Around 60 people gathered for a PRIO seminar on the historical background of political Islam in the Sudan. The seminar included introductions by Professor R. S. O’Fahey (University of Bergen) and Dr. G.P. Makris, Panteion University (Athens), and Dr. Endre Stiansen (PRIO). Arguably the history of political Islam in the Sudan goes back to the establishment of the Mahdist state (1885-1898) in last decades of the 18th century. After the colonial period (1898-1855), Islamist focused their aspirations on the drafting of an 'Islamic Constitution', and saw this as the primary means to rid the country of secular ideas. Their efforts met resistance from liberals and the large non-Muslim minority, among other things because the Islamist discourse was seen as couching racial stereotypes and delegitimizing dissent. In 1983 the then President Numairy Islamized the legal system thus effectively creating an Islamic state. This contributed to reigniting the civil war that had ended in 1972 with the signing of the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement. In 1989 a military coup by a group of officers belonging to the Islamist movement heralded a period of radical Islamization of the society. By this time, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement had emerged as the most articulate opposition of the Islamist project, and it promoted its own secular ideology. The civil war became as much a 'war of visions' as a struggle for political and economic control. This meant that the peace negotiations had to address the issue of the political role of Islam. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of January includes quite detailed provisions on Islam and sources of legislation and minority rights. The compromise that was at the heart of the deal recognized certain key demands of proponents of political Islam but only at a price that some may consider too high. The case of the Sudan demonstrates not only the forcefulness of Political Islam in the contemporary world, but also the limits of compromise.

There were three presentations:
* Professor R. S. O’Fahey discussed political Islam in the Sudan as seen from Dar Fur;
* Dr. G.P. Makris, Panteion University (Athens), examined the evolution of political Islam in the Sudan from the 1960s to the present; and
* Dr. Endre Stiansen, PRIO, elaborated on how the issue of 'Islam and politics' was dealt with in the peace negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.