Statement of Biram Ould Abeid from Prison
Below is a statement of Biram Ould Abeid from prison in Nouakchott, Mauritania:
The burning of certain books belonging to the Malikite branch of jurisprudence has triggered an upsurge of criticism, denunciation, defamation and sometimes slanders. These reactions have been marked by spontaneity and sincerity in the popular communities but deep cynicism and demagoguery in the spheres of Power and the Opposition. This wave of reaction and misunderstanding which is tied up with it prompt to me the need to specify some aspects and to explain the real reasons that have brought me to act this way.
First: the purpose of the committed acts is absolutely not to hurt the sensibility of Muslims. They must be understood as being the expression of the rejection, which is mine, of all those who stick to and justify slavery by an incomplete understanding of true Islam. They must be understood as being a warning from me against the confusion maintained between bondage that occurred during the pre-Islamic period (Jahilya) and that Islam had completely eradicated and another bondage which I know, as a History Professor, that it is just the expression of an attack from one group against another one and the defeat inflicted by some African tribes to other tribes during the wars from Omar Elfouty to Samoury Touré. Those wars had involved the Bidhane Emirates in the North and the Soudane Emirates in the South. Some Bidhanes were enslaved in the South and some Soudanes reduced to servility in the North. This is for the proper information of the ignorant and as a reminder to the distracted.
Secondly: the whole of the legislative arsenal in the fight against slavery remained a dead letter because those laws, in the collective imaginary of numerous Mauritanians from Cadis and Uléma, came into conflict with the fragmentary jurisprudence that some pull up to the level of sacredness and infallibility. Here, I remind to all, that the enforcement of the law incriminating slavery is ineluctable and all the obstacles on the path to its translation into concrete actions will be swept away. This must go through the enactment of a clear and explicit Fatwa intended to enlighten the public officials and to rectify the misunderstandings related to fundamental questions such as human rights, equality between men and respect of human dignity.
Thirdly: I wanted, with the burning of some books legalizing slavery, which belong to me and which contain neither the Holy Koran nor collections of Hadiths - contrary to some malicious allegation – to draw attention on the prohibition to refer to them and to use them as justification of the maintenance of slavery practices. I am not a pioneer on this path. The Almoravids had burnt Elghazaly books to denounce Sufism. The Mouwahidoun had burnt books from Malikism to prevent the development of an internal trend of Islam and to stick to its roots and basis.
Mentioning the Kalif Omar (May Allah rest his soul) when he was saying “why do you keep people in slavery while they are born free”, referring to the Fatwa of Mohamed Baba Etoumboukti where he proscribed slavery“coming from Sudan” and relying upon Malik’s claim (Allah rest his soul) according to which “in every speech there are things to take or leave except the ones from the lying of this tomb”, I regret the misunderstanding that received my actions and apologize to the people of Mauritania and to the Muslims to whom I restate my good faith. I assure them that I never intended to violate things that are sacred to them neither hurt their feelings.
I also apologize to those, among the activists of IRA, that this rough change has embarrassed and reassert to them that the purpose were never to pursue the Holy Koran or the Sunna which remain our main arguments and our references in our fight throughout our lifetime.
Allah is the guarantor of my success, on Him I lean and to Him I refer to.
Biram Ibn Abeid
Civilian prison, Nouakchott 4th June 2012
To read the French version click here