The First Islamist Republic: Development and Disintegration of Islamism in the Sudan (Review)
Near and Middle Eastern Studies
Near Eastern Languages and Societies
In this careful and engagingly written analysis of Hasan al-Turabi's decade in power, Abdullahi A. Gallab concludes that the experience of Sudan during the "first Islamist republic" (1989-99) serves as a warning against "ideological entrapments" (p. 167) of all kinds, and leads to the "realization that Islamism, like all other isms, can be and should be contested" (p. ix). Drawing upon extensive interviews with Sudanese Islamists, as well as upon Arabic and English studies, Gallab summarizes the Islamist experiment in dismal terms. He variously calls it a "reign of terror," a "trauma," a source of "despair," "an open-ended system of oppression," the product of a wide "range of deceits," a vehicle for the "violent suppression of other religious systems" and political voices, and a "charade" (pp. 4, 15, 78, 137). In Gallab's account, Turabi emerges as a manipulator and a megalomaniac (albeit a suave one) who entertained the creation of a "personality cult" (p. 112) around him.