Anti-slavery activists decry Mauritania radio programme
By Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 27/07/12
Mauritanian anti-slavery activists rallied outside Radio Qur'an's offices in Nouakchott earlier this month to protest a controversial programme discussing slavery.
Activists from the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) claim the July 9th broadcast glorified slavery through the discussion of hadiths regarding the selling of slaves by the show host and a faqih.
Demonstrators raised banners condemning public media's alleged promotion of slavery through lectures and lessons, although there are laws prohibiting such a practice.
Meanwhile, the Popular Progressive Alliance Party condemned in a statement issued July 17th the broadcasting of the programme, and said it contributed to consolidating backward phenomena that threaten security and social peace.
"Radio Qur'an's broadcasting of programmes on this phenomenon is seen as an attempt aimed at perpetuating slavery by legalising its methods," the statement read. "This episode was like an ad promoting slavery rather than prohibiting the practice of slavery as enshrined in the constitution."
The party's statement added that "several similar episodes were aired and no one did or said anything about it. In this way, programme officials continued with their missions, and supervisors running institutions and those responsible for managing episodes could do it without anyone challenging them."
In his turn, MP Mohamed Mustafa Ould Badr al-Din, of the Union of Forces for Progress (UFP), criticised the radio broadcast in Parliament, saying that this showed the current government's lack of seriousness in combating slavery.
Following pressure from politicians and rights groups, Mauritanian authorities took action to address the issue. On July 17th, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs dismissed faqih Ahmed Ould Ahl Daoud from his post as the ministry's Islamic affairs advisor. The radio station also dismissed programme host Moustapha Omar because "he didn't intervene in guiding the programme", Aqlame.com reported.
In a statement to Magharebia about the circumstances of sacking Ahl Daoud, a source close to the fired faqih said that he "didn't mean to raise sensitivities, and the aim was not to consolidate slavery; he only talked about some rules in fiqh books that were written at a time when slavery was an actual practice, and he didn't want to apply that on the current situation in which no one approves of or justifies slavery".
"However, the issue has been politicised by some MPs and taken out of context," he added. "Ahmed Ould Ahl Daoud doesn't approve of slavery in Mauritania, and he only talked about scientific theories."
For his part, fired journalist Moustapha Omar told Magharebia, "I never considered practicing slavery as I'm convinced and aware that it no longer exists, and if it does, I condemn it."
"However, the radio station understands well that I didn't cross the previously agreed upon limits," Omar said. "In addition, the radio management knows the contents of book which we were studying; I agreed with it to teach the contents of book, and therefore, it's not right now to take me a scapegoat."
Meanwhile, activist Ali Ould Rafie told Magharebia that the government move to fire those behind the programme was a "positive step in combating slavery". "However, we're demanding more steps to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated," he added.
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