Magharebia (Washington DC)

Mali Clerics Unite Against Extremists

Nouakchott — Religious leaders in Mali are urging politicians to set aside their differences and unite against extremists.

Hundreds of Malian religious leaders gathered in Bamako at the week-end to voice their opposition to radical Islamists.

Imams, muftis, Sufi leaders and religious scholars were joined by the interim president and prime minister, legislators and political party leaders at the 2-day conference, which wrapped up on Saturday (November 25th)

The event - the first of its kind ever held in the country - focused on consolidating the moderate Maliki school of law in the face of salafist hardliners. The religious leaders urged the spread of a message of peace through true Islam, which they said calls for tolerance and respect for others.

The seminar also addressed issues relating to peace and stability in Mali and the role that should be played by religious leaders in solving the current crisis. They also called on the country to reject jihadist ideology.

In his opening speech, cleric Chérif Ousmane Madani Haïdara appealed directly to Interim President Dioncounda Traore, Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra and coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo to urgently find a solution to Malian suffering.

"Malians are now going through the most difficult crisis of their history. They expect you to end their suffering, and this requires you to unite for the sake of your people. The country is suffering, and the people are waiting for you to take them out of this impasse," he said.

For his part, Captain Sanogo called on the assembled clerics to preserve national unity and to harmonise the various components of the Malian nation. He also reiterated the commitment of military forces to liberate the northern states from "invaders", L'indépendant reported.

No one could impose an ideology on Mali, which has a "moderate culture that is tolerant of religion", High Islamic Council head Mahmoud Dicko said.

"This assembly, which includes the most prominent Muslim clerics in Mali, is created by a will stemming from wisdom and a sense of uniting Muslims around a religion based on peace, tolerance and fairness and to help those in need," Dicko added.

The role of clerics in the Malian community was "crucial because people in their traditional religiosity reject violence and always seek to rely on moderate clerics", journalist Abdoulaye Diarra said.

"These clerics have always been a role model of tolerance and rejection of extremism," he added.

Malian clerics had already spoken out against "the terrorist actions that destroyed shrines and imposed Islam on the people by force ", Diarra said.

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