The Last Chance at Making a “Sudanese Ataturk”! Lost or Not Yet?

Why did Complete Secularism fail in Sudan? Who is responsible?

Mekki ElMograbi

Kamal ATATURK, the “Father of the Turks”, is the Muslim leader who abolished the Islamic caliphate and became the founder of modern Turkey.

He is famous for his tough progressive anti-sharia reforms, which modernized Turkey into a secular, industrial nation.

Three Pan-Islamic Caliphate Conferences were held in Cairo, Jerusalem, and Mecca from 1926 to 1931, but none could reach a consensus on declaring a new Islamic caliphate.

Some writers said this failure was one of the strongest sources of inspiration for Muslim elites to support “political Islam” as a way of compensation and creating a new leadership.   

Some revolutionary activists and bloggers in Sudan prefer to call Hamadok “the founder”.

 The leftists, and “anti-political Islam” groups wanted Hamadok to establish a modernized Sudanese republic after revolutionary change ended the Islamic state of Omar BASHIR in April 2019.

Finally, they realized that Hamadok cannot be Ataturk and Sudan is not Turkey.

I do believe that the only similar Muslim leader to Ataturk is Habib BOURGUIBA of Tunisia.

Although other leaders were brutal anti-Islamist such as Jamal ABD-ALNASIR, Muammar AL-AGHAZAFI, or Saddam HUSSAIN, they were however, anti-west and non-progressive.  

BOURGUIBA died in 2000. He was the President of Tunisia 1957–1987, and he was the only open anti-Hijab Muslim leader. However, in reality, he was the only successful Arabic version of Ataturk.

The Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla HAMADOK, former communist and Economic expert with the UN, appeared at first to be a Sudanese Ataturk.

According to my personal knowledge of him, he is a person who prefers to bring all people together and not to lead people with controversial issues that threaten their peace and unity.

Also, he usually refrains from imposing his personal views on people around him, giving them time to reach what he had reached. That means, it is impossible to make him the Sudanese Ataturk.

I criticized him for wasting the transition’s dear time without the needed economic reforms.

I still criticize the transitional government for giving priority to social change while deep and strong economic reforms can lead to social change without the cost of governmental intervention in an Islamic country that still strongly dominated by conservative concepts and traditions. 

During the fight between “change supporters” and the Islamic mainstream on “Al-Garray issue”, I insisted that the government will lose its energy and power in a hopeless challenge with no result and will give a new life to Islamists to return.    

Currently, Hamadok is not just distancing himself from the Ataturk model, he is getting closer to the image of a traditional Muslim leader in order to destroy the negative campaign that was launched against secularism and his government.

In April 2021, the Prime Minister visited one of the Sufi figures, Sheikh Al-Yaqout, south of Khartoum, accompanied by three ministers from his cabinet, where they had a Ramadan Iftar at Al-Yaqout’s Mosque.

Hamdok stressed the role that the Sufi orders are playing in the call to Islam in Sudan and Africa and their norms and ethics in supporting peaceful coexistence.

The positive side of the story is that the Prime Minister is getting closer to Sudanese people via his direct visits and informal improvised speeches.

He told them the anecdote of a Sufi Sheikh who, when his followers brought him a drunken man, said “he did his best in drinking, that means if he becomes religious he will be the best, let us talk to him and show him the right way instead of punishing him”.

The other side of the story is that there is no more chance for more secularism in Sudan.

The debate now started within the ruling alliance on reconciliation with Islamists.

More changes are happening, the large funeral of the secretary-general of the Islamic movement Al-Zubair AL-HASSAN, and the gathering at his home that joined all Islamic groups and parties, also other events that witnessed Islamic gathering for Ramadan Iftar.

All these factors, combined with the deteriorating performance of the government and the worst economic crisis after the change, have paved the way for thinking about wider national reconciliation to avoid total collapse.    

There was a historical opportunity to make major secular changes in Sudan and to defeat Islamists but things went wrong! Why?

A historical phrase came to my mind when the Kushite fighters were defeated by Assyrians.

Nubians were able to rule ancient Egypt during the 25th Family; they defended the Jewish kingdoms, and King Taharqa was mentioned in the bible as the “protector of Jerusalem” but  Ushankhuru, the young son and crown prince of Taharqa led the army to a great defeat.

The Assyrian Sennacherib mocked King Hezekiah of Judah for relying on a “broken reed”, 2nd Kings 18:21 referring to the young prince.

The US and European supporters of Secularism in Sudan, all other friends from Arab countries realized now that the freedom and change alliance with its fresh leaders – regarding secularism in Sudan – was nothing but a broken reed.

Back to top button