The interim constitution and other laws and policies provide for some religious freedom, but prohibit apostasy, conversion to a religion other than Islam, blasphemy, and some interfaith marriages. 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 and specifically prohibits discrimination against candidates for the national civil service based on religion. There are no legal remedies to address constitutional violations of religious freedom by governmental or private actors.
The law punishes conversion from Islam to another religion by imprisonment or death, although the government did not charge anyone with the crime during the year. By law, a person convicted of conversion has an opportunity to recant. The law does not explicitly ban proselytizing, but the vaguely worded apostasy law criminalizes both apostasy and acts that encourage apostasy.
The penalty for blasphemy and “defamation” of Islam is up to six months in prison, flogging, and/or a fine.
Under the government’s interpretation of Islamic law, Muslim men may marry Christian or Jewish women, but a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man unless he converts to Islam.
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.” The vaguely worded law grants the special public order police and judges wide latitude in arresting and passing sentence on accused offenders.
By law, the justice minister can release any prisoner who memorizes the Quran 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 decisions comply with Islamic legal regulations.
Criminal and civil laws include some limited aspects of Islamic law, with penalties dependent on the religion of the accused. For example, the penalty for a Muslim or a non-Coptic Christian convicted of distribution of alcohol to Muslims is 40 lashes, but the authorities typically do not punish Christians for producing or consuming alcohol within their homes. Coptic Church officials handle all legal proceedings related to Copts, including alcohol-related issues, under the terms of Coptic Church-provided laws approved by the justice ministry.
The president appoints an official body of 40 Muslim religious scholars to four-year renewable terms to advise the government and issue scholarly religious opinions (fatwas) on matters including levying customs on the importation of religious materials and paying interest on loans for public infrastructure. However, its opinions are not legally binding. Other Muslim religious scholars are free to present differing religious and political viewpoints in public.
The labor law provides for reduced working hours during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims fast.
To claim exemption from taxes and import duties, religious groups must register as nongovernmental, nonprofit organizations by submitting formal applications to the Ministry of Guidance and Social Endowments. The ministry regulates religious practice, to include activities such as registering Christian churches and reviewing Friday sermons at mosques. The ministry reportedly assists both mosques and churches in obtaining duty-free permits to import furniture and religious items for houses of worship. Before building new houses of worship, all religious groups must obtain permits from the Ministry of Guidance and Social Endowments, the state-level ministry of construction and planning, and the local planning office.
The state-mandated curriculum requires all schools, including private schools operated by Christian groups, to teach Islamic education classes from preschool through the second year of university. Public schools must provide religious instruction to non-Muslims, but some public schools excused non-Muslims from Islamic education classes. Private schools, including Christian schools, must hire a special teacher to teach Islamic subjects, but non-Muslim students are not required to attend those classes.
National government offices and businesses follow the Islamic workweek, with Friday as a day of prayer. The law requires employers to give Christian employees two hours before 10 a.m. on Sunday for religious activity. Christian employees receive leave from work on Christian holidays.
The Sudan Inter-Religious Council is a body of scholars, half of whom are Muslim and half Christian, which advises the Ministry of Guidance and Social Endowments and seeks to broker interfaith dialogue. It is partially government-funded and the state appoints some of its members.
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).