Mauritanian Ulema Confront Extremism

Nouakchott — Mauritanian religious leaders diagnose "the basic ills of society" and recommend ways to combat radicalism.

More than fifty Mauritanian scholars, imams, clerics and government officials recently wrapped up a three day conference where they collaborated on ways to combat extremism.

The Mauritanian Ministry of Islamic Affairs with the Mauritanian Association of Ulemas concluded the training forum on February 20th in Nouadhibou, 450km north of Nouakchott.

The three-day forum focused on topics related to Islamic identity and the concept of the state from an Islamic perspective. In addition, it addressed the socio-economic dimension of state-building and the seriousness of extremism as it affects the entity of the nation.

Participants left the event with a number of recommendations, including the need to establish a zakat fund and increased promotion of justice in order combat extremism and fanaticism, AMI reported.

Other ideas included increased care for mosques and religious schools, and encouraging the involvement of women at such forums.

The event "called for a prominent role in guiding our youth and linking them with behaviour and ethics of the Islamic religion known for tolerance, openness and moderation, and rejection of all forms of violence and extremism", Islamic Affairs Ministry official Mohamed Hadi Ould Taleb said at the closing of the event.

The forum "made it possible to diagnose the basic ills of society from the point of view of the clergy", Association of Mauritanian Ulema Inspector General Bouna Omar Ly.

He also stressed on the other hand the issue of national unity and added that diagnosing these diseases and finding solutions for them would support the state in its development programs.

There was also discussion on the role women could play in confronting extremism, women's rights activist Salema Mint Cheikh said.

Although the recommendations did not provide a specific role that women could play, Cheik said that in general, women were better able to confront extremism.

"Women are the first school. If they were involved effectively, extremism would not have found its way to us," she said.

She added that most extremists were influenced by radical ideas because they were uneducated, and the vast majority who weren't influenced came from families that were literate.

She demanded a focus on informing and educating women. She noted that they were victims of forced illiteracy, neglect and denied participation in the development of a strategy for the eradication of extremism.

"Through the role that can be played by educated women and teachers in the schools... enlightenment and education can be spread. In addition, there should be an addition in the curriculum that shows in a simplified manner the difference between extremist ideology and the tolerance of Islam," she said.

"There is no more effective way to confront extremists than dialogue, and to develop awareness and education to confront deviance," researcher in Islamic thought Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Bashir said of the forum.

He added that education and literacy played important roles in combatting extremism radicalism and that the majority of extremists were ignorant of religion "while considering themselves at the same time to be protecting it".



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