Mauritania: Imams Plead For Moderation


By Bakari Gueye

Mauritanian imams celebrated Eid al-Fitr with fresh calls for moderation and peace.

Islamic texts “advocate peace and brotherhood between all men”, Ahmedou Ould Lemrabott, imam at the Great Mosque in Nouakchott, said on Sunday (August 19th).

He condemned “misinterpretations” of these texts and decried fanaticism.

Instead of the High Council for Fatwa, a committee for promoting virtue and preventing vice should be created, Ould Lemrabott said during the sermon, which was attended Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.


“This, along with justice, authority, the police and the market, are the foundation of an Islamic state,” he said.

Sidi Ould Bilal, an imam at the Oumar Ibn Abdel Aziz mosque in El Mina, noted that “Islam has forcefully condemned religious excesses that lead to wrongdoing”.

Extremist attitudes weaken Muslim society and jeopardise its cohesion, Ould Bilal said.

“Islam views all excesses as a cause of evil and a source of injustice, deviance and depravity. And with good reason, because excesses lead to fanaticism, which is contrary to healthy human nature and upsets the natural order of things as God wanted them to be.”

Ould Bilal insisted that “like religious fanaticism, thinking has its own forms of excess, both in theory and in practice”.

“That’s why moderation is an admirable quality which must prevail under all circumstances. Islam advises its followers to exercise moderation in their behaviour and adopt a middle stance,” he said.

The imam explained that the words “justice”, “moderation” and “equivalence” derive from the same root in Arabic. As such, moderation is a synonym for justice.

“Muslim society is a moderate society, because it believes in justice,” the imam told Magharebia. “This ideal runs counter to the allegations made against Islamic societies which are labelled as fanatical because of the supposedly extremist nature of Islam.”

Seydou Saar, an imam from the working-class district of Basra, struck a similar chord. “Islam stands apart from all fanatical tendencies, and in no way does Islamic society, much less the Islamic world, encourage any form of extremism,” he said.

“While there are isolated cases of fanaticism here and there, it is absurd to generalise and claim that Islam and Muslim societies contain the seeds of fanaticism,” Saar said.

“Moderation and balance are the two watchwords of the political education system in Islam. They lie at the heart of this concept,” he added.

He cited the hadith of Abu Hurairah: “Religion is comfort and ease. Anyone who seeks to be stronger than religion will be crushed by it. Follow the wise path of balance, strive gently for perfection, and be optimistic.”

“This hadith shows us the importance of not taking things too far. When it comes to practising religion, balance is the watchword,” Saar explained.

On the eve of Eid al-Fitr, President Ould Abdel Aziz called on Mauritanians to commit themselves more fully to the process of building the country “with total loyalty and perseverance”.


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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