By Jemal Oumar
In a step described as new and surprising, Jamaat Dawa wa Attabligh (“Society for Call and Spreading Faith”) in Mauritania announced last month that it was willing to co-operate with the government.
The moderate Islamist group made the announcement following a December 25th meeting with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. The statement was the first political message of the group since its establishment in Mauritania several decades ago. Jamaat Attabligh had previously been known for its centrist views and avoidance of politics.
In a statement issued by group spokesman Inejih Ould Sidna after the presidential meeting, Jamaat Attabligh said the discussions were motivated by a desire to “spread the culture of peace among the different components of society and enhance peace in the universe”.
“We want good for everyone, and we co-operate with everyone in the nation, whether kings, presidents, rich or poor,” the statement added.
Group member Abdelbarka Ould Tayeb told Magharebia that the president discussed ways to create people “moderate in their thought away from religious deviation or extremism”.
“Our main goal is the reform of real, tolerant and peaceful Muslim, as by reforming the human being, the entire Muslim nation will be reformed and will distance itself from exaggeration,” Ould Tayeb said, adding that the meeting was “not political in nature”.
Some Mauritanian observers considered the meeting with Ould Abdel Aziz as the first official contact between the group and Mauritanian authorities in several years. The meeting also comes amid noticeable tensions in relations between the Muslim Brotherhood, represented by the Tawassoul Party, and the current regime in the country, according to analyst Mokhtar Salem.
“Ould Abdel Aziz’s meeting with Jamaat Dawa Wa Attabligh explains the current regime’s desire to attract all Islamist movements, such as Jamaat Dawa Wa Attabligh and Sufi orders, as an alternative for the Muslim Brotherhood. This is because the Muslim Brotherhood is now posing a major electoral threat in Mauritania after they dominated elections in other Maghreb countries and Egypt,” Salem added.
Journalist and political analyst Saeed Ould Habib said Mauritanian authorities have a desire to get closer with Islamic movements in the country. He added that “since the fall of former President Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalah in the mid-1980s, subsequent Mauritanian regimes never treated the Islamic movements so well.”
“However, it seems that the domination of Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists of the political scene is now imposing a new way for dealing with them,” Ould Habib added. “There is a clearer desire on the part of Mauritanian regime to form written or implied alliances with the Islamic currents, but at the same time it is keen on neutralising the Muslim Brotherhood (Tawassoul) from such alliances.”
Meanwhile, Mohamed Ould al-Aqel, an expert in Islamic groups in Mauritania, echoed the opinion that the meeting was aimed at attracting centrist religious figures.
“The goal of all of this is perhaps to examine the possibility of founding a moderate Islamic party that avoids, in its discourse, the radical revolutionary trends that now form a part of the discourse of the Muslim Brotherhood’s National Rally for Reform and Development Party (Tawassoul),” he said.