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This convoy to Gaza stirred a range of emotions in Mauritania. The most uncomfortable ones concerned the very large sum of donations collected. No one begrudges these donations for a moment, yet this event’s success highlights the difficulty of raising funds for the very many needy causes in Mauritania. There are hundreds of families in need of clothes, shoes, blankets and basic medicines who are really suffering this Winter.

Then there were the inevitable questions and comparisons about the political aspects of the trip. Some queried the timing, which allowed Sheikh Dedew a photo opp with a Hamas leader. I don’t think the leader of the Hatem party followed suit. On the sidelines of social media discussion were a few posts taking pot-shots at Tewassoul, hinting at rifts, reorganisation and even scandal. Much to their credit, the Tewassoul contingent did not take the bait.

The most humorous aspect came via comments relating to Sheikh Dedew’s baseball cap. One blogger very helpfully made a wiki-style post explaining the recent history and significance of fashion trends for headgear!

Sahel Blog

For some time now I have been following the Mauritanian Salafi Sheikh Muhammad al Hasan Ould Dedew and the country’s Islamist Tewassoul Party, for which Sheikh Dedew acts as a spiritual mentor. One important aspect of Islamist activism in Mauritania is Islamists’ deep concern with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This concern has taken the form of protests, including pressure on the Mauritanian government to break ties with Israel (Mauritania recognized Israel in 1999 and suspended relations in 2009), and in the form of trips by Mauritanian Islamist delegations to Palestine. For example, Tewassoul’s Vice President Mohamed Ghoulam Ould Hadj was on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in 2010.

I was therefore interested to read in the Mauritanian press (Arabic) about a convoy recently organized in part by Mauritania’s National League for the Assistance of the Palestinian People. The convoy’s members traveled to Gaza earlier this month to distribute aid and attend events such…

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