Strategy of Islamization - How it Oppressed Non-Muslims

The Numairi years

            Throughout the history of Sudan there has been an ongoing struggle between religions. These conflicts have continued through the years, and have recently become even worse, many claiming the conflict in Darfur to be genocide. The main problem is the bitter hostility between non-Arabs and Arabs, but there was also a tension among Muslims and non-Muslims. In some cases Muslims are being killed in large numbers along with the non-Muslims, but in this article we will discuss only about the reliogus aspect of the conflict in Sudan. Since we are discussing the religious aspect of the genocide it is better to refer to the conflict in terms of religious groups. . Many of the causes for the “genocide” that is occurring in Darfur, the westernmost province of Sudan, today is due to a policy of forcing Islam upon an entire nation, a nation which is comprised of different religious and ethnic groups. For many years, numerous leaders have sought to implement Islam as the state religion. This was finally accomplished during the reign of General Jaa’far Numairi (1969-1985). Numairi, and some of the leaders who succeeded him followed a strategy of forced Islamization on non-Muslims.

This policy of Islamization was intended to unite the nation and ensure political and economic stability. This idea depended on people converting to Islam. However, the strategy  of forcing people to become Muslim had the opposite effect. It led to a greater division between the North and the South, the North being almost completely Muslim and the South dominated by Christians and indigenous religions. Increased tensions among these two re-ignited the fighting of the first civil war and were launched into a second civil war which formally ended in 1995, but currently the fighting continues between Arabs and non-Arabs. However, nowadays it is considered a genocide because of obvious attempts to suppress and eradicate non-Muslims and non-Arabs from Darfur.
            General Jaa’far Numairi came to power in 1969 by a coup d’etat. His strong support for pan-Arabism, a movement with an intent of unifying Muslim people and nations in the Middle Eastern regional of the world, was evident throughout his authoritarian rule. He was the one to begin the policy of Islamization by declaring Islam as the state religion and implementing the September Laws, which changed the penal code and made the shari’a (Islamic law) the law of the land. He purged senior officers in the police force and other civil offices. He outlawed all political groups and tightened control. Through his oppressive rule and policy of Islamization he turned Darfur into a hotbed for mass murders.

 This policy of forced Islamization was carried out through an intricate plan; there were many ways in which the government implemented it and enforced it. The government, run by Muslims, used their power to tax non-Muslims more money and deny them building permits. They barred non-Muslims from every becoming president and through obvious discriminatory business practices rarely held any political offices or, for that matter, any job that reeked economic prosperity. Furthermore, the government rewarded people with money and jobs who converted to Muslim. Also, many non-Muslim women believed to have converted to Muslims to be eligible for governmental benefits for losing their husbands in the war. There were other cases in which school teachers would try to convince children at a young age to become Muslim. Also, any child found on the street who was taken in was considered Muslim, no matter their actual background. These are just a few of the obvious ways this policy of forced Islamization suppressed non-Muslims; this would eventually lead to increased tensions that will re-surface under the rule of Omar al Bashir.
            The policies and laws of Numairi ensured that the South would remain subordinate to the North and this infuriated the South, who wanted change and progress. Also, due to the oppressive regime a stereotype was created that non-Muslims were second class citizens compared to Muslims. With growing discontent of the ruling power of Numairi, people were looking for any reason to unseat him. In 1985, he was removed from power and a Transitional Military Council stepped in until democratic elections could be held. However, with many political parties, each with different views, a democratic election was difficult and polarization would continue after Numairi.

Omar al Bashir

            Omar al Bashir, who is still the current president of Sudan, took control in June of 1989 by coup d’etat.  Bashir believed that a “fundamental ideological change in Khartoum [was] a precondition of sustainable peace” (Federal Research Division...). His strategies of Islamization were similar to Numairi but he thought that in order to have a peaceful country it was easier to kill the non-Muslims than it was to try to convert them to Islam, which apparently was not working. Muslims, also predominately Arab,   (?)He saw a militarized group of Arabs and disrupted the peace by arming the Arabs and disarming the non-Arabs, hoping to cause racial and ethnic tensions among the two. Bashir supported the rising Arab militias known as the janjaweed. He gave them weapons and money to finance their projects. Also, Bashir ordered the national army of Sudan to West Sudan to wreak havoc and continue the new program of ethnic cleansing. Non-Arab rebel forces were angry at the National government for a number of reasons:
1. Denying them the right of self determination
2. Uneven economic development
3. Integration of religion and politics
4. Favoring Arab tribes

5. Ethnic cleansing of the people of Darfur

6. Supporting the janjaweed



Hassan al Turabi - In his earlier years he was a member of the Islamic Charter Front, which was part of the Muslim Brotherhood, a worldwide Islamist movement. When Numairi came to power in 1969, those who did not escape including Turabi and many other members of the ICF were arrested and jailed for years. However, during his time with the ICF he was able to draft an Islamic constitution by working with two political factions, the Ansar and Khatmiyyah. Also, he was the leader of the National Islamic Front, a large political faction in Sudan. In 2004 he was arrested again and not released until June of 2005. Turabi was a major player in institutionalizing shari’a in the North. He was allied with Bashir for much of his reign.

Bashir -  Is the current president of Sudan. Early on in his career he was put in charge of the government’s military who was fighting the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), a rebel group mostly based out of the non-Arab, non-Muslim majority South. He became a general in the army by the 1980s and one of the most powerful people in Sudan. In 1989 took power by coup d’etat and quickly eliminated opposition by banning political parties and dissolving Parliament. By tightening control he became president. He re-instituted shari'a as the law of the land and a harsh new Criminal Act over the North in 1991. As the civil war in Sudan died down, rebel groups in Darfur rose in opposition to the government. The Bashir government responded by giving political and economic support to the janjaweed, a predominately Arab group who has been accused of ethnically cleaning the non-Arabs in Darfur. He has been accused of harboring other known terrorists including Osama Bin Laden.

Sadiq al Mahdi - “Mahdi” literally means the “Guided One,” who is the ultimate savior of mankind and will turn the world into a perfect Islamic society. Sadiq al Mahdi is the leader of the Umma party, a political party in Sudan, and was Prime Minister of Sudan from 1986 until 1989 when Bashir took power through a coup. He encouraged Baqqara (or Baggara) to cross into Southern Sudan to plunder, murder, and enslave the Dinka tribe, who support the SPLA. Also, he was the brother in law of Hassan al-Turabi.



Mahmoud Mohamed Taha - (different than Ali Osman Mohamed Taha who is the current Sudan vice president) - He was a very important figure in the struggle for Sudanese independence. He was the co-founder of the Sudanese Republican Party. Under his leadership he turned the party into a spiritual movement based on his newfound form of Islam. He rejected anything to do with the shari’a because it brought about tension between ethnic groups. In the 1950's he created an Islamic reform movement known as the Republican Brothers, who “stress[ed] the qualities of tolerance, justice, and mercy” (General Information About...). His  recommendation for improving government were ignored; he gave public lectures and made his opinion known about Numairi. In 1983, Taha opposed Numairi’s implementation of shari’a as a “contrary to the essence of Islam” (General Information About...). He looked for peaceful ways to end conflicts but growing tension between Numairi and Taha led to Taha’s conviction of holding unorthodox views of Islam, which could cause religious turmoil. He was sentenced to death at the age of 76.