Islam in Mali: A Country in Crisis

The country of Mali in West Africa is in crisis. A military coup in March was followed by a revolt of Tuareg fighters, who seized two-thirds of the northern part of the country. This has left a country divided. It has left Malian Muslims divided.

There are armed groups in the north that are Malian-led — the Islamist sect Ansar Dine and the MNLA, the Tuareg separatist movement. But there is also the presence of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a Mali-based Islamist militant organization with an aim to overthrow the Algerian government and institute an Islamic state. A story last week (11/29/12) via Al Jazeera included a taped message from the head of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb that warns Malians against “foreign invading crusaders.” He called for reconciliation of Muslims in Mali without bloodshed. He urged Malians to save the country from outsiders who sought to divide the country.

Watch a portion of the taped message in the Al Jazeera story here.

But another side of the story can be read in The Guardian. Here Malians express their readiness to fight to regain the north, but these displaced persons seek international help to do so.

Hear from Malians in The Guardian story here.

The U.N. Security Council will consider a plan for regional intervention on Wednesday (12/5). The plan includes a force of 3,300 soldiers from the African Union and ECOWAS (Economic Community Of West African States) to assist the Malian army to retake the northern region, likely in the second half of 2013. Mali interim President Diouncounda Traore believes if the terrorists are allowed the time to dig in their heels in the north, they will attack neighboring countries; he calls for action much sooner and believes that the threat to global security is too great to wait.

Read more of Presdient Traore comments here.

UPDATE (12/6/12): The Malian government and the two rebel groups Ansar Dine and the MNLA sat down for talks in Burkina Faso on Tuesday. They agreed to respect the country’s “national unity.” A statement issued after the talks said that they agreed “on the respect for Mali’s national unity and territorial integrity”, and “on the rejection of any form of extremism and terrorism.” Despite the agreement, neighboring countries are still seeking a call from the U.N. to authorize military intervention as “no commitments” other than gathering for negotiations have been made.

Read more about the talks here.

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