Islam, Blasphemy, and Realpolitik in Mauritania: The Mkhaitir Affair

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The court case of Mohamed Mkhaitir, imprisoned in January 2014 and released in July 2019, caused considerable controversy in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and abroad. After a Facebook post critiquing the stratified social order among Mauritania’s Hassaniyya Arabic speakers that used examples from Islamic history, Mkhaitir was accused of apostasy and sentenced to death. This article focuses on the Mauritanian state’s efforts to reconcile its commitment to democratic values (central to its relations with key Western partners) and a complex sociopolitical hermeneutics based on the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence. It also shows how a new antiblasphemy law, directly related to Mkhaitir’s case, reflects the state’s attempt to silence its critics and quash the potentially revolutionary ambitions of certain segments of the population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-79
Number of pages23
JournalAfrica Today
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


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