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Sudan's struggling government offers to go '100 percent Islamic'

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"It is about politics, about trading in people's emotions and beliefs, and using them as an instrument of politics, so Islam is a commodity in the political market," lawyer Abdelghani says.

There is another motive behind the Islamic push, he adds. "When things deteriorate, we will have a constitution shaped by the president's view, but not by what Islam is," Abdelghani adds. "When he feels he needs a tool to suppress his opponents, or sees a use for religion, then he will [use] it."

Reassurances to minorities

When Bashir spoke earlier this month, he sought to reassure the public and said the new Islamic constitution would protect the rights of all and be formed with wide input.

"And we tell non-Muslims, nothing will preserve your rights except for Islamic sharia because it is just," the Sudanese president said. A drafting committee would include "all parties, religious sects, and Sufis."

Despite those words, Sudanese politicians know the way the political wind is blowing. The head of parliament's legislation, justice, and human rights committee, Al-Fadil Haj Suleiman, was quoted in the local media saying that "any constitution outside of values and religious conventions will be met with fierce resistance from the society."

He added that an Islamic constitution "may not apply Islamic laws," but was taken to task by the editor of the Sudan Vision newspaper who noted wryly in print that Sudanese citizens already had "experience in the past Islamic laws and how they were implemented."

Among the most aware of the progress – and drawbacks – of Sudan's perpetual Islamist project is Hassan al-Turabi, the erudite Islamist leader who is widely seen as the man who engineered Bashir's rise to power but has since fallen out and spent years in prison as a staunch opponent of the regime.

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