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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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5 Assimilation

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Most Christian Animist students from the South believe that there is no suitable constitution in Sudan which would be a convergent body representing all the heterogeneous Muslim Arabs with the Christians and the Animists of the South. They argue that British colonisers and Muslim Arabs overshadowed this extreme and diverse heterogeneity of religions and customs between the two populations and arbitrary made them as one territorial nation.597 Some explain that during the colonial period Great Britain separated the South from the North, because of the opposing religious cultures. The past separation was a significant precedent that no constitution could bind them together.598 Muslim Arabs of the North want the state to be Islamic and Arabic constitutionally, while the Christians and the Ani- mists from the South want the criminal and civil penal codes in the country to be derived from Christian secular laws and African customs.599 The students’ claim of the past territorial separation is a fact of history. For twenty-five years, from 1922 until June 1947, British colonisers ruled the current Sudan officially as two different territories. In 1926, two British colonial officials in Sudan, Civil Secretary Harold A. McMichael and the Secretary of Finance, Sir George Schuster acknowledged the existence of wide cultural differences and introduced measures to the British Government to administer the popula- tion of the South independently. The intention was to groom the South towards its culturally similar zones of East Africa, particularly Uganda and British East Africa (modern Kenya). At that time, the Northern...

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