Back to Index

Islam: Western Sahara

Feelings about Islam, pro and contra, run deep. WAISers who know the Middle East well send completely different interpretations. Some, like Miles Seeley, urge us to be tolerant with Islam. Others want action similar to that used in the South and in South Africa on behalf of the blacks.
That people see things through different glasses is evident and puzzling. Insight (10/4-11) has an article by Catherine Edwards entitled "Western Sahara: Saharawi Republic waits to be born". She apparently has visited Western Sahara, which I do not know. It is between Morocco and Mauritania. The coastal half was seized by Morocco, and the proposed U.N. referendum has not taken place. Many live miserably in a refugee camp at Tindouf, just across the border in Algeria.
The article gives an amazing account of Islam there. Since most of the men are away fighting, Saharawi women have won power. They have set up an effective electoral system. Saharawi President Mohammed Abdelaziz was elected in an honest election. Elected officials can be impeached for wrongdoing. Children are required to attend school, and the literacy rate is 95%. There is a program by which children spend summers in Europe and America at the expense of the host family.
The aim of the article is clearly to scold the U.S. government for not pressing the Moroccan government, whose troops have behaved with brutality. While this may be dismissed as propaganda, it may also show what Islamic women can do when the opportunity presents itself.

Ronald Hilton - 11/2/99