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Implications of Sharia Law for Sudan's unity.

By Zechariah Manyok Biar November 16, 2009 -- I promised readers of my articles two weeks ago that I would write series of articles, answering questions raised by the National Congress Party's (NCP) reactions to South Sudan President Gen. Kiir's advice to South Sudanese to vote for secession in 2011 in order to avoid being treated as second-class citizens in their own land. I promised the readers, then, that my next article would be about the implications of Sharia Law for the unity of Sudan. One of the readers sent me an e-mail from Khartoum, asking me not to write such an article because Sharia Law, to him, is not part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Unfortunately, Sharia Law is part of CPA. One of the things discussed in Kenya during the CPA's negotiations was the separation of religion from the government. Northerners adamantly refused to let go of religion from the government. So Sharia Law became the law for legislation in the North and other parts of Sudan that are part of the North, politically. South Sudan government chose popular consensus as the means for its legislative process. If you think that Sharia Law is not part of CPA, then let me quote where Sharia Law is in CPA. Article 3.2.2 of CPA states, "Nationally enacted legislation having effect only in respect of the states outside Southern Sudan shall have as its source of legislation Sharia and the consensus of the people." For the government of South Sudan, Article 3.2.3 says, "Nationally enacted legislation applicable to the Southern States and/or the Southern Regioj^shalttiaye as its source of legislation popular consensus." Therefore, there is no doubt that CPA has Sharia Law in it. This is a threat to Sudan's unity because it was the introduction of Sharia Law in Sudan, among other things, that resulted in the rebellion of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) on May 16, 1983. If the NCP was really serious about the unity of Sudan, then why did the NCP's negotiators refuse to let Sharia Law go? How would a united Sudan have two laws as it is now between the North and the South? Is that also a problem of Gen. Kiir? Religion, of course, is not a bad thing for any country to respect. A French political philosopher Tocqueville, who came to the United States in May, 1831 to study American prison system, observed three unique characteristics of American democracy that included local government, civil association, and the spirit of religion. Tocqueville believes that religion and democracy go hand in hand, especially when it comes to morality. However, what Tocqueville admires in American religion is its suspicion of government and its strong desire for independence, which resulted in the separation of church and state in the USA. Tocqueville believes that free society rests on morality, and morality can be derived from religion. Religion, according to Tocqueville, is the only thing that can eliminate materialism and wrong self-interest. Americans have not achieved this standard, but they are conscious about it. Sudanese religion, on the other hand, does not have a suspicion of government as well as a strong desire for independence. Religion, as all of us know, is not a bad thing. What is bad is how it is used. Italian political philosopher Machiavelli says that "the appearance of religion is good, while the actual practice of it is harmful." Religion can be harmful, I would say, if it is used as the law of the government in order to silence those who do not agree with its practice. Religion and government would serve the nation better if they only hold each other accountable for how they treat people. The problem with Sharia Law is that it uses the power of government in the name of God, giving people no voice in questioning the government's shortcomings. Nobody can stand up against the holy laws of God, but people do stand up against the constitution of the nation that does not claim its powers from God. How will the people in South Sudan question Sharia Laws that claim divine legitimacy? Can that lead to united Sudan? How will we know that human interest is not manipulating God, instead of God motivating human interest? Have you seen where the problem is? The NCP needs to understand that we in the South have questions that need to be answered, if Sudan is to remain united in 2011. The role of Sharia in our government is one of these questions. If Northerners are not ready to let Sharia Law go, then they should not blame Gen. Kiir for advising Southerners to vote for secession in 2011. My next article will deal with Khartoum-based government's interest in cheating, a thing that has become a great obstacle for mutual trust between Northerners and Southerners. Zechariah Manyok Biar is a graduate student at Abilene Christian University, Texas, USA. He is pursuing a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry and a Master of Science in Social Work, specializing in Administration and Planning. For comments, contact him at email: manyok34@gmail.com

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Publication:Sudan Tribune (Sudan)
Date:Nov 17, 2009
Words:871
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