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How The Crisis In Mali Is Intensifying Islamophobia Across Africa

Nearly half of Malians live in extreme poverty and many are without access to education or employment. The economy, dependent on gold mining and agriculture, is vulnerable to commodity price swings and increasing desertification. Armed groups have drawn upon deep resentment toward the state over rampant corruption and human rights abuses by security forces, and experts have continued to lament the situation of the country. 

Nearly half of Malians live in extreme poverty and many are without access to education or employment. The economy, dependent on gold mining and agriculture, is vulnerable to commodity price swings and increasing desertification. Armed groups have drawn upon deep resentment toward the state over rampant corruption and human rights abuses by security forces, and experts have continued to lament the situation of the country. 

The world has indeed become a global village, there is no doubt. And this is to the extent that what is happening in faraway Mali concerns the person in the United States and vice versa – let it be peace or conflict. It is how the world functions today. If a country gets positive results, it’s a cause for celebration by the country and its allies. In the case of a negative one too, that is what we see. And in Mali, it remains a serious case for the future of international relations.

Old rivalries between Fulani herders and Dogon farmers have been exploited by all sides, and are now further aggravated by demographic pressure on the land and the proliferation of guns. The state is generally absent, and religious and community leaders, unable to ensure the safety of their fellow villagers, are losing their authority, making it harder to solve tensions through the traditional and well-respected methods of conflict resolution, reports The Guardian

Nearly half of Malians live in extreme poverty and many are without access to education or employment. The economy, dependent on gold mining and agriculture, is vulnerable to commodity price swings and increasing desertification. Armed groups have drawn upon deep resentment toward the state over rampant corruption and human rights abuses by security forces, and experts have continued to lament the situation of the country. 

In Mali’s context, the French government is involved as well as some regional forces from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. In addition, the United Nations, through a peacekeeping body mostly known as MINUSMA or the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission, and the United States of America are also now involved.

The Crises and Islamophobia

Mali is a West African country that has a population of about 20 million people, and has been in different types of communal and political upheavals in recent years. Bambara accounts for 33% of the ethnic groups while Soninke, Senufo, Manlike, Dogon, and Sonrai make up the others. Bambara and French have been adopted as Mali’s official languages.

Because of the role religious leaders in the county play in the politics of the country, Malian religious leaders are active on political issues and often interact with the government. Their most effective forms of engagement often come from their independence from the authorities, the Crisis Group obverses. This is all happening despite Mali’s 1992 constitution clearly naming it as a secular country.

Mali’s religious leaders are heterogeneous and defy easy characterisation, often collaborating with one another on important issues, such as public morality and religion’s role in society, even when their practices diverge.

It is noteworthy to understand that some negative identities that are attributed to Islam and Muslims give rise to Islamophobia not only in the West, but across the continent of Africa as well. And the Mali conflict is one such case of this.

To some, the Katiba Macina or the Macina Liberation Front that emerged in central Mali under the tutelage of a Fulani preacher, Amadou Koufa, has also exacerbated the hatred that is being nursed in the heart of these Islamophobes, seeing the fact that the group has some links to global jihadi movements such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State. With more than 95% identifying as Muslims in the country, it is easier to give any kind of uprising in Mali an Islamic colouration and be viewed as a byproduct of violent extremism. 

This is beginning to, and will continue to have grave consequences not only for innocent Muslims across Mali but across the continent as well – most of whom are not connected to the likes of the Macina Liberation Front at all.

Conclusion

Both experts and non-experts should stop viewing religious activism in Mali purely through the lens of counter-terrorism, extremism, and radicalization – but rather instead from an objective perspective. A perspective that Muslims will not be looked at anymore from the prism of negative stereotypes. 

Also, stakeholders should stand up and add a voice in condemning all forms of discrimination against Muslims, especially of African origin as a result of the decade-long crisis that is happening in Mali. Since we all know crises like this make some people in the West think Islam is a threat to them, it becomes even more dire when it affects innocent lives across Africa and beyond. 

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