The religious rift between Sunnis and Shi'ites in the Middle East, and the tension between the Arab countries, particularly the Gulf states and Egypt on the one hand, and Iran on the other hand are also manifested in Sudan-Iran relations. While the Sudanese regime maintains close ties with Iran, some Sudanese, especially those residing outside the country, have voiced concerns that Sudan may join the countries under Iranian influence. Over the past few years, there have been several uproars in the Arab press over perceived attempts by Iran to spread the Shi'a in Sudan, whose Muslim population is predominantly Sunni.
Following are excerpts from two articles warning about the Shi'ization of Sudan.
Article on Sudanese Website: "Since When Are There Shi'ites In Sudan?"
In an article posted on the website Sudanese Online (www.sudaneseonline.com), which is the main site of the Sudani diaspora abroad 'Ali 'Abdallah Hassan, a Sudanese journalist living in the U.S., criticized Iran's attempts to spread the Shi'a in Sudan:
"My heart bursts with sorrow and pain when I read in the papers expressions like 'Shi'a in Sudan,' 'the spread of Shi'a in Sudan,' or 'a Shi'ite book by a Shi'ite Sudanese publisher.' I must ask: Since when are there Shi'ites in Sudan, which has been known as a purely Sunni country for hundreds of years?
"[Moreover], none of the countries bordering Sudan are Shi'ite. So how did the Shi'ite creed cross rivers and seas, to infiltrate a Sunni country in the heart of Africa?
"We must face the bitter truth and acknowledge it: We Sudanese have neglected our faith and the tenets of our religion. [We] have allowed the largest Shi'ite country in the world, [namely Iran,] to exploit our [good diplomatic] relations with it and our kind and tolerant nature in order to carry out its evil plans, which are to export its ideological revolution and spread its Shi'ite faith among the Sunni Sudanese Muslims, right under the nose of our government, sheikhs and [religious] scholars."
"[Iran] Has Turned Its Embassy in Khartoum Into a Center for Spreading... the Shi'a"
"[Iran] has turned its embassy in Khartoum into a center for spreading... the Shi'a, aimed at prompting the Sudanese to forsake Sunni [Islam] and embrace Imami Shi'ism [instead]. To ensure the success of this plan, various Iranian-funded facilities have been established around the capital, including culture centers, libraries, institutions, and schools. These establishments are actually missionary centers for spreading the Shi'a...
"Many Sudanese have [indeed] embraced the Shi'a as a result of this malicious Shi'ite assault to which our Sunni Sudanese society has been exposed. In [just] a few years, more than 15,000 [Sudanese] have converted to the Imami Shi'a. Moreover, in the Sufi regions of Kordofan [province], entire villages have gone over to the Shi'a, and the Shi'ite mission has [even] reached Darfur.
"Husseiniyyas, [Shi'ite] pilgrimage sites, and [Shi'ite] mosques have sprung up in the capital and in various provinces, and the sheikhs of several Sufi orders have [recently] been seen wearing black Shi'ite turbans.
"[Moreover], some of the recent converts to the Shi'a have begun to spread Shi'ite philosophy in the capital and around the country, among students and in the large universities. Some have also begun to publish vile Shi'ite books, while other [such books] have appeared in the media and on the Internet. [Converts] have [even] found their way into the largest Sudanese website, Sudanese Online, in order to spread the Ja'fari Shi'a, and malign the Sunni creed."
"A Shi'ite Entity Within Sudan Constitutes a Threat to [Sudan's] National Security"
"The spread of the Shi'a in Sudan will bring [this country] nothing but crises, catastrophes, and civil war. The spread of [Shi'ite] principles within the conservative Sunni Sudanese society – [principles] such as slander against the Prophet's companions, who are presented as infidels; [slander] against the mothers of the believers; the sanctioning of pleasure marriages; and talk about the fabrication of the Koran – heralds [nothing but] internal strife and social unrest.
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"It would be no exaggeration to say that the presence of a Shi'ite entity within Sudan constitutes a threat to its national security. In any Sunni state, Shi'ites represent a fifth column supporting a foreign Shi'ite force, since their loyalty lies with Iran and not with their own country. True to their faith, the Shi'ites do not recognize the legitimacy of any Islamic government except for the government of the Imams or of the great ayatollahs who have replaced them. For them, the [supreme] religious authority is not the Sudanese mufti but the ayatollahs of Qom, Najaf, and Tehran. The best example of this is [provided by] the Shi'ites of Lebanon and Iraq."
"We Should Beware of This Shi'ite Octopus in Sudan... Otherwise, the Day Will Come When We See the Tanks of the Sudanese Hizbullah Racing Through the Streets of Khartoum"
"Look at the arsenals of weapons and missiles [available to] Hizbullah in Lebanon and to the Shi'ites in Iraq. We would be justified in asking where all these weapons come from. Where do Hizbullah and the Shi'ites in Iraq get their enormous funds?
"Who is fanning the flames of sectarian civil war in Iraq by [providing] arms and funds? Who is behind the explosions that cut short the lives of innocent Iraqis day after day? Who foils every attempt at attaining stability in Iraq and resuming development there, so that its people can enjoy peace and security? Who is the one who extends his hand from across seas and rivers in order to move the [chess]men on the Syrian, Iraqi and Lebanese chessboards?
"We should beware of this Shi'ite octopus in Sudan, before it is too late – otherwise, the day will come when we see the tanks of the Sudanese Hizbullah racing through the streets of Khartoum. We will also have a Sudanese Hassan Nasrallah, who will appear on a Sudanese Al-Manar channel to warn the Sudanese government about the grave consequences of assailing the rights and achievements of the Shi'ite community…"
Saudi Daily: "It Is Imperative That We Fortify the Sudanese Front, In Order To Protect [Sudan] From The Iranian Embrace "
Iran's increasing infiltration of Sudan has aroused concern in other Arab countries as well, since they too feel threatened by Iran. In an article published in the Saudi Daily Al-Riyadh in the wake of the attack on Omdurman by the rebel forces, Saudi columnist 'Abdallah Al-Qafari emphasized Sudan's strategic importance to the Arabs, and the danger of an increase in Iranian influence in Sudan. He wrote:
"…In terms of its geopolitical location, [Sudan] borders the eastern Arab [region] on the south and on the west, and forms a continuous stretch with the Arab Horn of Africa, which is embroiled in a prolonged and difficult war. The Nile flows through its territory, and it affords an important vantage point commanding the Red Sea.
"Abandoning Sudan, which has been confronting one conspiracy after another without help, is tantamount to [subjecting] the large neighboring Arab countries, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to continuous danger. The Sudanese regime is not infallible; however, what Arab regime is immune to error and has no enemies? Ultimately, [the Sudan regime] is an Arab regime, which has shared interests with the neighboring Arab countries, and concurs with them on some crucial issues, [in particular,] on how to deal with the obvious threats that have [recently] begun to stir up the region.
"Sudan and Somalia constitute [two] Arab issues that have been almost forgotten, in spite of [these countries'] geopolitical and economic importance. The Arab region is deeply polarized. We are currently bearing the brunt of alliances formed by Arab countries or elements with rising powers in the region, such as Iran, that have aspirations and objectives of their own.
"[Iran] is trying to build up its reputation by [launching] a nuclear program, and is capitalizing on its ties with those Arab elements, in order to protect this program, gain influence, and ensure the future of its regime.
"It is imperative that we fortify the Sudanese front, in order to protect [Sudan] from the Iranian embrace, and from any other element that might try to exploit the Sudanese regime's need for support in order to instigate new a regional crisis that would threaten the Arab countries' stability and security."
"Abandoning Sudan to Contend Alone With... the Conspiracies That Have Constantly [Beset It] for the Past 20 Years – Means Jeopardizing Future Arab Security"
"Sudan today is no less important than any other Arab country embroiled in conflict. Leaving it on its own to face various movements, as well as the blatant outside intervention via Darfur, would jeopardize the future of its regime – which would be extremely dangerous. Will the countries in the center [of the Arab region] survive if the periphery is hurt?...
"The Horn of Africa serves as a strategic safety buffer for the Arab countries adjacent to it, and today it is possibly [even] more important than the countries on the periphery. Sudan, with its resources of water, land, and oil, and with its promising future and strategic location, is a veritable shield for the Arab world. Abandoning Sudan to contend alone with... the conspiracies that have constantly [beset it] for the past 20 years means jeopardizing future Arab security."
 The most recent uproar was over a group of Sudanese journalists who participated in a workshop in Iran that was organized and funded by the Iranian Embassy in Khartoum (www.islamonline.com, July 6, 2008). Also, in December 2006, the Sudanese government was forced to intervene after a commotion erupted over Shi'ite propaganda literature displayed at the Iranian booth at the Khartoum book fair.
 Imami, or Twelver Shi'a, is the main branch of the Shi'ite faith.
 Shi'ite places of worship.
 This is another name for the Imami Shi'a.
 This refers to the Prophet's wives. The writer is referring especially to 'Aisha, whom the Sunnis revere and the Shi'ites despise.
 Shi'ite Islam permits mut'a marriages, which are temporary marriages for purposes of pleasure.
 The Shi'ites claim that the Sunnis forged parts of the Koran.
 Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), May 19, 2008.
 A reference to Darfur rebel movements.