Current Events

Sudan Drops Death Penalty for Apostasy, Alcohol Ban for Christians

Coptic church and bell towers in Kosti, Sudan.

In one of a wide-ranging series of legislative reforms, apostates from Islam no longer face the death penalty in Sudan.

“We [will] drop all the laws violating the human rights in Sudan,” Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari said Sunday during an interview on state television.

“We are keen to demolish any kind of discrimination that was enacted by the old regime, and to move toward equality of citizenship and a democratic transformation.”

In April 2019, following weeks of massive revolutionary demonstrations, Christians joined in cheering the military overthrow of longtime President Omar al-Bashir.

In his place was installed a joint military-civilian Sovereign Council slated to govern until 2022, with rotating leadership.

Importantly, current head General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan endorsed the new revision. The move followed renewed protests demanding the government accelerate the pace of reforms.

A few days prior, Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, a civilian, replaced several cabinet ministers, fired the police chief, and criminalized female genital mutilation (FGM).

A UN-backed survey in 2014 estimated 87 percent of Sudanese women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been subjected to the procedure. The Miscellaneous Amendments Act—approved in April but only now publicized—also freed Sudanese women from…

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on July 13, 2020. Please click here to read the full text.


Grand Mufti Approves Death Penalty for ‘Innocence of Muslims’ Film Producers

From Egypt Independent:

Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa has approved a death sentence delivered in absentia for seven Coptic Egyptian expats accused of producing and acting a movie deemed insulting to Islam.

The declaration was made Tuesday by a judge at the Cairo Criminal Court.

Egypt’s State Security Court had sentenced the defendants in November to death and referred the verdict to the mufti for approval.

I hope politics did not come into this decision. The Mufti is generally known as a wise and moderate figure, who enjoys friendship with many Christian leaders. Among them is Bishop Mouneer of the Anglican Church, who has called for the criminalization of defamation of religion at the UN, but certainly not the death penalty.

The politics could come because the Mufti (as well as the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar) are targeted figures by the emerging Islamist parties who are salivating over control of Egypt’s religious institutions. Both the Mufti and the Grand Sheikh are holdovers from the Mubarak era. The Mufti may not feel comfortable standing in the way of this decision and watching the Islamists explode. Given that all the accused are resident outside of Egypt, perhaps he feels the damage is limited.

Only the damage will come to Islam in the eyes of the West. Does Islam truly call for the death of all who insult its prophet? Yes, the film was offensive and insulting – its round and absolute condemnation is necessary.

But the Mufti’s decision sets a precedent in the new Egypt. As the new constitution calls for the religious institutions to have a greater role in determining legislation, it is a moderate figure who first authorized one of Islam’s most controversial rulings.

The eyes of the West will be offended, but the real damage to Islam may well resound locally.

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