The interim constitution and other laws and policies provide for some religious freedom; however, apostasy, conversion to a religion other than Islam, blasphemy, and some interfaith marriages are prohibited. The interim constitution preserves Islamic law as a source of legislation. The interim constitution denies recognition to any political party that discriminates based on religion. There are no legal remedies to address constitutional violations of religious freedom by governmental or private actors.
The government announced that a new constitutional drafting process would draw heavily from Islamic law, but government officials stated that minority religions would be protected. The government generally respected religious institutions, but did not always actively protect the rights of religious groups against societal abuse.
Although there is no penalty for converting from another religion to Islam, converting from Islam to another religion is punishable under the law by imprisonment or death. A person convicted of conversion is given the opportunity to recant his or her conversion before capital punishment is carried out.
Under the government’s interpretation of Islamic law, a Muslim man may marry a Christian or Jewish women, but a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim unless he converts to Islam.
The law does not explicitly ban proselytism, although most Christian groups refrain from public proselytizing. Non-Muslim groups acknowledge that they could potentially face apostasy charges if they proselytize Muslims due to the vague wording of the apostasy law.
The penalty for blasphemy and “defamation” of Islam is up to six months in prison, whipping, and/or a fine.
Public order laws, based largely on the government’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, are in force in Khartoum State and prohibit indecent dress and other “offences of honor, reputation, and public morality.” Authorities applied these laws more frequently against women than men, and the law was applied to both Muslims and non-Muslims. The law is vague, granting the special Public Order Police and judges wide latitude in arresting and passing sentence on accused offenders.
The 1992 Prisons and Treatment of Prisoners Law states that the minister of justice can release any prisoner who memorizes the Qur’an during his prison term, in conjunction with a recommendation for parole from the prison director-general and a religious committee that consults with the Ministry of Guidance and Social Endowments to ensure that Islamic legal regulations are upheld.
The government has codified limited aspects of Islamic law into criminal and civil laws, with penalties dependent on the religion of the accused. For example, the distribution of alcohol to Muslims is punishable by 40 lashes for a Muslim; for a non-Coptic Christian, distribution of alcohol to Muslims carries the same punishment. However, Christians typically were not punished for producing or consuming alcohol within their homes. For Copts, the minister of justice approved a set of laws for the church’s members, provided by the Coptic Church in Cairo; therefore, all legal proceedings related to Copts, including alcohol-related issues, were transferred to church officials for judgment.
The Majma’a al-Fiqh al-Islami, an official body of 40 ulema (religious scholars) who are appointed by the president to four-year renewable terms, advises the government. It also issues fatwas (Islamic rulings) on matters including levying customs on the importation of religious materials and paying interest on loans for public infrastructure. However, this body’s opinions are not legally binding and share the public space with many other ulema representing other religious and political viewpoints.
The government supported Islam by providing funds for mosque construction throughout the country. The government also exerted influence over the established Muslim hierarchy by retaining the right to appoint and dismiss imams in most mosques in the North. Reportedly, imams found to be espousing takfiri ideology (a form of Salafism, which includes branding anyone who does not follow their interpretation of Islam as a kafir, i.e., an apostate), violent ideology, or inciting hatred were censured by the government, either by the minister of guidance and endowments or by security services. There were no reports that any imams were imprisoned for violent rhetoric during the year.
The labor law provides for reduced working hours during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims are fasting.
Religious organizations must register as nongovernmental, nonprofit organizations to claim exemption from taxes and import duties. All religious groups must obtain permits from the national Ministry of Guidance and Social Endowments, the state-level ministry of construction and planning, and the local planning office before constructing new houses of worship. The national ministry reportedly assists both mosques and churches to obtain duty-free permits to import furniture and religious items for their houses of worship at no charge.
The government often refused or delayed visas to foreigners affiliated with international faith-based organizations.
Under the state-mandated curriculum, all schools--including private schools operated by Christian groups--are required to teach Islamic education classes from preschool through the second year of university. Public schools are required to provide religious instruction to non-Muslims, but some public schools excuse non-Muslims from Islamic education classes. Private schools must hire a special teacher to teach Islamic subjects, even in Christian schools.
National government offices and businesses follow the Islamic workweek, with Friday as a day of prayer. Employers are required by law to give their Christian employees two hours before 10 a.m. on Sunday for religious activity. Christian employees are excused from work on Christian holidays.
The interim constitution specifically prohibits discrimination against candidates for the national civil service based on religion.
The Commission for the Rights of Non-Muslims in Khartoum provides a forum for dialogue on religious freedom matters. The commission provides a mechanism to address issues, such as those involving non-Muslims arrested for violating Islamic law, by advocating on behalf of non-Muslims with law enforcement agencies. It also issues regular reports and recommendations to the government. The government-affiliated Sudan Inter-Religious Council also seeks to broker interfaith dialogue.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Coptic Easter, Israa Wal Mi’Raaj, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Islamic New Year, and Christmas (for Christians only).