Mauritanian mufti decries bigotry
By Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 14/11/11
In his Eid al-Adha sermon, Mauritania's mufti made an appeal for interfaith collaboration, reminding people that constructive relations with the West do not contravene Islamic law.
"Islamic sharia prohibits severing relations with non-Muslim states or rejecting to co-operate with them as long as these states don't occupy Muslim lands and don't fight Muslims to impose their religions on them," Ahmedu Ould Lemrabott Ould Habib al-Rahman said on Sunday (November 6th).
He added that "when Muslims establish relations with non-Muslim states, this doesn't necessarily mean that Muslims are allying with those states if the purpose of these relations is to bring benefits to Muslim peoples".
Islam accepts the other who has different religion and creed, Ould Habib al-Rahman stressed. He emphasised the importance of national unity and transcending differences.
The sermon is a rebuke of "the extremist ideas that al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its proponents have always promoted against Western countries and the need to expel them from Muslim land under the pretext that they are invaders and occupiers", commented analyst Rabii Ould Idoumou.
"AQIM's Mauritanian mufti Abderrahman Tandaghi and al-Qaeda emir in Mauritania Khadim Ould Semane have issued many fatwas about the permissibility of fighting countries that support, or are engaged by proxy in, war against mujahideen because they consider the Western countries as infidel countries trying to destroy Muslims," Ould Idoumou added.
The Mauritanian army is repeatedly mentioned in AQIM's statements as "an army allied with infidels against the mujahideen who are seeking to establish an Islamic state", he said.
The Mauritanian mufti often speaks about current issues, said analyst Mohamed Ould Mohamed Lamine. The pressing issue today is religious extremism that "Salafist jihadists and some of their assumed followers embrace", he added.
"The behaviour of Salafists who reject dialogue has shown that they don't respect the legitimacy of the political regime and that they promote their ideology among young people," Ould Mohamed Lamine added. "Therefore, the imam thought that the best way to deal with that ideology is fatwa, given that it is the same means used by deviators in getting their ideas across."
The mufti's words, however, did not go unnoticed by terrorists.
AQIM southern cell emir Khaled Abou El Abbas (aka Mokhtar Belmokhtar, or "Laaouar") gave a lengthy interview to Mauritanian news agency ANI three days later. The terrorist said that AQIM's strategy is to confront the West because "it is the real ruler of Muslim countries".
Furthermore, he confirmed that AQIM had obtained Libyan weapons from ousted leader Moamer Kadhafi's arsenal.
"We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world," Abou El Abbas said. "As for our acquisition of Libyan armament, that is an absolutely natural thing," he said, without elaborating on the nature of the weapons purportedly acquired.
The AQIM emir also expressed the willingness of his terror group to halt operations in Mauritania. "We do not refuse this in principle based on certain things," he said. "However, we don't believe this is the right venue to discuss and present things."
The statements raised a number of questions among security analysts.
"Has Laaouar reached a deadlock and started to look for a lifeline in Mauritania?" wondered Riadh Ould Ahmed El Hadi, a journalist and expert in terror group ideologies. "Is this due to his continued differences with partners in the Sahara emirate and his expectation of dangers that may be posed by Touareg rebels, together with the continuous pressures from Mauritanian army on the region since July 2010?"
Abou El Abbas cannot appease Mauritania "while continuing to kidnap hostages on Mauritanian soil", he added. "This is because Mauritania entered the war seriously only after kidnappings were carried out on its soil, and it would be strange for Laaouar to seek shelter in Mauritania in particular given that he's the one responsible for most operations that were carried by al-Qaeda on its soil."
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