Sudan: Memorizing Quran or Bible as a prerequisite for prisoner pardon questioned

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Some members of the interim National Assembly are opposed over a law which requires long-term convicts to memorize either the Holy Quran or the Holy Bible as a precondition for pardon.

Member of the Interim National Assembly Suleiman Hamid told the press in Khartoum last evening that article 51 of the prisoners’ laws contradicts the constitution of Sudan and the faith of individuals.

Suleiman Hamid said, “What is stated in this article is contrary to the laws, because it says that a prisoner whether Christian or Muslim must memorize either the Holy Quran or the Holy Bible so as to be released. This is actually contrary to article 1 stroke 7 of the interim national constitution which states that people must be judged equally regardless of their race, religion, gender or language. This can not be the criteria for releasing someone because there are people who have memorized the Quran but continue to commit crimes.”

But another Member, Kassim Ali said that it is good for criminals to memorize the holy books because they can influence their lives and stop the bad habits and behaviors which lead them to being imprisoned. He said, ”The Holy Quran is a great book which if read can influence peoples ways of behaving. There is nothing wrong in making prisoners memorize it”.

Southern Sudan human rights initiative coordinator, Kassim Baray said that it is unfair to make people memorize the Bible and the Quran as a prerequisite for pardon. Kassim said, ”That is against the freedom of worship as enshrined in the constitution. What of prisoners who do not believe in Quran or Bible? What will they be given to memorize? It is absurd to force some one to read a holy book. After all there is no guarantee that after reading it they would reform.”

The members of parliament have organized a forum in the assembly to debate on the state of prisons in Khartoum which they say are dens of illicit drugs and homosexuality, which is considered as an illegal behaviour and attracts the capital punishment. They want to come up with ways of improving the conditions in the prisons and decongesting them because they are overcrowded.

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