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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Dozens protest against Sudan religious reforms

Government reforms permit non-Muslims to drink alcohol and decriminalise the abandonment of Islamic faith [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 July, 2020

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Protesters took the streets of Khartoum after Muslim prayers Friday, carrying banners which read "No to secularism"
Dozens of Sudanese protested in the capital Khartoum Friday against recent government reforms they consider anti-Islamic, including allowing non-Muslims to drink alcohol, an AFP correspondent said.

Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari said last Saturday that Muslim-majority Sudan now "allows non-Muslims to consume alcohol on the condition it doesn't disturb the peace and they don't do so in public".

He also said that converting from Islam to another religion would be decriminalised.

The announcements came a day after the country criminalised female genital mutilation.

Protesters took to the streets of Khartoum after Muslim prayers Friday in the east and north of the capital, an AFP correspondent said.

They shouted slogans including, "God's laws shall not be replaced" and carried banners reading "No to secularism".

"Hamdok, Khartoum is not New York," other protesters cried, addressing Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who leads Sudan's transitional government.

Late last month, Hamdok had pledged to announce decisions that "may have a major impact" in the country.

Security forces blocked streets in central Khartoum and bridges connecting the capital with its twin city of Omdurman, the AFP correspondent said.

Unprecedented popular protests that kicked off in Sudan in December 2018 led to the ousting of Islamist president Omar al-Bashir in April last year after 30 years in power and set the course for civilian rule.

Read more: Sudan remembers bittersweet anniversary of sit-in that toppled former dictator Omar al-Bashir

Islamists largely stayed on the sidelines of the nationwide demonstrations.

Under Bashir's 30-year rule, the country adopted a more radical course of Islam, hosting Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden between 1992 and 1996.

It also imposed punishments including flogging and sent jihadist volunteers to fight in the country's civil war with the south Sudanese.

The US blacklisted Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, in a move that decimated the country's economy.

Sudan's transitional government, installed under a deal between protest leaders and the generals who took charge after Bashir's ouster, has been pursuing a string of reforms, seeking to rebuild ties with the US, boost its international standing and rescue its ailing economy.

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