Mauritania: Islamists Seek Greater Political Role


By Jemal Oumar

The success of Islamist movements in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt gave a boost to Mauritania’s Tawassoul party but it also poses a challenge, some observers say.

“The Mauritanian Islamist current considers itself an extension of the Islamic currents that are now leading the political landscape in Maghreb revolutionary countries, such as Tunisia and Morocco, given that they share the same ideas, trends and methods that seek to Islamise society according to a moderate approach that conforms to modern democracy like the Turkish pattern,” said journalist Zine Abedine.

The challenge, however, is that Mauritanian Islamists are “still unable to attract citizens in the same way as Ennahda Movement in Tunisia and the Justice and Development Party (PJD) in Morocco”, Abedine said.

To cultivate his party’s relations with Maghreb counterparts, Tawassoul leader Jamil Mansour on December 1st visited PJD chief Abdelilah Benkirane in Rabat, Mauritania’s Al-Akhbar reported.

Journalist and moderate Islamist activist Ahmed Ould Wadia argued that “the Islamist movement today is assuming a prominent place in the Mauritanian political landscape and is prepared to play a role in political life”.

“If there had been an Arab Spring in Mauritania, the moderate Islamist movement would have taken its share of victory,” he said. “There is no doubt that Mauritania will join the other Maghreb contexts because the extent of these revolutions is the extent of injustice, despotism and unilateral rule.”

Ould Wadia argued that moderate Islamist parties across the region are “governed by a strategic belief in democracy and the possibility of reconciling Islam with modernity and intellectual common ground”.

To succeed, Mauritanian Islamists need to “launch a realistic field programme that talks to different Mauritanian categories”, according to Mohamed Salem Ould Dah, director of the African-Arab Centre for Information and Development.

“It also needs some sort of reconciliation with the other political factions in the country,” he added. “And I further believe that it needs to supply the scene with leaders who would be like symbols for it in the current stage because there is a shortage in leaders and a lack of their presence in tangible social work.”

Islamists’ standings in Morocco and Tunisia are different due to their accumulated experiences that date back to dozens of years, Ould Dah explained. “The societies of those countries have lived through a stage of spiritual and moral vacuum that made those peoples interact with parties with an Islamic reference on which they would attach their hopes to present solutions for their cultural and social problems,” he said.

“Meanwhile, the Mauritanian society has a religious background by nature and has some sort of religious culture,” Ould Dah added. “This is perhaps why the Islamic movement in Mauritania has been unable to present anything new unlike their counterparts in the Arab world.”


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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