Written by Lova
The grip of Islamist group Ansar Dine on northern Mali and their imposition of Islamic law or Sharia has recently been tragically demonstrated in Timbuktu. A couple who had a child out of wedlock, publicly received 100 lashes each [fr].
This video of the sentence being carried out, shared by MaliWeb [fr] on YouTube [WARNING: Graphic content], shocked many Malians and they reacted strongly across social media.
Imposition of Sharia
In Jeune Afrique, Mohamed Ould Baby, one of the town’s elected officials, describes the surreal scene of the sentence [fr] which shocked so many residents of Timbuktu:
On Timbuktu’s Sankoré square, a man and a woman each received one hundred lashes for having had a child out of wedlock [..] It was quite a spectacle, people watched it. I saw the young couple get down from a vehicle in the square, then the lashings. It’s the first time I’ve seen anything like this
Frozen by fear
The impact of the scene was heightened by the veiling of the young couple’s faces and the absence of any reaction from the spectators, as if they were frozen by fear or disbelief. The young couple were then forced to marry.
Moussa Kaka has seen this phenomenon–this “freezing” of people’s reactions–it has affected the population of Gao too [fr]. In Slate Afrique he reports:
The “calmness of Gao’s population… in a town (which) seems frozen”. Ansar Dine and the mujahideen control all of the occupied territory. “They control the lives of the population, they control the mosques, […] how to dress, how to live…”
In the same article [fr], another person states:
I was given forty lashes because I was smoking and I carried on smoking after they had forbidden me
The imposition of Sharia law in northern Mali [fr] is one of the main objectives of Islamist group Ansar Dine, who took control of Timbuktu [fr] following a shortlived alliance [fr] with the Touareg MNLA movement.
Malijet gives details of other acts of Sharia [fr] which have been implemented in northern Mali:
Last week members of Mujao burned cartons of cigarettes and whipped smokers in Bourem, a northern Malian town occupied and controled by the group. In May, in the town of Gao, they forbade young people from playing football and watching television, a move that provoked violent anti-islamist demonstrations.
Outrage among Malians
Many Malians are outraged by these punishments. But Ansar Dine is not the only group to face the wrath of Internet users. In the comment section of the Malijet news site [fr] where a video of the lashing was posted, Doumbia expresses her shame at the situation:
I’m ashamed of the Malian army, of the ECOWAS heads of state, of Malian politicians…I’m ashamed of myself faced with this barbarity perpetrated by rapists, murders, parasitic enemies of humanity… The elected deputies, the Ministers from the two ATT (Amadou Toumani Toure) terms of office, Malian army deserters, they’re all no better than these men.
Djéné adds [fr]:
It’s lamentable. We can’t carry on letting ourselves get trampled on by these people. Take a good look at the one doing the hitting and we’ll find him; he’ll get the same treatment. Their forced marriage is worthless, if they want to they can do it when the north is free. Young people you are my children and I’m ashamed of the country allowing this to happen.
In another post on the same issue commentator Momar calls on the government to take responsibility and intervene [fr]:
Mr Diarra, if you don’t do something about these barbarians as soon as possible we are going to force you out. Our souls and our digity are suffering greatly. But this hasn’t ever been seen before in Africa. It’s unbelieveable. Even after winning a war against these foreign savages, these acts of infamy will stain our consciences.
But not everyone agrees. Karaski think that Malians have a spiritual choice to make [fr]:
I don’t agree with the way these armed groups have landed in our counrty, and I think that it is for Malians to decide if Sharia law should be adopted. Nevertheless, quite frankly: this is just the practice of Allah’s commands. And we all need to tell ourself that those who disapprove of the punishment either because they find it inhuman, something out of the dark ages… they need to know that what they are rejecting is Islam, and they need to question the sincerity of their faith in Allah and the Quran.
Malien retorts to Karaski with another interpretation of Islam [fr]:
We respect universal human values, we don’t rape even though we aren’t Muslim, we don’t rob even though we aren’t Muslim, we aren’t drug traffickers, we aren’t irresponsible, we work and we provide for ourselves. If Islam means being like you; no we are not Muslim and we never will be. The Islam we know means peace, respect for yourself and others, respect for human dignity.
This post was originally published by Global Voices.