They burned Us in the name of religion

They killed Us in the name of religion

They jailed Us in the name of religion

But Religion is not to be blamed

Islam is innocent

Islam tells us to speak up and fight against tyrants.

 

–(Ala Salaah during Sudan Protests, 2019)

 

A

la Salaah, a 22 year old student, was the face of the recent protests in Sudan against President Omar al-Bashir. The protests, starting in December 2018, asked for an end to a 30-year dictatorial rule of Omar. The oppressions and violence of Omar’s regime were justified under the guise of imposing Islamic Sharia law. Mostly, it was women who had to bear the brunt of this Islamic dictatorship. It was perhaps for this reason that the majority of the protestors were women. They have been referred to as “Kandakas”, the powerful Queens who ruled the area 3000 years ago. Their protests finally brought an end to Omar’s rule on April 11th 2019.

The story of these Sudanese women and of Ala Salaah in particular is a story of hope and bravery. Their oppression became their reason to stand up against the cruel dictator. Instead of suppressing them, Islam became a source of their liberation. Learning from these protests, we should also reflect on how religion has been used to oppress women and justify dictatorships in our own Pakistani context and present a more just, liberating interpretation of Islam.