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The New Arab

Sudan 'plans to repeal' death penalty for apostasy

The measure will need to be approved by Sudan's two key governing bodies [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 March, 2020

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The transitional government is planning to criminalise "takfir", the act of declaring someone an apostate, according to a member of a key political umbrella group.

Sudan plans to decriminalise apostasy this year, a member of a key political group involved in the country's transitional government said.

A draft bill proposes repealing the death penalty for apostasy and replacing it with a law criminalising "takfir", or the act of declaring a Muslim an apostate or non-believer, said Mohammad Hassan Arabi, a member of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) coordination council. The FFC is a political umbrella group involved in Sudan's transitional government.

The death penalty for apostasy "puts freedom of opinion and belief at risk and undermines social peace and stability", Arabi told The Sudan Tribune.

A draft of this year's Miscellaneous Amendments Bill includes the change, he explained.

The bill will have to go before the ruling sovereign council and the civilian government cabinet for approval before going into effect.

Sudan's current penal code was drafted under former dictator Omar al-Bashir who was ousted by the military in April last year. 

Bashir seized power in a 1989 military coup backed by influential Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi

While apostasy was already criminalised under Sudan's previous criminal code, Bashir's regime brought the country's legal system closer to an ultraconservative interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.

A draconian public order law introduced under Bashir that saw thousands of women flogged for "indecent" dress was repealed by the transitional government late last year to much celebration among human rights groups, protesters and international backers.

But analysts say changes to more widely accepted Sharia-linked laws and punishments may not be as popular among Sudanese, many of whom are conservative Muslims despite calls for a secular state by some protesters and rebel groups. 

There are vast differences of opinions in Muslim communities across the world regarding Sharia law. While some belief Islam mandates the killing of those who have willingly left the religion, others point to sections of the Quran that state there is no compulsion in religion.


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