I realize that it is a bit late in the week to announce the Chutzpah of the Week award; but I have been busy (sufficiently so that I may have to explain more in a later post). However, even where chutzpah is concerned, good things come to those who wait; and this seems to be an instance that deserves to be reported on “the Lord’s day.” It concerns a report just filed on the BBC News Web site about Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan.
As those of us who follow the international news should know by now, Bashir is a man who takes Sharia law very seriously, particularly when it involves brutal punishment for crimes against the precepts of Islam. As a result the province of South Sudan, where most of the population follow either Christianity or older traditional beliefs (I am so glad that the adjective “pagan” is no longer used recklessly), will be holding of referendum on seceding from Sudan. Bashir has now announced that, should this province declare independence, he will change the Sudanese constitution to make Islam the official religion (and therefore Sharia the basic legal code) and Arabic the official language.
My reading of this action is that it is a dare to the Christians of South Sudan. Bashir is basically saying to them, “If you want your religious freedom in the south, your fellow Christians in the rest of Sudan will be penalized for your action.” In other words he has taken an attempt to solve a major human rights problem through legitimate political means and turned it into what amounts to a hostage situation. Any effort to influence the outcome of an election tends to involve some degree of chutzpah, but the degree in this case is high enough to warrant receipt of the Chutzpah of the Week award!