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Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan’s Pioneering Reformer

The former United Nations economist implemented a half-dozen major new policies this summer, maybe the boldest changes in the Muslim world in a century.

Hamdok

Hamdok

Photographer: Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty Images

Sudan’s government, an alliance of civilian and military leaders formed after a popular uprising toppled dictator Omar al-Bashir, is meant to be a stopgap. But even with elections expected in 2022, Hamdok has embarked on an audacious sociopolitical reform program—perhaps surprising since he was a relatively obscure technocrat before his elevation to the premiership, recently serving in a senior UN post.

In July, Hamdok abolished laws against apostasy, ended punishment by flogging, criminalized female genital mutilation, scrapped rules requiring women to get a permit from a male family member to travel with their children, and loosened prohibitions on the sale and consumption of alcohol. Perhaps most remarkable of all, his government has pledged to separate religion from the state, effectively ending 30 years of Islamic rule. The last global Muslim leader to attempt such a transformation was Kemal Ataturk, who turned Turkey into a secular republic in the 1920s.