SUDAN WATCH: INTERVIEW: Hassan Al-Turabi says Islam and democracy are not incompatible - absence of democracy is the main reason behind Sudan's Darfur conflict

Thursday, May 11, 2006

INTERVIEW: Hassan Al-Turabi says Islam and democracy are not incompatible - absence of democracy is the main reason behind Sudan's Darfur conflict

May 11, 2006 Al-Ahram Weekly Hassan Al-Turabi interview by Gamal Nkrumah. Excerpts:

"People are not stupid, nor lacking in civic responsibility," Sheikh Hassan Al-Turabi points out. His voice rises with excitement as he talks about the prospects for peace in Darfur. Choking on his words, he explains that the absence of democracy is the main reason behind conflict. "There is no notion of consensus (shura ), as Islam enjoins, nor an imperative to democratise."

"I am against the enforcement of Sharia law on non-Muslims. The Christian southerners must not forcibly succumb to Islamic Sharia law. "The Jews of Medina were not subjected to Sharia law during the days of Prophet Mohamed. Why should we Muslims, today, force Sharia law on Christian subjects?"

He reserves his harshest criticism for the military clique ruling Sudan. The curious thing is that they have not learnt from their mistakes, he says. "They insist on doing things their way -- which has more to do with totalitarianism and authoritarianism than Islam -- and so have got almost everything wrong."

"Women's rights are paramount. Where women's rights are thwarted there can be no democracy.

"Military rule ruined the country. Democracy is the only viable answer to Sudan's numerous challenges."

Turabi asks how difficult it really is to maintain universal notions of human rights. He argues that the inferior status of women in contemporary Muslim societies has nothing to do with Islam as revealed in the Qur'an and Sunna (the traditions of Prophet Mohamed).

Turabi said that as long as there are foreign troops on Sudanese soil, the country for all intents and purposes remains a colony. He also said that the Islamist experiment in Sudan was a failure.

Turabi stresses that Islam and democracy are not incompatible.

It is an open secret that many of the leaders of the Justice and Equality Movement, one of two armed Darfur opposition groups that declined to sign a peace agreement with the Sudanese government, were former members of the PCP or close associates of Turabi.

Islamist activists from Darfur were staunch supporters of the NIF regime in the past. Some observers would go so far as to claim that JEM is, in effect, the armed wing of the PCP.

"Democracy is the only way forward."

First of all, he elaborates, it is almost inevitable -- it is going to happen. The future of Africa and the Arab world is democratic.

Sheikh Hassan Al-Turabi

Photo: Sheikh Hassan Al-Turabi, in above interview, said "I was imprisoned because I spoke with the southerners -- the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) -- I spent 30 months in jail for doing so -- and I was also imprisoned, 15 months, for speaking with Darfur's armed opposition groups. Now, I have entered into discussions with the Easterners," he says nonchalantly.


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