Mali: Ansar Al-Din Fights For Support

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By Jemal Oumar

Islamic scholars in Kidal are refusing to allow Ansar al-Din to impose Sharia and wage jihad in northern Mali.

Some 100 Malian religious leaders announced their rejection of the Touareg Islamist group’s strategy at a June 18th-20th conference attended by Ansar al-Din leader Iyad Ag Ghaly.

The event deviated from the line charted by Ag Ghaly. All participants, whether clerics, religious scholars or traditional dignitaries, rejected his calls, especially his desire to impose Islamic Sharia in Azawad cities, as well as his call for jihad, RFI reported Friday (June 22nd).

The rejection of the Ansar al-Din approach by clerics deals a strong blow to the support base of the Touareg Islamist group loosely affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Moussa Ag Mohamed, a participant in the Kidal event, told Magharebia that “most of the scholars, in principle, gave their verbal acceptance of Islamic Sharia as per the approach adopted by the Islamic State of Azawad which was declared by National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) last month, and which considers the Qur’an and Sunnah as the only religious marji’ya (references).”

“But they refused to accept Ansar al-Din’s application of Islamic Sharia, such as flogging and torturing people, and have categorically rejected Iyad Ag Ghaly’s call for jihad,” Ag Mohamed explained. “Clerics have agreed that many criteria have to be first available before jihad can be declared,” he added.

Mubarak Ag Mohamed, a member of the MNLA media office, cited Timbuktu-based religious scholar and conference participant Yahya Ibrahim as saying the clerics “clearly rejected and condemned all those who follow Ansar al-Din and their ally AQIM”.

“In their different sessions, scholars said that the authority under Sharia goes to the President of the Islamic State of Azawad, Belal Ag Sharif, who is the guardian of Muslims,” the MNLA media officer told Magharebia. “Therefore, Iyad Ag Ghaly has to follow him; otherwise they would consider him to be a kharijite.”

He added that “they bluntly told Iyad Ag Ghaly that they would hold him responsible for any drop of blood shed in Azawad.”

“However, the most difficult situation that Iyad Ag Ghaly faced during that conference is Kidal population’s support for traditional leader and sheikh of Adagh tribes, Intala Ag Ataher, who also expressed his rejection of jihad and the application of Sharia during the conference,” the MNLA official concluded.

Responding to the event, Ansar al-Din official spokesperson Senda Ould Bouamama said Saturday (June 23rd) that those in attendance were “not real scholars”, adding they were “nothing”.

“Scholars who reject the application of God’s Sharia are not scholars but parasites on science,” the Ansar al-Din spokesperson said. “Regardless of their position, we’ll seek to get our message across, with a very clear goal to apply God’s Sharia as a way of life, and we don’t care about those who reject that.”

Abu Bakr al-Ansari, an analyst and journalist at Le Quotidien hailing from northern Mali, said the conference left Ag Ghaly “alone and isolated, as the last thing he was betting on was the clerics’ position”.

“Iyad Ag Ghaly has tried to impose himself, first on the population through thuggery but failed,” al-Ansari said. “He then tried to wear a robe of religiosity, but was rejected by the people. I consider this to be the beginning of the end for him.”

Gao-based journalist Osman Ag Mohamed Osman cited an example of Ansar al-Din’s harsh imposition of Sharia last week, when the Islamist group and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) flogged citizens for alleged adultery.

“Ansar al-Din whipped a couple for having a child out of wedlock in Timbuktu, while MUJAO flogged an unmarried man in Gao after accusing him of adultery, and is preparing to stone to death a married man for the same reason,” he told Magharebia.

Magharebia

The Magharebia web site is sponsored by the United States Africa Command, the military command responsible for supporting and enhancing US efforts to promote stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

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