An Islamist website, Majallat al-Asr [www.alasr.ws] has focused on news from Mauritania that authorities in the West African state are clamping down on mosque preachers on grounds of political activity relating to insurgents. The official ministry for literacy and Islamic education has warned them not to issue statements on present political conditions in Mauritania, nor to give sermons of support the for prominent Islamist leaders Shaikh Muhammad al-Hasan Ould Eldedou, and Professors Al-Mukhtar Ould Muhammad Musa and Muhammad Jamil Ould Mansour. The three are accused of supporting dissidents and effecting their escape from the country, and of maintaining relations with opposition organizations abroad. Earlier in November, the government at Nouakchott temporarily imprisoned the three Islamist leaders after they published photographs, on the internet and on satellite TV channels, illustrating the torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners. Their arrest provoked spontaneous demonstrations, which were put down violently.
This is not the first time the government has increased the pressure on the Islamist trend in Mauritania, and the present tension comes in the context of growing opposition to Nouakchott’s authoritarian rule. On November 15 opposition groups meeting in Paris issued a statement announcing the formation of a new joint opposition party called the Mauritanian Opposition Union in Exile. At home observers note a significant increase in tension as mosque authorities show every sign of defying the government’s warnings.