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Conflict of National Identity in Sudan

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Kuel Jok

This study addresses the contemporary conflict of national identity in Sudan between the adherents of Islamic nationalism and those of customary secularism. The former urge the adoption of a national constitution that derives its civil and criminal laws from the Sharia, and want Arabic as the language of instruction in national institutions. The latter demand the adoption of secular laws, derived from the set of customary laws, and equal opportunities for all African languages beside Arabic and English. In the past, the adherents of Islamic nationalism imposed the Islamic-Arab model. In reaction, secularists resorted to violence; the Islamists declared Jihad against the secularists and adopted a racial war, which has caused a humanitarian disaster. The main primary material of this research is based on a survey conducted among 500 students of five universities in Sudan. Besides, the study considers the diverse theoretical models for the formation of a nation-state, where diversity is not discouraged, but states apply laws to promote religious and ethnic diversities within one territorial state.

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1 Theoretical Framework and Sudanese Conflicting Nationalism

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Researching on the topic of identity is extremely controversial, because of its three conflicting philosophical conceptions. For the Enlightenment, identity is a human-person fully centred as unified individual and sufficiently endowed with reason and conscious action and therefore, the self is an identity of a person.78 In contrast, sociological inter-actionists reject this theory and argue that self-personal identity is not entirely sufficient; instead, it is formed in relation to ‘significant others’ or interaction between self and society. 79 For the post-mod- ernists, identity is not permanent; it is constantly formed and transformed in rela- tion to the ways a society is represented in cultural institutions. It is not biological, but historical; therefore, contradictory identities at different time of history can construct a comfortable narrative that unifies their identities into a unified one.80 Political forces in Sudan have failed to construct a comfortable narrative for the diverse religious and ethnic groups in the state. They have, instead, estab- lished racial and discriminatory institutions making the civil violence in Sudan to be fundamentally a conflict of identity based on the dynamics of racism and discrimination within the political, cultural and social institutions of the territory. The research rejects the claim of some scholars that the past and the current civil wars in the country are products of the colonial ‘British Policy’ of the ‘Closed District Ordinance’. For instance, Beshir Muhammed Said claims that the colo- nial British Government decided to introduce a legal system the ‘Closed District Ordinance’ since 1922 and effectively...

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