Originally featured on Muftah.Org http://muftah.org/the-devil-shows-its-face-government-manipulation-of-islam-in-sudan/
Following Friday prayer on July 6, 2012, hundreds of men andwomen of all ages gathered outside Sayed Abdelrahman Mosque in the Wad Nubawi district of Omdurman to exercise their constitutional right to demonstrate. Within minutes of its commencement, the peaceful protest was met with a flurry of tear gas grenades and rubber bullets that quickly forced people to rush back and seek refuge within the gates of the mosque.Blood could be seen on the ground and cries sounded of someone being shot. It only took a few moments to discover whose blood had been spilt: it was Quteyba the Ansari*, the result of a live bullet fired from a NISS gun to his leg.
We quickly learned that retreating to mosque grounds would not be as safe as we assumed. Regime authorities advanced to each of the mosque’s exits and released canister after canister of tear gas into the area. The barrage continued for hours as we chanted, with officers alternating between shooting tear gas and rubber bullets and injuring dozens more in the process. Unable to continue unharmed, we sought refuge within the walls of the mosque itself, shutting doors and windows behind us. We knewthat the confined space could be suffocating, but we were in dire need of respite. To our disbelief, the surrounding security forcesthen redirected the tear gas canisters at the doors and windowsof the mosque. Fleeting moments of panic passed as we suddenly began to realize that the police and NISS meant to flush us out, making us choose between asphyxiation or escape and imminent capture.
Left with no recourse, a cry for help went out to the locals of Wad Nubawi through the mosque loudspeaker system, whowere trapped in their homes by armed NISS and police vehicles stationed between every few houses in the district. Nonetheless they reacted, climbing their roof tops and pelting the authoritieswith stones, allowing just enough room for us to escape the mosque.
Despite the window of opportunity created by the neighboring residents, very few attempted to leave. With the smell of tear gas steadily intensifying, the mosque began to resemble a battlefield. Yet worship continued as normal. Refusing to leave one anotherbehind, people took turns at manning the fort to allow others topray Asr, using water to put out incoming tear gas canisters or hurling them back out to the police. The Mahdi’s Rattib** resounded as usual and afterwards revolutionary chants filled the air as protesters cleaned the mosque, which by then was littered with debris from the day’s events. Around Maghreb prayer, police forces finally retreated, allowing protesters to safely leave the mosque.
While these events were shocking as they unfolded, in retrospectthe most lasting effect was witnessing such unabashed hypocrisy from the NCP regime. Sudan’s Presidential Assistant Nafie Ali Nafie accuses anti-regime protesters of seeking to “eradicate”Islamic Shari’a law in order to make way for a secular state.Real Shari’a, as we know, is the emulation of the Prophet Mohamed’s establishment of the first Islamic state in Medina. In his great wisdom, the Prophet Mohamed demonstrated a democratic spirit; he drew up a historically specific constitution based on the (religious/Islamic) principles revealed to him, in the process seeking consensus from all who would be affected by its implementation. The first Islamic state established was constitutional in character and the ruler governed with the explicit written consent of all the citizens of the state. Freedom of religion was guaranteed for all within the Islamic state. TheProphet Mohamed’s interpretation of the Qur’an promotedharmony; it was democratic, tolerant and compassionate. The atmosphere and actions of those in the Wad Nubawi mosque on Friday are what I believe to be reminiscent of the very same tenets taught by the Prophet in governance: devotion, loyalty, compassion, harmony, resilience.
The NCP regime, on the other hand, claiming to rule under the banner of Shari’a law, has effectively desecrated the image of Islam for the past 23 years. They have forged civil wars, driving our brethren in the South away, and fostered the kind of divisivereligious incitement that leads to churches being burned in Khartoum. Even in predominately Muslim peripheries such as Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile, thegovernment has systematically marginalized and oppressed –raping, pillaging and attempting to eradicate whole tribes – in direct contradiction to basic Islamic tenets and attributes ofpeaceful co-existence. Sudanese women – our mothers, sisters and daughters, once pioneers admired across the Muslim world– have been stunted, demonized and ridiculously portrayed as sinful jezebels due to our rulers’ insecurities. NCP Islam has overseen a socioeconomic disintegration that has pauperized the population in favour of the “superior” few. Those corrupt fewnow ask that the Sudanese people, who they have described as“bats”, “vagabonds” and “outcasts”, accept theirimpoverishment as “the will of God”.
Far from a moral and legal compass, Shari’a has been nothing but a political tool used by the NCP to consolidate their hold on power. While some naively believed the rhetoric and ralliedaround ‘the Islamic State’, the majority has known that the regime’s founding ideology has long been perverted by power and greed. In the past, the NCP made an effort, however minimal, to cover up their religious merchandizing, if only as a courtesy. However, when CS gas is fired into a house of worship on specific orders, it seems evident that we are no longer dealing with a regime that can be bothered with even insincere courtesies.
CS gas, known to cause severe pulmonary damage and other serious complications, was outlawed even in war by the terms of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. International law limits its use to police forces as a temporary incapacitant and to subdue attackers or persons who are violently aggressive. The label on the canister itself cautions against indoor use and warns of serious injury or death if aimed directly at people. This can be attested by the widowed wife and orphaned children of Amir Bayoumi, killed by the effects of CS inhaled during a similarprotest in Omdurman a week prior. The Center also states that those exposed to CS gas should seek immediate medical attention. This is a ‘luxury’ not afforded to the injuredprotestors, with security forces waiting at hospitals to intercept and arrest them. If this wasn’t ruthless enough, directives have been given to hospitals to deny demonstrator treatment.
Many were confused when President Bashir gave a speech stating that from here on, Shari’a law would be fully implemented. They mused, “if this was the case, what have the last 23 years been about?” The threatening tone of this statement is even more puzzling when considering the true participatory nature of Shari’a law. But to those present in Wad Nubawi the past two Fridays the message is clear: with its power threatened, the devil has removed its mask and shown its true face!
** A compilation of the Mahdi’s prayers (du’aas) and sermons that is recited daily after Fajr and Asr prayers by Ansar (both in their homes and mosques).
With contributions and edits by Sara Elhassan and Mohamed Abdel-Razig