Returning to Mali, how are policymakers supposed to act on Elischer’s analysis? The “international community” is supposed to “note” the “destabilizing” influence of Dicko and other Salafis in southern Mali. Then what? Demand that Malian politicians repudiate Dicko? Seek to influence elections to the High Islamic Council? Advocate for the arrest of non-violent Salafi preachers? Elevate Sufi Muslims and empower them to marginalize Salafis within Malian institutions and public life? Would any of those actions make it less likely that jihadist groups would storm hotels in Bamako? Or would this kind of suspicion of non-violent Salafis make it even harder to resolve Mali’s many interlocking crises? Analysts and policymakers desperately need more complicated maps of the religious and political terrain of the Sahel. Nearly a decade into my thinking about the region, I realize how little I understand. But I do believe that “good Muslim/bad Muslim” dichotomies serve everyone poorly, and can have dangerous and unintended consequences when applied in policy.
Blogs I Follow
- “Novels are machines for falsely generating belief”… essay on fiction, by Zadie Smith in The New York Review of Books
- The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
- Fiasco, by Thomas Ricks
- Adam and Allison Grant rewrite children’s books and much fiction: “Noble deed doers, you should first lecture the victims and help them help themselves more otherwise you are an enabler…”
- Great article in The New York Times about rural America and public services
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