Platform.
In their public payers, Abdel Haye hailed Bin Laden as Mujahid who abandoned earthy life for the sake of God and whose legacy will live in the hearts of Muslims and inspire them to answer call for jihad against infidels, crusaders, Jews, America and its supporters.
Hamza joined in the frenzied attack on the USA and challenged Muslim rulers to become like Bin Laden. He further invited them to commission arms and soldiers under their authority to fight the infidel enemies of Islam and liberate Jerusalem. Sheikh Attia Mohamed Saeed, another member of Sudan’s Official Association of Muslim Ulama affirmed determination of his followers to follow Bin Laden’s path, involve in jihad and establish an Islamic state.
Throughout the prayers, the speakers were interrupted by the chanting; “with Jihad we raise flag of God”, “Bin Laden Bin Laden, Martyr, martyr” and “Khayber, Khayber oh Jews, the army of Mohamed will come back” (Khayber was a battle fought in early days of Islam where Muslims emerged victorious against their Jewish neighbours).
If that is not enough to clone a Sudanese Bin Laden, Al-Bashir’s regime remains persistent. In May 8th, the family of convicted terrorist Mohamed Osman Yousif received a message that he was killed in Somali. Yousif belonged to the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Tawhid (Islamic based monotheism) and was convicted for the fatal attack on American citizen John Granville who worked for USAID in Khartoum, 2009. Yousif was sentenced to death and was awaiting execution in high security Kober Prison in Khartoum but managed to escape with fellow convicts through sewer pipes. An analyst who is familiar with the prison indicated such an escape cannot be achieved without assistance of officials close to the government. Yousif’s family home received many visitors including government officials. But the mourners also included Minister of Defence Abdel Rahim Mohamed Husain, a close associate of President Al-Bashir. The Minister declined talking to the media but left that opportunity to Yousif’s father who offered an impressive insight into the matter:
“I am calling the government to release the Islamic youth from prison and also for the court to cancel the decision against Mohamed (his son), because they were answering President Al-Bashir’s call when he told them to fight international troops in Darfur” (www.Sudantribune, May 9th).
Thus, the President of Sudan has been instrumental in the current wave of hatred against what Sudanese fundamentalists call “Christians, Jews and Crusaders”.
The position of these fanatics has been further augmented by independence of the predominantly Christian South, scheduled for July 9th 2011. Following the overwhelming Southern vote for independence (98.83%), Al-Bashir declared that the remaining Sudan will be 100% Arab and Muslim. Of course this is a foolish and plainly inaccurate reading of the country. North Sudan will still house a sizable minority of Christians from the South, in the Nuba Mountains, in the Blue Nile region and in almost all urban centres of the country. The Arab dimension of the presidential statement is as farcical as to call Al-Bashir’s sanity into question. However one look at this, it is difficult not to conclude that religious fanaticism is bred and nursed by the government itself. Hence, Ms Abdalla’s safety cannot be taken for granted.
Author is Head of Bureau for Strategic Planning of JEM. He can be reached at: Abdullahi.firstname.lastname@example.org.