When areas such as West Africa do receive coverage it is generally due to political crises or acute security concerns emerging from the region which are thought to have an effect on developments elsewhere. Seldom is there any attention for the local situation in its own right or a genuine interest in the region's place within the Muslim world or in its historical contributions to Islamic civilization. Africans are seen as 'marginal' Muslims.
But that is all about the past, present-day Muslims in countries like Mali and its neighbours still face marginalization. However, some critical voices among its intellectuals do speak about the discrimination they face from their co-religionists, often in the guise of bringing 'true Islam' to Africa.
Organisations that are financed by Arab nations such as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are attempting what could be described as an "Islamisation" of our region; they want to bring their idea of "true Islam" to sub-Saharan Africa. This is pure ideology motivated by an Arab paternalism that I vehemently oppose. The attempt to "Arabise" us is based on a total denial of our culture as African Muslims.His criticism is not only directed at the oil-rich Gulf States, but also individuals such as Tariq Ramadan, who -- although controversial in his own right -- is nevertheless regarded as an 'acceptable face of Islam'. But according to Sambe, his attitudes still reflect a kind of paternalism towards non-Arab Muslims which he considers 'imperialist'.
At the same time, he sees little emancipatory or redeeming value in promoting Islam Noir or 'Black Islam':
This term was introduced during the colonial era and sought to infantilise us, the African people. Allegedly, we were so emotional because we were not as spiritually mature as the Arabs, who were consequently viewed as more dangerous. France has always tried to establish a barrier between the Maghreb and the sub-Saharan region, to prevent any intellectual exchange from taking place.
|Islamic manuscripts in Timbuktu|
Sambe thinks it is high time for African Muslims to shake off their inferiority complex and work redeveloping their own religious and intellectual traditions. Only this way Muslims can interact on par which each other.
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