The CEDEJ Khartoum led a two years project on Islam in Sudan, part of an overall research program, “Strengthening Knowledge of and Dialogue with the Islamic/Arab World” commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
The research program started in April 2011, at a critical moment of Sudan’s history, right after the referendum in South Sudan and the birth of the new State. The multifaceted relationship between religion and society in Sudan has been deeply affected both by twenty-three years of the Islamist regime, the secession of South Sudan in 2011 and the departure of almost one third of the population, the majority of whom were non-Muslims.
The new political context following the secession in Sudan has not only affected actors of Islam and the Muslim majority but also religious minorities that included non-Muslims and Muslims who are not part of the Sunni majority. The secession of South Sudan had affected in a significant manner the status of Muslims from Southern Sudanese Muslims in the new state of South Sudan as well as the non-Muslim minorities in Sudan.
The objective of this study is to analyze these recent developments in the religious spectrum during the past two decades in Sudan by focusing first on the emerging actors/trends and new religious practices, and second on the status of religious minorities and interreligious relations in Sudan and South Sudan. In the first part of the study, the authors seek to highlight the pluralism of expression of Islam and new forms of urban religiosity and link these with the social and political changes. The second part covers the issue of the status of religious minorities in Sudan and South Sudan. The category of minority in this research includes non-Muslims in Sudan, Muslims who are not part of the Sunni majority and Muslims in South Sudan. The authors highlight the state’s policies (legal, political and administrative) to manage their religious minorities, explaining the current fragile status of religious minorities. The issue of how minorities perceive themselves and how they are perceived and protracted in the public opinion is an important aspect of their status in the state and society. This is dealt with in a closing chapter that focuses on the public discourse on minorities. The public discourse on minorities is an interesting area to identify the influence of new religious trends.
This study has been conducted by researchers from different disciplines in social sciences. This multidisciplinary approach contributes largely to relate the socio-political and legal dimensions of the problematic of Islam and society in Sudan. For more details, read the synthesis report available on our website. ◼