Curtain falls on Sudan’s Islamist Hassan Turabi

Dr Turabi was accused of helping build the global terror empire.

Thursday March 10 2016

Mourners carry the body of Veteran Sudan Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi during his funeral on March 6, 2016 in Khartoum. During his more than half century of activism, Dr Turabi was loved and hated in equal measure. PHOTO | ASHRAF SHAZLY |

Mourners carry the body of Veteran Sudan Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi during his funeral on March 6, 2016 in Khartoum. During his more than half century of activism, Dr Turabi was loved and hated in equal measure. PHOTO | ASHRAF SHAZLY | AFP

By MOHAMMED AMIN
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KHARTOUM, Wednesday

A few days to the end of June 1989, renowned Sudanese Islamic scholar, Dr Hassan Abdullah al-Turabi, summoned a military commander, Col Omar Hassan al-Bashir, to be the leader of a military coup the former had planned.

Col Bashir was in charge of Mayom County in Unity State.

Col Bashir, who was one of the members of the Islamic organisation in the Sudanese national army, immediately went to Khartoum in response to Dr Turabi’s order.

He presided over a military coup against the democratically elected Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Since that day, Dr Turabi assumed a larger-than-life status on the Sudanese political arena, a role he retained till his death last Saturday.

However, the relationship between the king maker and the king would, a decade later, hit a rocky stretch.

In 1999, a now entrenched Bashir ditched Dr Turabi, who then mutated into one of the president’s fiercest critics.

In his 84 years on earth, Dr Turabi remained a threat to many powerful people, not only in Sudan, but also around the world.

It will be recalled that Dr Turabi once hosted Osama bin Laden, the founder of the global terror group Al-Qaeda.

JIHADISTS HAVEN

By that single act, Dr Turabi was accused of converting Sudan into a haven for the jihadists and helping build the global terror empire.

Dr Turabi’s death left millions of Sudanese and others around the world in awe.

How could a man who commanded so much influence over millions exit the stage so suddenly and quietly?

The controversial scholar has left behind dozens of books on his Islamic vision. During his more than half century of activism, Dr Turabi was loved and hated in equal measure.

Whereas he was a great thinker and a pragmatic politician to his admires, to others he was an extremist religious bigot and a divisive figure who has left the world worse than he found it.

Dr Turabi faced strong opposition from the leftists, liberals and Islamic Salafists, who often accused him of apostasy due to his controversial ideas.

Even before he was laid to rest, arguments erupted on social media between his opponents and supporters.

Thousands of activists launched a boycott campaign for his burial ceremony.

They blamed him for being the main cause of the Sudanese crisis by undermining the democratic transformation, occasioning the secession of South Sudan, igniting civil unrest and spreading radical Islam, among other ills.

His supporters countered the critics, mourning Dr Turabi’s death as a big loss to Sudan and the Islamic world.

However, thousands of people turned up for his burial ceremony on Sunday morning in Khartoum.

WRATH OF WESTERN POWERS

Dr Turabi, in 1991 organised the Arab Islamic International Conference in Khartoum, incurring the wrath of Western powers.

In his remarkable testimony before the US Congress on May 5, 1992, Dr Turabi hinted at the need for support to the international organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood, to prevent it from mutating from a moderate to a radical outfit.

He further hinted in his address at the Washington Institute for Global and International Studies that terrorism would spread everywhere around the globe, unless the West supported what he called ‘’the moderated Islam’’.

Dr Turabi was also accused by his rivals of converting the war in South Sudan (before the peace agreement in 2005) from political to a religious one, and enlisting thousands of university students to fight as jihadists against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) rebels in the south.

The cleric from time to time released religious edicts pledging a paradise to those ‘’martyred’’ in the war against the ‘’secularists and Western tools’’ of the SPLM rebels headed Dr John Garang.

After his 1999 fallout with President Bashir, he backtracked, saying there were no martyrs at all.

On South Sudan’s Independence Day on July 9, 2011, hundreds of the country’s youth celebrated shouting "goodbye sharia" slogans, mocking the Islamic law designed by Dr Turabi.

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