Islamist factions have taken advantage of a chaotic situation in Mali to seize power and declare Sharia law in northern regions of the country, including the city of Timbuktu. It has been decreed that women must wear the veil, that thieves’ hands will be amputated and that adulterers will be stoned to death. Apparently more than 90% of Timbuktu’s Christians have fled the area. It’s not just Christians who are horrified by these developments. The mayor of Timbuktu has spoken out against the Islamist faction:
“What I deplore is the departure of the Christian community. Many said to me that they are obliged to leave. And they are right. I cannot guarantee their safety. And these are people that have lived side-by-side with us for centuries.”
Timbuktu is an ancient centre of scholarship, and many have been trying to safeguard its important collections of Islamic manuscripts by hiding them away or smuggling them out to neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile people who originate from what is now South Sudan (most of them Christian) are facing deportation from the Sudan, and have been described by the Al Intibaha newspaper as ‘cancer cells in the body of Sudan, the land of the Arab and Islam.’:
“Compass said the government of Sudan has begun issuing national numbers to designate citizens of Sudan, denying the designation to Sudanese of southern origin. Without a national number, southern Sudanese have no citizenship rights to work or education.
Churches in Sudan have already suffered losses in numbers as many members prepare for forced repatriation, Compass reported Christian leaders said.
“We are monitoring the situation and praying to God to protect us,” said a church leader who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Christians are also being targeted by Boko Haram in Nigeria although, like many Islamist groups, they also attack Muslims associated with the state, particularly the security services. The most recent major terrorist attack took place on Easter Sunday, when 38 people were killed in the Northern city of Kaduna.
A few days previously, an attack by an Al Shabaab suicide bomber at a theatre in Mogadishu left six people dead, including Somali Olympic Committee chairman, Aden Yabarow Wiish, and the president of the Somali Football Federation, Said Mohamed Nur. It is thought the main target was the Prime Minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali.
It’s important to remember the Christian victims of Islamism – but also the many Muslim victims. So here’s a link to a story about some Somalian Muslims who are taking a stand, the Waayaha Cusub band, currently in exile in Kenya, who are fighting back against Al-Shabaab’s harsh interpretation of Islam, which would rule their music ‘un-Islamic’:
The group’s only female member, Falis Abdi Mohamud, is a rebel in her own right. In one video, the 23-year-old is not covering her head as most Somali women do, and is wearing tight jeans. “They criticise me and say ‘she is not Muslim because of wearing a trouser’. I am Muslim,” she said. “I want to reach my people. I will not stop my mission because of fear or other people’s desires. History will tell who is right and wrong.”
Here they are in action, singing yaabka al shabaab.