I discovered this video in an article on the scholars of Mali in the Huffington Post It is about the rich tradition of scholarship in Timbuktu, Mali and the threat that comes from the Ansine and Al-Qaeda groups. As the author of the article, Rudolph Ware, notes, “Unfortunately, the “radical Islam” of groups like Ansar Dine and al-Qaida have spilled far too much blood and ink in Northern Mali and beyond. Armed with deadly weapons, a false doctrine of jihad, and a perverse sense of martyrdom they have committed countless acts of violence. While the Western imagination is captivated by fear of ‘radical Islam’ its victims — in Timbuktu as elsewhere — are almost invariably Muslims.”
The photographs in the following video were taken in 2007 in the region of Timbuktu, Mali, a landlocked country in West Africa. At that time, Mali was one of Africa’s most stable democracies. Timbuktu had regained its ancient fame as a center of Islamic scholarship.
Political chaos has now over-taken the north and south of Mali. Timbuktu is under Shariah law, controlled by rebel groups connected to al-Qaeda. Not only are thousands of ancient manuscripts and holy sites under threat, but an ancient scholarly culture….
The objective of this video and its corresponding website is to provide cultural context to the current conflict in the north of Mali, with a focus on Timbuktu. To do so, it uses a photographic series that presents an in-depth view of Timbuktu’s tradition of Islamic scholarship, an ancient form of learning influenced by Sufism and characterized by tolerance, plurality, and a deep joy in and respect for learning.
This video calls for religious freedom and cultural self-determination for the people of Timbuktu, Mali.
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Text and photography by Alexandra Huddleston
Recording and sound editing by Brian Stillman
Introductory music: “Hibernal”
Stock audio provided by Ian Hubball/ Pond5.com