Wed, 15 Jan 2003

Sharia not that impossible

I refer to the interview in The Jakarta Post dated Jan. 4, 2003 titled The enforcement of sharia: Impossible, unviable in which the paper interviewed Abdullahi Ahmed An'naim, Professor of Law at Emory University, United States.

Since Abdullahi has been away from Sudan for more than two decades, he is not in a position to evaluate the Sudan experience fairly and justly, rather, he has been echoing the negative propaganda disseminated by rightist groups in the States against Islam in general and Sudan in particular. In addition, he may be stuck in the eighties experience, which is completely different with what is going on now.

Secondly, the Sudan experience in implementing sharia is very old, and it has been applied partially in different aspects of the Sudanese Muslims' life for centuries. Though it was interrupted by British colonial rule in 1898, it has continued to largely govern all aspects of life throughout modern Sudanese history, until some unapplied provisions, not more than 20 percent of the prevailing laws, were introduced in 1983.

Later in 1991, the current government revised those laws, and since then, sharia has been applied in a very comprehensive way in all aspects of life in Sudan peacefully, with the exemption of non-Muslims and South of Sudan from the provisions of any article of law which carries a specific Islamic injunction not shared by creeds, as in the case of Hudud (Penalties).

Furthermore, the application of Hudud which is of great concern to many, was made according to the penal code (1991), with strict safeguards for its application, and subject to the approval of the Supreme Court.

Moreover to safeguard the rights of non-Muslims, according to the 1998 Constitution of the Republic of Sudan "All people are equal in rights and duties as regards to function of public life, and there shall be no discrimination by reason of race, sex, or religious creed. They are equal in eligibility for public posts and offices and must not be discriminated on the basis of wealth."

Sudan, fortunately by the grace of Allah, has managed to set a good example of sharia application through building very successful and sound political, economic and social institutions. For instance, we have been applying successfully the Islamic principles in our banking system for the past two decades, and now all commercial and insurance companies apply these principles smoothly, and many countries and institutions from all over the world, including Indonesia, have sought to learn from the Sudanese experience in these very important and crucial economic tools. Our social institutions of zakat and takaful are working well and coping with the changing circumstances.

This has enabled Sudan to accommodate the Muslim aspirations as the majority in Sudan and guard carefully the rights of non- Muslims with rational administration and good governance. Sudan has managed to build stability and is moving forward to achieve prosperity. Given this fact sharia is relevant and applicable at all places and at all times, since it covers all human activities, moral and material.

BADRELDIN ABDALLA Charge d'Affairs Sudanese Embassy Jakarta