Sahel ulemas partner against extremism
By Hayam El Hadi in Algiers and Jemal Oumar in Nouakchott for Magharebia – 01/02/13
Religious leaders from Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania this week decided that the most effective way to support peace and eradicate extremist ideas would be to work as a team.
The imams, who initially came together in November to condemn the extremism in Mali, met in Algiers on Wednesday (January 30th) to formally launch the League of Ulemas of the Sahel.
Imams of the Maliki rite across the Sahel will work to educate youth about the dangers of extremism, particularly by working closely with mosques and youth centres, said Algerian imam Youcef Mechri, the new body's secretary-general.
"We are convinced that only religion can provide a moral solution to the multidimensional crisis and the evils that threaten us. We must defend religious references in our region to cut off the preachers of violence and destruction," said Nigerien Imam Boureima Abdou Daouda, the League's president.
The ulemas unanimously denounced the crimes committed in the name of Islam, recalling that religion condemns violence, intolerance, extremism and terrorism.
Just as highway bandits use police and military uniforms to trick people before robbing them, extremists use Islam as a way of deceiving young people into joining their criminal activities, El Watan quoted Sheikh Mouadou Soufi of Burkina Faso as saying.
"Everybody knows that our religion teaches us neither violence nor terrorism, but the love of others and tolerance. What is happening in northern Mali is serious violations such as forced marriage, amputation of hands and stoning, are a result of misinterpretation of the Qur'an," he added.
Parents and schools play an important role in the fight against terrorism, imam Said El Djazairi said.
Extremism "halts charity, and creates fear of religion, pressure on Muslims and occupies people with controversies at the expense of work and construction in life," the Algerian imam said.
"I welcome this step of the ulemas because it supports the fight against extremist ideology among young people, due of course to the weight of the participants. In fact, some of them represent a model for Maghreb and African youth," Mauritanian youth activist Amar Ould Dahmed told Magharebia.
"I think that this meeting, which includes a number of countries affected by terrorism, is long overdue," Ould Dahmed added.
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