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Senegal plunged into mourning after death of religious leader

Senegal plunged into mourning after death of religious leader

Chanting Quranic verses, hundreds of thousands of mourners descended on this holy city Sunday to visit the burial site of Senegal's late spiritual leader and to pay tribute to a man who led the most powerful Muslim brotherhood in the country.
Serigne Saliou Mbacke died Friday at the age of 92 in the central city of Touba, hometown of a 19th-century religious leader who founded the country's so-called Mouride brotherhood more than a century ago.
Serigne Bara Falilou Mbacke, 82 _ a grandson of the brotherhood's founder, Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba _ has been designated the movement's sixth leader.
Pilgrims flocked Touba, pouring into the city in tidal wave of cars, motorcycles and buses.
"We have lost a part of ourselves," said one, Ousman Tanor Dieng, a top official of the main opposition Socialist Party
Mbacke "is still here, living among us," said another Touba pilgram, Fatou Kebe. "Each day we see memories of him. He is unforgettable."
Mbacke was buried in a mausoleum on the grounds of Touba's Grand Mosque, one of Africa's biggest, which houses the crypts of other former Mouride leaders. Women and men lined up in separate queues that stretched half a kilometer (mile) under a hot sun.
Inside, they prayed and cried at Mbacke's tomb. Outside, crowds of faithful read Quranic verses and poems written by Bamba.
After Mbacke's death was announced, President Abdoulaye Wade declared three days of national mourning that are due to end Monday, with flags flown at half-staff.
While exact numbers aren't known, about a tenth of Senegal's 11 million citizens _ 95 percent of them Muslim _ are said to be Mourides, including Wade.
Senegal has at least two other brotherhoods, which like the Mourides have their own particular interpretation of Islam. The Mourides' spiritual leaders, called marabouts, offer guidance and blessings to their followers, acting as intermediaries between them and God.
Touba was founded by Mbacke's father, who died in 1927. It has often been described as a state within a state. Inside the city limits, visitors cannot drink, smoke or dance _ unlike the rest of Senegal, which practices a more liberal interpretation of Islam compared to conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia.
Touba is most known within Senegal for hosting the annual "Magal," or celebration, which commemorates Bamba's 19th-century exile from the city by French colonizers who feared his growing influence. It typically draws more than a million people.
Uncowed by French colonial authorities, Bamba went on to create the Mouride brotherhood, whose members have since become the dons of Senegal's informal economy, many wandering from dawn to dusk to hawk their wares. Known for their generosity and hard work, they form an influential economic group. Some who have made money in the United States, Italy and Spain are reinvesting in Touba.
Although Senegal is a secular country, the majority of its democratically elected rulers have sought the endorsement of Mouride leaders. Wade launched his successful campaign for a second term earlier this year after first visiting Mbacke in Touba, and had always made a point of visiting the religious leader before embarking on major political projects.
Over the weekend, Wade rushed to Touba to present his condolences, then returned to Dakar to formally announce the mourning period.
Some marabouts have used their influence with leaders to become wealthy, but the late Mbacke stayed away from politics, making occasional public appearances to urge followers to pray and observe the principles of Islam.
Among his most astute moves was heavily investing in agriculture, amassing 45,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of peanut fields, which he has transformed into a multimillion-dollar (euro) enterprise. One of the tenets of the brotherhood is the philosophy of hard work and each year, thousands of devotees descend on Touba to harvest Mbacke's fields for free.
In previous years, Touba also has served as a hub for arms trafficking, but Mbacke was credited with trying to crack down on illicit activity, including drug smuggling and money laundering.


Updated : 2020-12-02 03:15 GMT+08:00