RESHAPING IDENTITY POLITICS, Capitalising on Shari‘a Debate in Sudan -Musa Adam Abdul-Jalil

The relationship between religious identity, ethnic identity, and politics has always been a problematic one,
especially in plural societies like Sudan. This article is an attempt to understand the reasons behind the
insistence of the popular parties of the Muslim majority in Northern Sudan on establishing shar’ia law as
the law of the land. By using secondary data on party programmes, public opinion, and an analysis of
political events, I reconstruct the evolution of the debate in order to identify its prime movers. My
conclusion is that this debate emerged as a result of the quest for a national identity by the majority group,
who are predominantly Muslim and identify as Arab. Contrary to the common belief that principles of
identity politics generally only apply to minority groups, I argue that the constant pressure from popular
parties in Sudan to apply shari’a law shows that where the identity of the majority group is unclear or
problematic, there is a tendency to use strong cultural symbols as an aid to political mobilisation by elites
who claim to meet the presumed demands of the public. Raising the banner of shari’a is an effective way
not only to exclude non-Muslims from playing central roles in national politics, but also to undermine the
roles of other politically moderate Muslims.                                           AUF_Being Arab Muslim Sudanese_Working Paper 4_Musa Abdul Jalil_December 2020

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