(Note: I’ve only recently become aware of what’s going in Sudan because of The Head Heeb. Read some of his background pieces (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), and continue to read him for the latest news. I want to throw in my two cents now, but don’t have the resources to give it the coverage it deserves on a regular basis.)
Sudan is known as a failed state – the type that gives a base of operations to terrorist organizations; Sudan was in fact home, briefly, to Osama bin Laden, and was bombed in 1998 by the US for allegedly building chemical weapons. The failure of the state has been a well-publicized civil war between the north (mostly Arab and Muslim) and the south (mostly black African and Christian). Depending on who spoke to the reasons for the war are preserving the union, ethnic or religious; the really insightful commentators managed to work out how to include all three.
The religious angle angered many Christian political groups in the US, which is what got the issue so much attention, as opposed to Rwanda. I’m glad they did; slavery is wrong, particularly in Islam where the Qur’an condemns it (2:177, 5:89 amongst others)*. However, now that the north-south war is ending, a series of new wars are erupting and one of the hot zones is the western region of Sudan, known as Darfur.
This war is a combination of ethnic and political as all the players are ostensibly Muslim. The government is attempting to keep control of this African region by creating a militia (janjaweed) of released criminals (ta’ibeen, those who have repented). According to The Economist of May 15th 2004:
The janjaweed have clattered into village after African village, torching the straw roofs of conical huts, killing young men who might join the rebels, raping women who might feed them [the rebels], and stealing everything they can carry off. Sometimes they brand the hands of women they rape, to make the stigma permanent. The have also torched dozens of mosques and torn up and defecated on copies of the Koran. Whatever inspires them, is it not Islam.
The article continues to talk about how the janjaweed are receiving support from the army and police; this is not a militia out of control, they are being actively supported by the government.
Another example of Muslim-on-Muslim violence. The question is where are other Muslims in condemning these atrocities? Waiting like they did in Bosnia for the culture and peoples to be destroyed, for the US to come in and fix things, so they can come in and spread their money around to institutionalize their hatred? Or is it simply racism that keeps them from caring if people use the Qur’an as toilet paper? I understand self-interest, and can respect that stance. Christian lobbyists only cared about Sudan because of abuse committed against Christians. It just goes to show what a fiction the idea of a unified Muslim community is.
*One of the theological arguments against slavery in Islam is that no one can be slave except to God. It’s a very easy argument to make when one looks at how the term slave (abd) is used in the text.