For some time now I have been following the Mauritanian Salafi Sheikh Muhammad al Hasan Ould Dedew and the country’s Islamist Tewassoul Party, for which Sheikh Dedew acts as a spiritual mentor. One important aspect of Islamist activism in Mauritania is Islamists’ deep concern with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This concern has taken the form of protests, including pressure on the Mauritanian government to break ties with Israel (Mauritania recognized Israel in 1999 and suspended relations in 2009), and in the form of trips by Mauritanian Islamist delegations to Palestine. For example, Tewassoul’s Vice President Mohamed Ghoulam Ould Hadj was on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in 2010.
I was therefore interested to read in the Mauritanian press (Arabic) about a convoy recently organized in part by Mauritania’s National League for the Assistance of the Palestinian People. The convoy’s members traveled to Gaza earlier this month to distribute aid and attend events such as the December 8 rally celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Hamas’ founding. The convoy included Sheikh Dedew, as head of the delegation, Ould Hadj (who heads the League), and Saleh Ould Hannena of the Hatem Party (Arabic; Wikipedia bio here). Worth noting is that both Hamas and Tewassoul have roots in the Muslim Brotherhood.
The delegation returned to Mauritania yesterday. You can read a first-person account of the first leg of the trip here (Arabic), and more coverage of the return (with photographs) here (Arabic). The press refers to the delegation as the “Shinqit Convoy 3,” suggesting there were two previous delegations, though I have not been able to find references to them online.
This video contains interviews, in Arabic, with participants in the convoy, including Ould Hadj, a student leader, and others. I have embedded Sheikh Dedew’s speech at the Hamas rally below.
I have no major analytical point to make about the convoy – and I am not trying to gin up any alarm over Tewassoul’s contact with Hamas. My interest is in three issues: (1) how different Muslim movements and communities respond to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even in places the international media often treats as peripheral; (2) how Tewassoul’s activism on Palestine relates to its broader position within Mauritanian domestic politics; and (3) how Sheikh Dedew frames his interventions on the Palestine issue, and how this issue relates to his broader self-presentation as a religious leader. The convoy is one data point to consider in thinking about those questions.
Reblogged this on @lissnup and commented:
This convoy to Gaza stirred a range of emotions in Mauritania. The most uncomfortable ones concerned the very large sum of donations collected. No one begrudges these donations for a moment, yet this event’s success highlights the difficulty of raising funds for the very many needy causes in Mauritania. There are hundreds of families in need of clothes, shoes, blankets and basic medicines who are really suffering this Winter.
Then there were the inevitable questions and comparisons about the political aspects of the trip. Some queried the timing, which allowed Sheikh Dedew a photo opp with a Hamas leader. I don’t think the leader of the Hatem party followed suit. On the sidelines of social media discussion were a few posts taking pot-shots at Tewassoul, hinting at rifts, reorganisation and even scandal. Much to their credit, the Tewassoul contingent did not take the bait.
The most humorous aspect came via comments relating to Sheikh Dedew’s baseball cap. One blogger very helpfully made a wiki-style post explaining the recent history and significance of fashion trends for headgear!
Thanks for sharing all these perspectives! I was thinking about the baseball cap issue too – I assumed it was a gesture of solidarity.
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