07 May 2016

The Guardian: “The struggle for Mali”

But there was a reason why the jihadists selected him as a judge. Daouda is a Salafist, a Saudi-trained scholar who had long preached against the Sufi practice of praying at the graves of holy men. He continues to espouse a deeply conservative faith that is at odds with the syncretic Islam, which blends many religious customs, that is traditionally practised in Mali.

Daouda eventually resigned from the sharia court, not because its sentences were too extreme, but because the jihadists refused to execute one of their own Arab fighters who killed a child. They believed that the soul of a white person is more important than the soul of a black person, he explained.

Despite his role in abuses during the occupation, Daouda has remained an influential figure in Timbuktu. With state authorities all but absent from the region, an investigation into his collaboration with the jihadists has been dropped, and his school remains one of the biggest providers of education in town.

Jack Watling and Paul Raymond

Another battleground against radical Islamism in Western Africa – and again, like the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria, sponsored in secret by the Wahhabi religious movement from Saudi Arabia. Despite worrying trends, I find the quote above from Imam Daouda Ali Maiga promising; at least on the issue of racial equality there seems to be a common ground with conservative Islam. 

A Rastafarian stands with Lassa’s Imam
A Rastafarian stands with Lassa’s Imam outside the village mosque. Photograph: Jack Watling for the Guardian

Haïdara has become deeply concerned by the politicisation of religion. The constitution is secular, he explained. But some of Mali’s Islamic leadership got involved in politics. I totally reject this. Everybody needs religious leaders: they go to them with their dead so they can pray over the funeral. If they have a wedding, they need them to lead the ceremony. If there is a conflict between two people, the imams resolve the situation. Politicians are all against each other. An imam shouldn’t be against anyone.

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