Mali: Islamists have banned music in northern region

11 April 2012


In Kidal, heartland of the Islamist Ansar Dine group, music has been replaced by prayer readings on the local radio. The group wants to impose strict sharia law across Mali.

In three short days in the beginning of April 2012, a mix of rebel forces seized the three main regional centres of a territory the size of France, bringing the Tuareg closer than ever before to their decades-old dream of carving out a desert nation of their own. But the presence of Islamists among the rebels in northern Mali raises fears of the emergence of a rogue state with echoes of Taliban-era Afghanistan.

Residents in northern cities such as the ancient trading post of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao said the local Islamist Ansar Dine group (‘Defenders of Faith’) instantly issued a ban on music and Western dress. Rather than establish an independent desert nation in the northern region, which Al Qaeda cells, hostage-takers and smugglers have already made their own, the Ansar Dine leader Iyad Ag Ghali wants to impose strict sharia law across Mali.

There have reportedly been sightings of senior members of the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the group’s North African branch.

The United Nations says more than 200,000 people have fled their homes in Mali to refugee camps elsewhere in the country and across Mali’s borders with nearby countries.


Iyad Ag Ghali


The Daily Star – 8 April 2012:

‘Mali’s north feared new “rogue state” in Sahara’

France 24 – 6 April 2012:
‘Tuareg rebel group declares independence of north Mali’

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Related reading about religious music prohibition – on

Censor and be damned?
There are some good things to be said about music censorship. The trouble is that the people saying them are usually unspeakable. But every now and then there are exceptions, and recently the Home Office played a blinder by discouraging Jamaican reggae artist Sizzla from entering the UK to perform at a series of British concerts.

Editorial from Scotland on Sunday.

Sizzla is not a huge star in Britain and would still be relatively unknown were it not for Peter Tatchell and the gay rights group Outrage drawing attention to his lyrics.
According to Outrage, the reggae artist’s songs are likely to incite violence against homosexuals. Particularly in the light of Londoner David Morley being kicked to death in an alleged homophobic attack two weekends ago, this is a sensitive issue and the Home Office barred Sizzla’s entry on the grounds that his presence might provoke public disorder.

Thus the Home Office neatly sidestepped having to judge whether or not his lyrics would incite violence against homosexuals. “Shot battybwoy, my big gun boom” doesn’t leave much room for ambiguity once ‘battybwoy’ is translated as homosexual, but the government knows that to be seen to censor music, no matter how unpalatable, would be to open a can of rather nasty worms.

Editorial from Scotland on Sunday

  What can you sing?
Read more about ‘Hate Music’ and the limits to musical expression
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